Nothing lures you into the kitchen like fresh baked bread. The roasting garlic, onions, and olives in these two loaves only increased the olfactory pleasure. When it was warm and fluffy, straight out of the oven, it was delicious. I was especially a fan of the olive bread, but I think this basic French Bread recipe would also be great on it’s own, without any mix-ins added. Make it how you want, get creative!
Basic* French Bread Ingredients:
6 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 packages active dry yeast
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tblsp. cornmeal
3 Tblsp. water
*This recipe makes delicious bread. You could certainly make it and eat it as it is described here. You can also add whatever other ingredients you want, for instance, one loaf I made had chopped raw onions and garlic mixed into it, and the other loaf had chopped olives (a mixed variety of green and black) folded into the dough.
In a large bowl, combine 2 cups flour, yeast and salt. Stir in 2 cups warm water, and beat until well blended using a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment, or a wooden spoon. Then, using a wooden spoon or your hands, stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can.
On a lightly floured surface, knead in enough flour to make a stiff dough that is smooth and elastic. Knead for about 8 to 10 minutes total. If you want to add any extra “flavor” ingredients to your dough, this is the time to do it. If you want two different flavors of your bread, then divide your dough in half, and knead the mix-in ingredients into the dough. Shape into a ball. Place dough in a greased bowl, and turn once. Cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled.
Punch dough down, and divide in half (unless you already did this). Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Cover, and let rest for 10 minutes. Roll each half into large rectangle. Roll up, starting from a long side. Moisten edge with water and seal. Taper ends.
Grease a large baking sheet. Sprinkle with cornmeal. Place loaves, seam side down, on the prepared baking sheet. Brush on some of the water. Cover with a damp cloth. Let rise until nearly doubled, 35 to 40 minutes.
With a very sharp knife, make 3 or 4 diagonal cuts about 1/4 inch deep across top of each loaf. Bake in a preheated 375° F oven for 20 minutes. Brush again with water. Bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, or until bread tests done (you can tell if the bread is done by lifting it off the pan and tapping the bottom – it should sound hollow). If necessary, cover loosely with foil to prevent over browning. Remove from baking sheet, and cool on a wire rack.