French Bread


A wonderful addition to dinner--and fairly easy and economical to make at home...
French Bread
1 cup warm water 
2 tsp. instant dry yeast
2 Tb. vegetable or olive oil
1 Tb. sugar
1 tsp. salt
3 to 3 1/2 cups bread flour
Disssolve the yeast in warm water in the bowl of your electric mixer.  Add the oil, sugar, and salt.  Add 2 cups of the flour.  Beat until smooth.  Stir in enough of the remaining flour until you have a soft, but easy to handle dough.  Knead for 5 minutes.  
Place dough in a greased medium bowl and turn greased side up.  Cover and let rise in a warm place until double.  {A longer rising time makes a better French bread texture.}
Spray a large cookie sheet with non-stick spray.  Divide the dough in half and make two small loaves, or shape into one large loaf.  To shape the dough turn it out onto a lightly floured counter and roll into a large rectangle.  Roll up tightly, beginning on the long side.  Pinch the edge of dough into the roll to seal well.  You can roll the dough gently to further shape the ends.  Place the loaf/loaves on the cookies sheet.  Brush them with cold water.  Let rise uncovered until double.  
Heat oven to 375° and bake 20-30 minutes {until the loaf is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped}.   

 Tiffany's Notes: I use this basic recipe for so many things--French bread loaves, bread sticks, individual dinner rolls, and pizza dough.  I actually use this recipe (found thanks to my Betty Crocker cookbook) and adapt it slightly (making a larger batch with 4 1/2 cups of flour).  
The easiest way to make this dough is in an automatic bread maker.  I pour in the water, add the flour and other ingredients and let it run.  When the dough cycle is complete I pull it out, shape it, let it raise, and bake.  With only a few minutes of actual work time this bread is a great addition to dinner. 
If I have less time and it's almost dinner I make the dough into bread sticks.  If I make it earlier in the day I usually shape it into rolls or a French bread loaf.  
 I like this recipe for bread because it's egg and dairy free.  It's also low fat (you can add only 1 Tb. of oil if you wish and less sugar). The original recipe suggests adding an egg white wash to the top of the loaf--that's fine as well.  But, it's a step I skip and it turns out fine.
It's my absolutely most-used, flexible bread recipe! 

Mom's notes: Here are the proportions Tiffany uses for her family for pizza dough. I get 2 large pizzas out of these amounts.
1 1/2 c. warm water
2 TB oil (can use less)
4 1/2 c. bread flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar (heaping)
2 tsp. yeast
I use a bread machine to mix this all up and proof the dough. You can add up to 1/4 c. more water if the dough is too stiff, but add this once all ingredients are first mixed if you need to. This makes good pizza crust and bread sticks. For hamburger and hot dog buns, you may wish to bake them at 425˚ for 10 minutes.

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