French Bread

I'm on a seemingly never ending hunt to find the perfect bread recipe. I want a flavorful loaf of bread the is soft and tender on the inside with a fine crumb. This bread must have a thin, crunchy, crackly, chewy, lightly golden crust that explodes when you take a bite and peppers the table with crumbs. So far I haven't even come close to finding this recipe. But that's okay, I will continue my quest. I am determined to find this bread recipe.

I started this loaf of French bread with the slight hope that this might be the bread. I realized rather quickly that it was not to be. While it turned out quite beautiful and rather tasty, it was not the bread I was hoping for. This recipe makes a very nice loaf. A little dense, I would cut back on the flour next time to create a lighter, softer loaf. The crust was more chewy, not the crackly surface I am looking for. However, the braid turned out lovely, and was easy to do. My search for the perfect loaf of bread continues!

 Sliced and ready to butter

 Throw the starter in with the rest of the ingredients
on day two

 Ready for rise #1

 Nice and poofy 

 Gently deflate and turn over

 After rise #2

 Divide the dough into three pieces

 Form them into some nice long ropes

 Pull out your hairstylist skills and start braiding

 Tuck the ends under, such a cute braid

 Cover the braid and let it get nice and poofy

 Grab an egg white, mix it with some water...

 and brush the bread all over

 Bake the bread, then turn off the heat
and let it cool in the oven

Perfect, golden brown and ready for slicing!
Overnight Starter
  • 3/4 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/8 teaspoon instant yeast  
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 2 3/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 egg white beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • sesame seeds (optional)

The Starter: Mix the starter ingredients in a small bowl, cover, and let rest at room temperature overnight. 

The Dough: In a large bowl, combine the starter and the remainder of the dough ingredients. Using the dough hook, knead the dough for about 5 minutes; it should form a ball, but its surface will still be a bit rough. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl, and allow the dough to rise for 90 minutes, turning it over and gently deflating it after 45 minutes. 

Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface, and divide it into three pieces. Roll each piece into an 18-inch rope. Braid the ropes (tucking the ends under), set the braid on a lightly greased or parchment covered baking sheet, cover, and let rise it rise for about 60 to 90 minutes, or till it's very puffy.

Brush the braid with the egg white glaze. Sprinkle it heavily with sesame seeds if using. Bake the bread in a preheated 425°F oven for 25 to 35 minutes; the longer it bakes, the crunchier it'll be. Remove it from the oven and cool it on a wire rack (or cool it in the turned-off, door-propped open oven).