I LOVE bread.
Bread is one of the few foods that can be used in pretty much any meal at any time. It can be featured with the entree, it can be a side dish on its own, and it can also be an appetizer with dip or butter.
Anytime I am in a time crunch when planning a meal, I just look for the most beautiful loaf I can find in the store!! It brings everything together SO perfectly!!!
I like to use it as an appetizer, because you can make the dough ahead of time and let it sit in the fridge until baking time. About 30 minutes before my guests arrive, I pull it out and put it in the oven, then the entire house smells like fresh bread! Who doesn't love that?!?!!
Since I can't send the smell over the internet, I want to share one of my favorite recipes for a basic french bread today!!! LOL. It's the perfect loaf to show off your garlic dip recipe with, or to take things down a notch and serve with butter. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!
1 1/2 Tbl. instant yeast
1/2 c. warm water (lukewarm, not hot enough to burn from touching)
2 c. room temperature water
2 Tbl. sugar
1 1/2 Tbl. oil
A Pinch of Salt
6 c. all-purpose flour
Add the yeast, the warm water and sugar in a large bowl; let it sit for ten minutes. Next, add 2 cups water, oil, salt and 3 cups of flour. Mix until flour is incorporated, then gradually add rest of the flour. Do not add any extra! Using the dough hook on a stand mixer, knead about five minutes, then turn out onto generously floured surface. If kneading by hand, knead for about 10 minutes. For the next hour, knead two or three times every ten minutes. This is what gives the crust that french bread chewiness. It's okay if you don't quite make it every ten minutes, just make sure you get to knead it four to six times throughout. Form the dough back into a ball (keep dough covered with a piece of saran wrap between kneads, so it doesn't dry out).
Divide dough into 2 portions for regular-sized loaves or 4 portions for small loaves. Spread each portion out into a rough rectangle and roll up, jelly-roll style. Take the two ends of each loaf and tuck under slightly. Place on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Spray a sharp knife with cooking spray and cut 3 diagonal lines into the tops of each loaf, about 1-inch deep. Brush loaves with a beaten egg, making sure to get all over the exposed part of the bread. Whatever doesn't get covered with egg wash won't brown. Let rise until doubled or 30 minutes. You can store it in the fridge for a few days at this point. If not, bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes, then at 375 degrees for 18-20 minutes, rotating pan halfway through.
I know, it's sort of a lot just for a few loaves of bread, but it is TOTALLY worthy it. Once you smell it, you'll understand!
XOXO - Darbie