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French Bread

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2¼ cups warm water (105 degrees F. to 115 degrees F.)
2 (1/4-ounce) packages active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
5½to 6 cups all-purpose flour

Pour warm water into a large mixing bowl. Add yeast and sugar and mix with a whisk. Let sit for a few minutes until mixture bubbles, foams and grows. Stir down with a wooden spoon. Add salt and olive oil. Gradually add flour, beating mixture with a wooden spoon after each addition. When dough begins to leave sides of bowl and follow the spoon, transfer to work surface sprinkled with flour. Turn mixing bowl upside down over dough and allow to relax for a few minutes. While dough is relaxing, grease a large glass bowl and set aside. Grease a large baking sheet and set aside.

Remove bowl covering dough. Knead dough for 5 to 10 minutes, adding flour to work surface as needed to prevent sticking. You may not need the total amount of flour called for in the recipe. Form dough into a round. Place in reserved greased bowl. Turn dough over so greased side is facing up. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and a towel and allow dough to rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes.

Punch dough down and divide in half. Roll each half of dough to a rectangle approximately 11 inches x 17 inches. Roll up, beginning at a long side, fold ends under and place on greased baking sheet. Both loaves of dough should fit on one baking sheet. Brush each loaf with olive oil. Cover with plastic wrap to seal and then a large towel. Refrigerate up to 24 hours.

To bake, preheat oven to 400 degrees. While oven is heating, remove loaves of dough from refrigerator. Brush each loaf with cold water and slash the tops with a sharp knife. Bake 30 to 40 minutes until loaves are golden and sound hollow when tapped with finger on the bottom. Immediately transfer to cooling racks.

Makes 2 loaves.

 

- Courtesy of Sue Doeden

 

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