Breaking bread may bring people together, but baking bread seems to intimidate many home chefs.
At least, that’s the response I get from others when I make this bread. Everyone always appears stunned that I whipped up a loaf of French bread so easily and that it’s so good. But it actually is really easy, just five ingredients and five easy steps, and voila! You’ve got a delicious loaf of bread that will impress and satisfy dinner party guests or that friend coming by for a glass of wine.
Smother it with butter, pesto (See the December 13 Reporter), Brie, figs and goat cheese, or anything you’d like! My nine-year-old son loves it too and has me make it for him and his friends during movie time when he hosts sleepovers.
1½ cups warm water
1 tablespoon honey
1½ teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
3½ to 4½ cups flour
1. Combine the water, honey, salt and yeast in a glass bowl. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes until there’s some bubbling, foamy stuff on top.
2. Add a bunch of flour. I use regular white organic flour and usually start with a full 3½ cups and add as I knead.
3. Keep kneading until it is no longer sticky. You want your dough to be sticking to itself, not your fingers. So keep adding flour and keep kneading until that happens.
4. Form the dough into a loaf shape. Cover with a towel and let sit on the counter for 20 minutes (or on top of the preheating oven if your kitchen is cold). This is the time to set the oven to 400 degrees.
5. After 20 minutes, cut slits in the top of the dough and bake for 16 to 20 minutes.
Variations can be made by adding garlic and oregano, or cinnamon and raisins, or whatever you dream up!
Figs and goat cheese
8 ounces goat cheese, at room temperature
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon
2 tablespoons minced shallots
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
8 fresh figs, diced
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1. In a medium bowl, combine the goat cheese, olive oil, honey and half of the tarragon, shallots and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper.
2. In a separate bowl, toss the figs with the lemon juice, balsamic vinegar and remaining tarragon, shallots and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Spread the goat cheese mixture on the sliced bread, then top with the figs.
Cook’s notes: You can saute the figs before mixing them with the herb mixture. To make crostinis, toast the bread slices in the oven before topping them with the figs and goat cheese.