When I started this post our stuff still hadn’t arrived yet, and I was really feeling the absence of my cookbooks and full range of cooking supplies. I had all this spare time now, and I wanted to spend some of it baking, but we just had one small rimmed baking sheet and one 9 x 13 baking dish. Oh, and a borrowed mixing bowl and a partial set of measuring utensils. It was somewhat limiting, especially for baking. Not long before we left though, Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything” app was available for free download, so I at least have that. It’s a pretty neat app. I was browsing the other day and came across a recipe for Fast French Bread. It’s super easy, and luckily, only required things I had (most notably a food processor). I had to make some, obviously.
This recipe turns out a really nice loaf. I adapted it just a little by using about half whole wheat flour and half white. I felt virtuous making wheat bread, and imagine that the whole wheat aspect helps balance out all the butter I smear on. The logical part of me knows better, but I ignore it, because we already have one philosopher in the house, and it’s not me.
Fast, Wheat, French Bread
3 1/2 cups flour – I use 2 cups white and 1 1/2 whole wheat
1 packet fast action yeast
2 teaspoons salt
1 – 1 1/4 cups water
Combine the flour, yeast and salt in the bowl of a food processor. With the motor running, add 1 cup of water and process until the water is absorbed. Bittman’s directions say to start with a cup of water and then add more gradually until the dough comes together in a ball. I find that about 1 1/4 cups of water is usually where this happens.
Transfer the dough to a bowl, or just remove the blade from the food processor. Cover with plastic wrap or a dish towel. Allow the bread to rise for at least an hour. I’ve been giving mine about an hour and a half to two hours. Then remove the dough and shape it into whatever bread shape tickles you. I like to make two small baguette shapes. I shape these by rolling them just like you would if you were making play-doh snakes, and place them side by side on a lightly floured rimmed baking sheet. Allow the shaped breads to rise again. I usually give them another hour, or until they seem nice and puffed up. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (gas mark 6). Use a sharp knife to make slits in the top of the bread. Place the bread in to the oven and immediately turn town to 375 (gas mark 5). Bake until the loaves are browned on the outside and sound hollow when you tap them. I find the 20-25 minutes is just about right for my two smaller loaves. I also tried one large round loaf. That takes significantly longer to bake, probably 40-50 minutes.