November 29, 2017

Whole Wheat French Bread

Artist's depiction: The French Revolution
The French have given us a great many things over the years. Canning, the guillotine, cartoon skunks that borderline sexually assault cats. The list goes on and on. But as much as we in our modern society enjoy of all of these French wonders (like eating snails, and defending the eating of snails), none of them are quite as iconic and delicious as french bread. Which makes sense. What's not to love? It's a stick of delicious crusty bread that you can choose to eat immediately, save for later, or brandish as a weapon. That's pretty much the American dream right there. Which makes this the second time that the French have helped facilitate it, and this time Benjamin Franklin didn't even need to get syphilis.


3 cups Whole Wheat Flour
1.25 cups Warm Water (Most internet sources say your warm water should be about 110 degrees. That's great if you want to set up a candy thermometer in a pot of water and cook it while meticulously watching it to make sure you reach your ideal temperature. Or you could use hot water from the faucet, which on average is between 105 and 115 degrees. Your call)
1 TBSP Honey
1/4 oz. Active Dry Yeast (That's one packet. Or about 2.25 teaspoons for the packetless among you)
Corn Meal
More flour. All the flour.
An optional Egg White

So, at this point we're going to have to come to terms with the fact that this is indeed a whole wheat recipe. *Gasp. I know. Sure, the name of the post could have warned you about this and saved you some shock, but let's not get bogged down on who should have read what and when. The fact is that while modern french bread is probably rooted in Napoleon's regulation of the baking industry, the reason that he did that was to prevent the dissatisfaction the lower classes previously had about being not being allowed white flour. Also I have a giant bag of whole wheat flour I need to use up. So shut it. Anyway, stir together your yeast, water, and honey, and let them sit together for about 10 minutes. When you come back to check on them, they should be kind of frothy. It's actually pretty cool to watch this happen, but I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you have better things to do for 10 minutes than watch a bunch of yeast belching. Most (Seemingly all) online recipes use the exact same phrase for the next part. "In a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment..." Yeah, we're not doing that. You know what they had before stand mixers? Hands. That's what. You know what they had before "dough hook attachments?" Big wooden spoons that they also used to hit slackers with. It was a magical time. Once you're done fantasizing about all of the people you'd hit with a wooden spoon if it was socially acceptable, stir two big pinches of salt into your gassy yeast, followed by your 3 cups of flour. Stir the crap out of it until it forms into a dough that doesn't cling to the sides of your bowl. If you need to, add more flour to achieve this.

Best served as far away from people eating snails as possible
Now you need to knead your dough (That sentence was even more ridiculous before revisions). Flour some flat surface in your home that you don't mind getting covered in flour, and plop your dough ball down on it. Press it down, stretch it, and fold it in half. Repeat, adding more flour as necessary, for about 8 minutes, or until your hand starts to hurt and your brain goes numb. Throw it in a greased up bowl and store it in a warm place so the dough can rise. Give it at least an hour for this, then punch it down so that it doesn't get snooty from all of the gas it created (a lot of the issues that people have with the French comes from them having not been properly punched down) and form it into a log. Throw some corn meal down on a baking pan and plop your dough log onto it. If you want to get fancy, take a sharp knife and slice the top of it diagonally 3 or four times (evenly spaced out). Let it sit for about 10 more minutes to puff up a little bit more before throwing it in the oven. If you want to get even fancier, brush some egg white over the top of the dough. In any case, after your 10 minutes, throw that sucker in a 375 degree oven for about 30 minutes. If you want to get your bread extra crusty, throw a couple ice cubes in the oven right before you close it. They say that when french bread is done it should sound hollow. I don't know if that's true, but I do know that if you grab bread out of a 375 degree oven to see how it "sounds," you'll probably burn your hands and/or ears. Happy baking!

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