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Bread machine French bread

A bit of proportion on the loaf. The slices are between 1/4 and 1/2-inch thick, for reference.
A bit of proportion on the loaf. The slices are between 1/4 and 1/2-inch thick, for reference.
Sliced bread

Ahh, the heady aromas of homemade bread wafting through the kitchen. Is there any scent more intoxicating or memorable? Melting chocolate and freshly baked cookies come close, however, those sweet smells fade faster than a troupe of teenagers will gobble up a plate of brownies. Bread can linger for days and permeate hair on clothes. Who needs perfume when bread will do?

Recently, this column discussed the advantages of owning a bread machine, and promised to share recipes tested in a 2-pound machine. Today, that promise is fulfilled.

Surprisingly, developing bread recipes for an automated machine is challenging. With so many variables controlled by the equipment, the only variables to fuss over are the ingredients, proportions and loaf size settings. Sounds fairly manageable, yes? Ha! Dialing in the precise proportions of each ingredient is the most challenging aspect of developing the recipes; the other challenge is eating all the bread.

Though fresh bread is heavenly, it is hopelessly loaded with carbohydrates; hence, excessive consumption of delicious bread can turn into a fattening affair. Sad. Still, a couple slices of toast in the morning or a side of buttery garlic bread with dinner is rarely a harmful indulgence, provided there are no gluten intolerances in play.

Understanding Bread Descriptions

Knowing a few terms that describe bread will make it easier to understand the descriptions in this recipe and those that will publish in this column in the coming months.

Crumb: Describes the size of the holes in slice of bread. For example, ciabatta bread has a course crumb, and hamburger buns have a fine crumb.

Density: Describes the thickness of the bread. High-density breads include whole grain breads, while an example of low-density bread would be store-bought sandwich bread.

Texture: Describes the chewiness and sturdiness of the bread.

Staling: When bread stales, it becomes rather dry and unappetizing, useful only for creations such as French toast, croutons and breadcrumbs.

Crust: Describes the thickness and hardness of the crust.

Molding: Based on personal experience and influenced by weather in the Portland area, this will give an idea of how long the bread lasts before going moldy.

Settings: These will describe the settings on the particular bread machine used to create the recipe. It is a two to 2.5-pound loaf machine with several settings.

Bread machine French bread recipe

Going slightly beyond the essential ingredients of flour, water, yeast and salt, this recipe yields a sturdy loaf best suited for toasting preparations of all kinds.

Crumb: Medium-fine

Density: High density

Texture: Very chewy, resistant to the pressure of a bread knife

Staling: Within two to three days, the bread is too stale to thoroughly enjoy slightly warmed with butter, but it is delicious when lightly toasted for several more days

Crust: Thick, dense, chewy; kind of hard when toasted

Molding: After about a week a white mold forms, followed by standard green old

Settings: 2-lb loaf, 'Basic' setting, light crust

Le recipe:

Note: The following bread machine recipe is given in metric and traditional American volumetric measurements, as well as metric. For the best, most consistent results, use a scale and weigh all the ingredients, and take care to be accurate.

If the bread collapses, then reduce the yeast and leave the rest of the ingredients alone. Try dropping the yeast down to 20g first, then reduce by 2g increments until the bread behaves itself.

  • 350g (1 2/3 cups) Water, 118- 125* degrees Fahrenheit
  • 15g (1 Tablespoon) Coconut Oil or Butter
  • 20g(1 ½ Tablespoons) Cane Sugar
  • 11g (2 teaspoons) Sea Salt
  • 652g (4 ½ cups) Bread Flour
  • 22g (2 Tablespoons) Dry Active Yeast

1. Attach the paddle(s) to the pan.

2. Pour in the water, then add the fat, sugar and salt.

3. Add the flour and do not stir it in.

4. Make a long well in the top of the flour with your fingertips, about one-inch deep. Pour the yeast into the well.

5. Close the lid and select either the basic or French bread cycle, and light crust if applicable. Set the machine for a two-pound loaf.

6. While fresh, and ideally still warm, cut off a few slices and lavish with butter. Eat!

*Note: Check the timing of each cycle on the bread machine. If it has a preheating setting that lasts for 10 minutes or longer, make sure the water is within the given temperature range. If the bread machine starts mixing with 5 minutes of initiating the cycle, then reduce the temperature to 110 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bonus points:

When the bread is fresh and still hot, shake it out of the pan. Brush it generously with butter.

Put the warm loaf in a plastic bag and let it cool while sealed inside. The moisture released will soften the loaf and make the crust a bit more tender. Once cool, place in a fresh, dry bag.

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