No-Fuss French Bread

06aFrenchBreadBakedbfLOSo, I take it all back.

At one time, I was really anti-Emeril; didn’t care for him, his show (all that “BAM!” stuff), or his recipes.

Well, now I’ve tried a couple, and you know what? The guy knows his stuff! This recipe, made with a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook and a kinda cool French bread pan I got fro Christmas, makes two just about perfect loaves of crispity crusted, nicely chewy inside French bread.

01aBreadPanbfLOFirst, the pan:

I was intrigued by the idea of this perforated non-stick bread pan, but it really does work. I placed it in a larger parchment lined baking pan before add the bread dough, and was really pleased with the results – even tho’ I had run out of corn meal to sprinkle over the crust.

01aWarmWaterbfLOSecond, the recipe, which is simplicity itself:

•4-1/2 tsp yeast
•1 tbsp plus 2 tsp sugar
•2 cups warm (about 110º) water
•1 1/2 teaspoons salt
•5 cups flour
•Olive oil
•4 tbsp yellow cornmeal
•1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tbsp water

02bDoughReadybfLOSprinkle the yeast and the sugar over the warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook.

Mix on low speed for two minutes, then add the flour and the salt and continue to mix on low until the dough starts to come together.

Increase the speed to medium-high, and continue mixing until the dough has cleaned the sides of the bowl and begun to climb up the dough hook.

03aDoughReadyToRiseLONote: this will all happen pretty quickly, so keep an eye on it.

Lift the dough out of the bowl, coat the bowl with a bit of good olive oil, then return the dough to the bowl, turning it to coat all sides with the oil.

Cover tightly with a bit of plastic wrap and set aside in a warm spot to rise for 90 minutes or so – until the dough has doubled in size.

03bDoughRisenbfLOAgain, remember: you are the boss of that dough! Can’t get back to it in 90 minutes? No worries – it can easily sit for two, or three, or even four hours, until you have the time to come back and work with it.

When you are ready to deal with the dough, heat your oven to 400º and place your pizza stone (mine is cast iron) – if you have one – on the bottom rack.

04cDoughRollbfLODough nicely, doubled, punch it down and turn it out onto a well-floured surface (I have a special, large wooden cutting board I use just for wrangling dough) and divide in half.

Stretch half of the dough out into a large rectangle about 3/4 inch thick on the board, then, starting from a narrow end, roll into a tube, pressing on the edges at each roll to seal.

04dFrenchBreadRisingbfLOTuck any extra bits and press to seal any seams, then tighten up the roll and place  on a parchment lined baking sheet or, if you have nice in-laws who give you exactly what you wanted for Christmas, in one of the slots of that wicked cool French bread pan.

Repeat with the second half of the dough, then cover with a clean kitchen towel and set aside to rise in a warm spot for an hour.

If you have corn meal, sprinkle a couple of tablespoons over the bread pan before adding the dough, then sprinkle the remaining two tablespoons over the top.

05aDoughRisenbfLOThis bit doesn’t need to be exact, but you should plan on trying to get back to the dough in 60 or, at the most, I would think, 90 minutes. After all, you have the oven going and all.

A note on the oven: I know an hours’ preheating may sound excessive, but it really will make a difference in the quality of your bread. I took the idea of adding the pizza stone to the bottom rack from one of my recipes for ‘za! dough that recommends heating the stone for at least 30 minutes, but much more better for an hour – I figured it couldn’t hurt.

05dPizzaStoneWaterPanbfLOSo, bread well and truly risen, we’re ready to warp this thing up!

Make diagonal slices with a sharp knife about an inch apart across the top of each loaf, then, whisk the egg yolk with the water and brush over each loaf.

Place a small baking pan filled with hot water on top of the stone (if you’re using) on the bottom rack of the oven.

06bFrenchBreadSlicedbfLOSlide the baking pan with the bread dough on to the middle rack and bake for 45 minutes, or until the bread is a beautiful golden brown.

Transfer the bread to a rack and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing.

Really good bread.

So good, in fact, that I plan on making a fresh batch to serve to a French friend of ours this weekend to get his opinion.

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