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Deb’s Best-Ever French Bread

Deb’s Best-Ever French Bread

French bread! Can’t you almost smell it? I have an easy recipe to share with you. Time consuming to wait for it to rise, but very easy to mix, and fun for kids to help punch the dough down, shape the loaves, then watch it rise again.

My mom got the original recipe from my friend Rhonda’s mom, who got it from her mother, Minta. The recipe has been in my family for as long as I can remember…well over 50 years and is one I often make for dinner guests. Over the years I’ve revised the recipe to include a bit more butter and a bit more sugar than the original. (Hey, it’s a delicacy, so may as well go all out!) Leftovers are rare, but they make wonderful French toast dipped in egg, fried, and sprinkled with cinnamon!

DEB’S BEST-EVER FRENCH BREAD

In a small bowl, mix:

• 2 packages of yeast

• 1 tsp. sugar

• ½ cup warm water.
Meanwhile, in an extra large bowl, measure:

• ½ cup sugar

• ½ cup butter

• 2 rounded tsps. salt

• 2 cups very hot water.

When mixture is cooled to lukewarm, add yeast mixture and stir well.

Mix in:

• 6 cups of all-purpose flour. (I usually beat the first 3 cups in with a hand mixer, and the rest by hand with a wooden spoon.)

Cover the bowl with a tea towel and put it in a warm place to rise. Every 10 minutes, beat dough down with the wooden spoon using a “fold and punch” motion. Do this five times.

After the fifth “punch-down” divide dough into two or three equal lumps, and turn each out on a floured counter top. Let rest for 10 minutes.

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Shape each lump of dough into long French loaves (I usually make 3, but you can do 2 large ones if you prefer) and place each loaf diagonally on a separate, large, greased cookie sheet. (When shaping the dough into loaves, I usually end up working more flour into each loaf to make it stiff enough to work with.)

Let rise for about 10 minutes, then slash diagonally about ¼ inch deep every 2-3 inches. Let rise another 20-30 minutes.

For an extra crusty top, brush on a mixture of egg and milk (1 egg, 1 Tblsp milk) just before baking. (Or “paint” with a stick of butter when the loaves come out of the oven.)

Bake at 400 degrees for 17-20 minutes. Immediately remove from pan. Wrap in foil when cool.

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Traditionally, we slice the bread, butter between each two slices, then warm in oven until time to serve. Great with garlic butter, or with jellies and jams.

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By: DEBORAH RANEY’s first novel, A Vow to Cherish, inspired the World Wide Pictures film of the same title and launched her writing career after twenty happy years as a stay-at-home mom. She is currently working on the final book in her five-book series from Abingdon Press, the The Chicory Inn Novels. Deb and her husband, Ken Raney, recently traded small-town life––the setting of many of Deb’s novels––for life in the (relatively) big city of Wichita, Kansas. They love traveling to teach at conferences and to visit four children and a growing brood of grandchildren who all live much too far away. Visit Deb on the Web at www.deborahraney.com.

Join us at www.just18summers.com for our parenting blog each Monday-Friday and for info about the Just 18 Summers novel.

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