A few years ago now, hubby and I decided to visit our good friend Matthew in Paris. It was an epic trip but the highlight for me was the bread. Is there anything better than French bread straight out of the hot oven of the local Boulangerie? I think not. I remember sleeping in till very late and then strolling down the road to the local bakery and walking back with a huge brown paper bag full of fresh baguettes. Amazing!
On the last day we were in Paris we had some baguettes left and wanted to indulge in them for breakfast. I pulled out one of Matthew’s many plastic chopping boards and began top chop the baguette. Matt rushed in, guns blazing.
“STOP!” he cried. I looked up, panicked. Had I used the wrong sponge to wash the glasses? Had I restacked the tea incorrectly? Matt’s kitchen was impeccably organised. ” You can’t use a plastic chopping board to cut bread.”
” I can’t?” I replied, puzzled.
” It’s a French thing.” he then pulled out a wooden board and proceeded to slip it under the baguette. ” The French always cut their bread on a wooden chopping board!”
Who knew? Obviously not me. Now I always feel Matt whispering in my ear as I chop my bread, willy nilly, on plastic boards, from IKEA no less. I made a special effort this time, I cut this particular loaf on a wooden board.
This recipe can get addictive, be warned. It’s so easy, there’s no reason to buy the cake they label as bread in the supermarket. I’m a bit late on the “no knead” bread bandwagon, but this is the best recipe I’ve found so far and works every time. There is a slightly longer version on Steamy Kitchen which has no sugar added (better for the kiddywinks) but takes significantly longer. I do both, especially as I love the cob shape and crispy crust that the Steamy Kitchen loaf gets when baked in dutch oven!
- 400g plain flour
- 1 tsp. salt
- 3 tsp. sugar
- 300ml of warm water
- 1 packet (8g) of yeast
- Extra flour for dusting
In a small bowl place the packet of yeast and about 50ml of the warm water. Stir and leave the yeast to froth and go foamy.
In a large bowl add the flour, salt and sugar and mix well. Add the proven yeast and water to the flour mix and stir. This is supposed to be a wet mix , don’t panic if it’s sticky. It’s supposed to be.
At this point, I brush the top of the dough with a little oil, place a tea towel over the top and place it in a nice warm place to double in size (about 1/2 an hour).
When the dough has doubled in size, pour it our onto a well-floured kitchen bench and form in a rough loaf. I basically pull the sides into the middle and make a very rough log shape. Now pick it up and place it in a greased loaf pan. Don’t panic if it sticks, it is very stick dough after all. Just scrape it up!
Cover it with the cloth again and leave it to rise until the top of the dough is just above the rim of the loaf pan.
Place in a hot (200 celsius, 425 fahrenheit) oven for 25-30 minutes or until the tapped loaf sounds hollow. As soon as it’s cool enough to touch, place the loaf on a wire rack to allow the crust on the bottom to crisp up nicely.
Serve hot with lots of butter and some spicy chicken curry! If you want to reheat this bread, wrap with aluminium foil and bake in a hot oven for 15 minus or so. This stops the bread from browning further but makes the insides all toasty warm.