Bread, The Basics

Foolproof French Bread Loaf and Rolls Recipe

Bread is everything.

I’m not sure what else there is to say than that. 
It’s warm and satisfying and full of love. 

Our mothers both baked bread expertly. 
When my now-husband and I had been dating for a month, I baked him a loaf of bread. It seemed to convey the feelings I had for him – without being particularly swooney or committal. Plus that poor, dear bachelor just needed homecooked food. 

Since then, baking bread seems to mean that to me. It’s about friendship. It’s about filling bellies and souls. It’s about care and warmth and love. 

This recipe is the one I’ve used for YEARS. It’s a simple French style bread – that I have shaped in any number of ways. It makes great rolls, small sandwich rolls or loaves, large round or oval loaves, letters, numbers, hearts, wreaths, you name it. 

It’s based on a receipt from a book called Easy Bread Machine Baking (which either my dad or husband bought me for Christmas when I was first married). If you love using a bread machine, I recommend this book – here’s the Amazon affiliate link.
2016-07-20 14.14.25Start with 4 cups of flour. I recommend bread flour (which contains more gluten. It kind of gives you a head start in developing the gluten when you knead it) OR all purpose flour which works great. You can do 2 cups of whole wheat or white wheat, with 2 cups all purpose) if you want. We personally prefer all white, but it does work with some wheatness involved.

2016-07-20 14.14.30Whichever you choose, pour four cups into a large bowl. 2016-07-20 14.15.50Fill a glass measuring cup with 1.5 cups water. I put this in the microwave on high for 30 seconds. Depending on wattage and other technicalities, you may need more or less time – basically it should feel like a cozy bath when you put your finger in it. 

2016-07-20 14.17.05Whisk in 1/2 Tbs sugar and 1/2 Tbs active yeast. (I’ve had great luck with Red Star and Fleischmann’s.)2016-07-20 14.23.59Now the sciencey fun begins. Wait a few minutes for bubbly foam to form on top. 2016-07-20 14.24.08Pour the yeast mixture into the flour. 2016-07-20 14.26.33I usually incorporate the flour and yeast mixture a bit with a fork, just to create a dough. 2016-07-20 14.26.59Then I get my hands into that dough. It starts with working it into a ball. 
2016-07-20 14.27.42Fold it over and squash it down. Fold it over squash it down. 
2016-07-20 14.29.34Knead for 10 minutes and then position the dough ball in the middle of the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a Silicone Container Cover (like these
2016-07-20 14.35.40Let it rise for an hour and then take a peek. It should have doubled in size or so. 2016-07-20 14.36.58This is the fun part. I’ve done so many different shapes – although my favorite is just a round loaf. In this case, I made two largish loaves. You can place them on a greased baking sheet, a seasoned stonewear pan, a silicone pan, or parchment paper. Let rise there for 30 minutes to an hour. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425*F.2016-07-20 15.44.46Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. I highly recommend slicing open and slathering with butter asap. 2016-07-20 16.13.47Recipe:
4 cups flour
1/2 cups water
1/2 Tbs sugar
1/2 Tbs yeast

Whisk the sugar and yeast into the water. Let stand for 10-15 minutes. Mix the yeast water into the flour and knead for 10 minutes. Let rise for an hour. Shape on your pan. Let rise again for 30 minutes to an hour. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes at 425*F. 

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