Sunday, December 9, 2012

Honey-Butter French Bread

There's a bunch of Onion Soup in my freezer and some of it is thawing in the fridge. Rather than buying some baguettes, it'd be nice to have some fresh bread to put in the soup. I'm a little motivated by a recent large flour purchase.

Honey-Butter French Bread
adapted from Epicurious
click to print

2 c warm water (105°F to 115°F)
1 tsp sugar
1 envelope dry yeast
2 tbsp (1/4 stick) butter, melted
2 tsp salt
1 tsp honey
5 c (about) unbleached all purpose flour

Mix 1/4 cup warm water and sugar in large bowl.

Sprinkle yeast over; stir to dissolve.

Let stand until foamy, about 8 minutes.

Stir in remaining 1 3/4 cups warm water.

Mix in butter, salt and honey.

Using wooden spoon, stir in 4 cups flour.

Turn dough out onto floured surface.

Knead until smooth and elastic, adding more flour if sticky, about 8 minutes. Form dough into ball.

Considering how sticky the dough was to begin with, I piled on a good quantity of flour just to start kneading. Even more was necessary to get a smooth and elastic dough which could then be formed in a nice little ball.

Grease the large bowl. Add dough, turning to coat.

Cover bowl with plastic wrap, then with clean towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled, about 1 hour.

Punch down dough.

Cover dough with plastic wrap and let rest 10 minutes.

Goofing around with a pumpkin, my dough rested 30 minutes and got pretty puffy.

Divide dough in half; roll each dough piece between hands and work surface into 9-inch-long loaf.

When I punched the dough down, it was a little sticky so I prepped the work surface with a little flour before dividing the dough. The tape measure in the back is because I can't eyeball 9" well. It probably doesn't matter, longer and thinner would probably work well too.

Transfer loaves to baking sheet.

Cover with plastic, then with towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until almost doubled, about 30 minutes.

Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 425°F.

Make 5 diagonal slashes crosswise in surface of each loaf.

Lightly brush water over tops and sides of loaves.

The loaves are almost fragile at this point so be sure not to use a heavy hand. The dough will smoosh under the weight.

Bake loaves 20 minutes, brushing occasionally with water.

The loaves were baked 8 minutes, brushed with water (even the part where the loaves touched each other) and then baked another 12 minutes.

Continue baking until loaves are golden brown and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 15-20 minutes.

Transfer to rack; cool.

The crust looked really dull, but wow! What a crunchy exterior and very tender, light interior! Tasting it while hot, I couldn't help but slather the butt with a huge pile of butter, which melted into every crevice of the hunk, so cannot comment yet on whether the honey comes through. I'm looking forward to having this in that Onion Soup. Even the Carb-Loving Cat vocalized her desire for some bread - and she never says anything.

  • sugar: $0.01 
  • yeast: $0.90 
  • butter: $0.12 
  • honey: $0.04 
  • flour: $0.75
Total: $1.82 or $0.91 a loaf, each of which could top quite a few bowls of soup.

Note: two loaves of bread for a single person is too much. The bread got moldy in just a few days, way before I was close to finishing it.