I have an arch nemisis; an enemy that appears to want to thwart me at every turn. With insidious precision, it waits for me to be right in the middle of a new project to pounce. Then, it acts innocent, as if to say “Who me, no, I’d never do that. See how I cooperate?”
My sworn adversary is… My Oven.
Its weapons: four burners and a temperature gauge. Both work only when they feel like it (or when the repairman is watching), but not for long periods of time or as hot as they should. Oh yeah, this appliance has it in for me.
Case in point: French Bread. It was my first attempt at a nice chewy loaf. The recipe instructions from Better Homes and Gardens say: “Cover loosely with foil during the last 15 minutes of baking to prevent overbrowning.” Do you see the pale color of my loaves? I did not cover them. I was lucky to get any browning at all. They almost look un-done.
Because the Oven won’t show its true colors to repairmen (plural!), I have to deal with its nefarious ways. Therefore I give you a delicious, if pale, pair of loaves. Both are baguette sized. They made wonderful garlic bread served with spaghetti and meatballs.
French Bread (from BH&G Old Fashioned Home Baking)
5 1/2 – 6 cups flour
2 packages yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 cups warm water
1 Tbsp water beaten with 1 egg white
Combine the yeast, salt and water in a mixing bowl. When the yeast is bubbly, stir or mix in the flour until you have a smooth, not sticky dough. Cover and let rise until double, about 1 hour. Punch down, divide in two and form two long loaves, tapered at each end. Place them on a large baking sheet, cover and let rise for another 40 minutes. With a sharp knife or scissors, make 3 or 4 diagonal cuts on the top of each loaf. Brush with the egg wash and bake in a 375 degree oven for 35-40 minutes (and if you have a cooperative oven, think about tenting the loaves with foil during the last 15 minutes or so to prevent over-browning).