Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Recipe of the Week: French Bread

While growing up, my family wasn't very excited about cooking. But every now and then, the smell of cooking food would permeate every room of the home and send me running into the kitchen. Often, this smell would come from my father making bread.

He tried various recipes, and at one point even had some sourdough starter taking-up a semi-permanent residence in our refrigerator. But usually the bread had a hard crunchy crust, with a warm soft interior that just called for gobs of butter.

These memories have stayed with me. And late last year, I found myself trying to bake bread for the first time. It took a few tries before I was happy with the result. After all, getting a crunchy crust on a french bread is hard unless you have a professional-grade oven with steam injectors!  But the recipe below resulted in a tasty and tender bread that wasn't overly dense, and it had an almost perfect crust.

Make perfect bread with a pizza stone like this from Sur La Table.

First, there are some tips you should be aware of:

#1) If you want an awesome crunchy crust, steam is your friend. If placing the loaf on a pizza stone, or an upside down cast-iron skillet or baking  sheet, you'll want to place 1/2 cup of water in an open oven-safe container (i.e. pie tin) AND throw 1/2 cup of water onto the bottom of the oven once the bread is in the oven.  The water thrown into the oven flash-steams, while the water in the container evaporates over time keeping the oven more humid.

#2) Use a pizza stone, cast iron dutch or an upside-down cast iron skillet.You want something that is thick, retains and radiates heat. If you don’t have one of these, don’t worry, just use a good-quality, thick baking sheet -- upside down

Click "read more" to get the recipe