If you fear that baking bread requires more skill than you possess, try your hand at some French bread. This simple, crusty loaf is as easy as it gets, and it’s a great accompaniment to all those soups and stews you’re making to shake off the Laramie winter! Once you make your own, you’ll never be satisfied with store-bought loaves again.
Easy French Bread
1 1/3 c. warm water
2 ½ teaspoons yeast
5 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons olive oil
4 cups bread flour
1 ½ teaspoons salt
Combine the yeast and warm water in a large mixing bowl and sprinkle the sugar on top; allow to sit five minutes or so (small bubbles should form). Add the flour, salt, and olive oil and stir well to combine. You should have a pretty sticky dough.
On a generously floured surface, knead the bread dough, working in enough flour that it no longer sticks to the surface. When it forms into a smooth ball, coat lightly with oil, replace to mixing bowl, cover and set in a warm place for 1 hour.
When the dough has risen enough, it will hold an indentation that you make with your finger. When you have achieved this stage, knead the bread again on a floured surface and form into one large round or two long loaves (your choice) and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover and allow to rise again for about 30 minutes.
After 15 minutes, preheat the oven to 350°F. When the bread has risen for 30 minutes, uncover and spray with cold water. If you do not have a spray bottle, you can simply wet your hands and pat down the loaves. This is what gives the bread a tougher crust. Bake in the oven approximately 45 minutes for one round, 35 minutes for two loaves, or until bread is lightly browned and makes a hollow thumping sound when tapped with a finger.
Cool on wire racks thoroughly before cutting. Can be frozen up to two months; wrap in foil and heat at 300°F for 20 minutes or so to thaw.
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