The pickle man

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Daily Bread - French bread for the freezer

My husband referred to "store bread" fairly early in our relationship.  As in, he was going to make a sandwich on "store bread."  As if there was another kind?  I mean, didn't all bread come wrapped in plastic from the store?  Apparently not in the house where he grew up.

As I saw it, I had a choice to make.  I could either get him used to an exclusive diet of store bread, or I could learn how to make bread. I love homemade bread. My mother-in-law helped in this decision by giving me her bread machine (she got a new one), and the recipe for her "Basic Bread" - be warned... it's addictive (and posted below).

But more recently, I've become obsessed with French bread - you know, the really crusty kind that goes with everything from spaghetti to pot roast.  So here's how I make bread... oh, and p.s., make all 4 loaves - they freeze great and they disappear FAST.

But first, the helper...

He loves bread even more than I do!

First, you put warm water, yeast, sugar, and salt in a mixer (you can do this by hand, but why?)  Exact amounts are below.  

Then add bread flour, one cup at a time (bread flour is necessary if you want chewy bread - something about gluten and proteins).  

Meanwhile, butter the inside of the biggest bowl you have in your kitchen.  I like the wooden salad bowl - it is warm (yeast likes warm) and easy to clean.

Then, make your dough into a ball with a smooth top.  Turn it once in the bowl to coat the top with butter :) 

Don't worry... it will grow

Cover it with a damp towl and let it rise 1 1/2 to 2 hours (depending on how cold your kitchen is
When the dough is pushing up the towel, it's probably ready
big fluffy dough~!
 Then, you punch it down and divide it into 4 pieces.  I use this pastry cutter, but a knife will work.  You can probably even pull it apart with your hands. 

Then shape it into 4 long, skinny baguettes.  Make 4-5 diagonal cuts in the top of each baguette.  Then brush with an egg wash (one egg white and a little water mixed up and brushed on the top).  This makes the top brown and crunchy. 

Allow these to rise for another 45 minutes or so... until they have doubled again:
that's some big bread! 

Preheat your oven to 450 and find your spray bottle (my 4 year old hides ours somewhere new every month).  In the past, in moments of desperation and resourcefulness, I have resorted to using the sprayer on my iron, but I don't recommend this as a common practice.

Place the bread in the hot oven and squirt the top of each loaf a few times with the spray bottle - again, going for that awesome crispy crust here).  Bake at 450 for 5 minutes.  Then open the oven, spray everything again, and bake for another 10 minutes. 

Lower the oven temperature to 350 and bake for another 15-20 minutes.  I rotate my pans at this point for even browning.  Remove and enjoy!  (Or freeze for later enjoyment - reheat in a 350 oven until warm!)

French bread
2 packages active dry yeast (or 5 teaspoons if using bulk yeast)
2 1/2 cups warm water, 115 degrees (should feel warm but not hot when you touch it)
1 Tablespoon salt
2 Tablespoons sugar
7 cups bread flour
1-2 Tablespoons butter
1 egg white beaten with a little water
cornmeal or Baker’s joy

In the bowl of a mixer, dissolve the yeast in the water.  Add the salt and sugar.  Mix in the bread flour, one cup at a time.  Reserve the last half cup for when you roll it out.

Grease a mixing bowl with soft butter.  Shape the dough into a ball.  Dump it into the bowl and turn once to cover it with butter.  Cover with a damp dish towel.  Allow to rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours, until doubled (this doesn’t have to be exact).

Once the dough has doubled, dump it out onto a floured surface.  Punch it down. Divide into 4 sections.  Shape each into a baguette-like shape.  Place on the baking sheet you will use (I put two loaves on each standard cookie sheet or stone).  Cut 4 diagonal slices in the top of each (not too deep!).  Brush with the beaten egg white.  Allow to rise again for 45 minutes uncovered.

When the bread has doubled, preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Place the bread in the oven.  Spray with water.  Bake 5 minutes, then open the oven and spray with water again.  Bake 10 minutes.  Lower the oven temp to 350, and bake for 15-20 minutes, until brown and hollow-sounding when tapped.


Oh, and the MIL's bread...

Recipe By: SueLynn
Serving Size: 32
Preparation Time: 3:00
Categories: Bread
Amount Measure Ingredient Preparation Method
2 1/2 teaspoons yeast
4 cups bread flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter margarine
1 1/3 cups water or milk
Put ingredients in bread machine (Welbilt) in the order listed.
Set on manual white bread. Timer may be set to have dough ready at a particular time. Or just press to start. In about 2 hours, your dough will be ready to shape into two loaves (32 slices), 8 hoagie buns, 8 large hamburger buns, 12 hot dog buns, 1 large loaf french bread or two small.
Let rise 45 minutes in warm place. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes or until as brown as preferred.
Tops may be cut or decorated as you like. Enjoy.


  1. Ok, so how do you freeze it? (seriously, tell me, or I'll toss it in like a bag of peas)

  2. @Molly - I wrap it in foil and toss it in like a bag of peas :) I reheat it at 350, wrapped (for less crust) for 15 minutes; unwrapped (when I'm in a hurry) for 7-8 minutes