I've baked a LOT of bread in my time, but for some reason I had never tried to make French Bread until just a few weeks ago.
We were having spaghetti and I really wanted some garlic bread to go along with it. I had plenty of time and all of the ingredients, so I decided to whip up some french bread.
I checked one of my favorite recipe sources (http://www.recipezaar.com/) and found that most of the french bread recipes were made with a sourdough starter. I did NOT want to do that. #1 it takes a few days to get the starter going and #2 starters are a pain to feed and keep and divide, etc. So....I thought I was up a creek without a paddle.
And then I spotted this recipe for Faux Sourdough French Bread. It has the flavor of sourdough with out the starter. The vinegar, sour cream and ginger give it that little zing that you expect from a sourdough bread, and it incorporates wheat germ...something I'm always trying to work in to our diets, so I decided to go for it. Here it is:
4-5 cups bread flour
2 T. wheat germ
1 T. sugar
1/2 t. ground ginger
2 pkg. instant yeast
1 cup water
1 cup sour cream, room temperature
2 T. vinegar
1 egg white
1 T. water
In a large bowl combine 1 1/2 cups flour and remaining dry ingredients. Add water, sour cream and vinegar and beat well. Stir in additional 2 to 2 1/2 cups flour until dough pulls away from sides of bowl.
On a floured surface, knead in 1 to 1 1/2 cups flours until dough is smooth and elastic. About 5 minutes. Placed dough in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 23-25 minutes.
Punch dough down and let rest for 15 minutes under an overturned bowl. Divide dough in half. Roll each half into a 14 x 8 rectangle. Starting with long side roll up dough pinching seam to seal well. Taper ends slightly to look like traditional french bread. Place seam side down on greased cookie sheet. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 15 minutes.
Bake bread for 25 minutes at 375 degrees.
Beat egg white and water and brush over bread. Bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes until top is golden brown and the loaf sounds hollow when thumped.
That's my loaf of french bread in the picture above. Pretty nice, huh? I skipped the egg wash step so the crust isn't shiny but it tasted great!
I also found a recipe for garlic spread to put on the bread. I always try to mix softened butter and garlic powder or garlic salt but it never tastes like garlic bread. This time I discovered a better way.
Make a paste out of olive oil, minced garlic and grated parmesan cheese. Spread it on the warm bread and voila! Garlic Bread.
If you really want to go all out, put some mozarella cheese on top of that and slip it back in to the oven to melt. We did that on 1/4 of one loaf and it was EXCELLENT! I couldn't make more because we would have pigged out on it and been sorry later.
Give this simple sourdough french bread recipe a try the next time you are having pasta. You won't be disappointed.