Thank goodness I remembered I had read somewhere about a way to make "Quick French Bread," "Sixty-Minute French Bread," or "French Bread In An Hour," or words to that effect.
We had guests coming to dinner, and I had forgotten to stop for a crusty loaf on my way home. Rats! I did NOT want to run back into town, and I was determined to figure it out!
I found several recipes and went with the one I thought sounded the easiest. Honestly, I was skeptical about the quality of bread I could make so quickly, but it is absolutely amazing!
I make all kinds of bread, but now I know this is the way whenever I need a fantastic loaf of perfectly tender, quick French bread with a gorgeous, crisp, golden-brown crust! Boom!
If you are a bread baker, you probably know that bread consists of flour, water, yeast, sugar, and salt. So how does this crazy quick bread happen? Simply put, we change the proportion of yeast and sugar to flour.
Normally, a standard loaf of bread needs to rise twice. It rises first in the bowl for about an hour and again in the loaf pan for about 45 minutes. The amount of yeast in a typical one-pound loaf of bread is about 2 1/4 teaspoons (the contents of one packet of yeast) mixed into about 3 cups of flour, two teaspoons of sugar, and a teaspoon of salt.
In this quick French bread recipe, we increase the amount of yeast to 4 1/2 teaspoons and the sugar to 3 teaspoons. The result is a faster rise, and we can quickly bake this yummy, yeasty bread. The loaf is skinnier and longer and is baked free-form on a sheet pan or a baguette pan, shortening the bake time. The loaves will be shorter and skinnier if you bake them in a baguette pan, making them bake even faster.
The other key difference in this 60-minute French bread is the screaming hot 450-degree oven, a full one hundred degrees hotter than baking a standard loaf of bread. Every change made to the recipe and the method increases the speed!
Oh, and that gorgeous, shiny, golden-brown crust? Brush an egg white wash on the loaf before baking, and you've just given this bread the ultimate beauty treatment!!
You really can, and let's get started! I did every bit of the mixing in my Kitchen-Aid stand mixer, and it was a breeze. Look, ma, no hands! Begin by putting one and one-half cups of bath-water-warm water in the bowl with the sugar, yeast, and salt. The ideal temperature range for yeast is 105 to 115 degrees. Yeast enjoys a nice warm (not hot) bath as much as we do. Put the bowl in a nice, warm place.
You may wonder if it matters whether you use instant yeast or regular yeast. The only difference is that instant yeast is processed into finer granules, so you can mix it right in with the flour, saving a step. If you use instant yeast, you can add the flour right away. If you use regular yeast, wait a few minutes after combining the water and yeast, watch for a few bubbles, and continue.
I wish I could tell you exactly how much flour to add, but many factors like temperature, humidity, and altitude influence that. Use the whisk attachment at first, adding the flour a bit at a time. Add the butter now. When the batter gets too heavy for the whisk, switch to the bread hook.
You will know when you have added the right amount because the dough will politely start cleaning the bowl, and it isn't sticky anymore. The dough is a pleasure to handle, soft and silky, smooth as a baby's cheek.
Now, shape the dough into a long loaf, about 15 inches long, and slash the top with a serrated knife about four times. This step keeps the crust from cracking. Place your quick French bread loaf on a greased baking sheet; I used my trusty old bakestone. If you use a baguette pan (be sure to grease the pan first), your loaves will be shorter, skinnier, and bake faster.
Preheat your oven now to 450 degrees. Cover the loaf with a tea towel, set it in a nice warm place, and let it rise for twenty minutes while it doubles in size.
Now for the magic that makes the loaf so lovely. Beat the white of one egg until it's frothy and brush it over the entire surface of the loaf. Now pop that loaf in that blazing hot oven for about 20 minutes or until the loaf is shiny and golden brown. It should sound hollow when you knock on the bottom.
Increase the bake time if you want a darker, crisper crust, but watch carefully. And remember, if you make baguettes, they will bake faster! Begin checking at about 15 minutes!
Voila!! (That's French!) You have just broken the land speed record for baking the prettiest French bread in town!! Slather on the butter and enjoy it! It makes great French toast; see a theme shaping up here?
We are officially in soup season now and this amazing quick French bread is just the thing you need to go with a hearty bowl of soup so you can sop up every delicious drop! Try this Instant Pot Beef Noodle Soup. It's fast too, just the way I like it! Or try this one; it's an old favorite of mine and easier than you think! Split Pea Soup With Ham!
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