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Light* French Bread

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*’Light’ refers to texture, not caloric count.

This is a variation on a French Bread recipe I found years ago. I use a giant stand mixer (Ferrari Red (it was my midlife crisis sports car)), so modify the recipe depending upon the power tools to be found within your kitchen (and the tolerance of your significant other).

2 eggs (separated (no lawyer needed for this separation))
About 4 cups of flour (I use a 50/50 mix of King Arthur bread flour and King Arthur unbleached white flour)
About 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons live active yeast
1 cup hot water
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons butter (or good margarine) (at room temperature)
1 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)

Separate the eggs (save the yolks). Whip the egg whites until very stiff and dry (make sure the bowl is grease free and cool).

Warm the mixer bowl with hot water. Put 2 cups of the white flour in the bowl, along with the yeast, honey and salt. Mix briefly with the flat beater. Add the water and mix with the flat beater for about 5 minutes (until the batter starts to get a little stringy). Add the egg whites and fold them into the batter with the flat beater.

Switch to the dough hook and add the butter and 1 1/2 cup white flour plus the whole wheat flour. Continue to add flour a little at a time until the dough has pulled away from the sides of bowl (If you have never made bread before, this gets a little tricky. As the dough is kneaded under the dough hook, it should clean the inside of the bowl. An area about the size of a quarter (about 2.5cm for you furriners) should stick to the bottom of the bowl (the amount of flour added depends on the humidity and the moisture level of your flour)). Continue to knead the dough for about 15 minutes (this develops the gluten so the dough will rise nicely).

Form the dough into a ball and set aside. Lightly grease the bowl (a little butter or margarine), set the dough ball back in the bowl and cover with a warm damp cloth. Allow it to rise in a warm (not hot) place until it has doubled in size.

Once it has doubled, use your fist to punch down the dough. Divide the dough in half. Use a rolling pin or pastry pin and roll each ball out into a rough rectangle about 14 inches by 10 inches. Brush the upper surface with a small (repeat SMALL!) amount of water. Roll the dough tightly into a long cylinder and place on a large cookie sheet (If the cookie sheet is non-stick, you’re cool. If it’s not, spray the sheet with non-stick cooking spray (or rub some butter on it (the cookie sheet, not the. . . . Well. . . .)) seam side down. Repeat with the second ball of dough (make sure the batons are about 3 inches apart so they won’t touch as they rise the second time). Use a sharp knife and make 3 or 4 diagonal slashes about 1/4 inch deep on the top of each baton. Gently beat the egg yolks (add a little water if they have gotten too thick) and brush on the bread (if you want to add, say, sesame seeds, quinoa, salt, or other grippy substance to the top, now would be the time).

Cover with warm dry kitchen towel (make sure there is no cat hair on it (unless you want lots of non-dietary fibre)) and allow to rise until doubled in size.

Place in a cold oven and set to bake at 375F (190C) and allow to bake for about 45 minutes (by putting the bread in a cold oven, it will rise nicely as the oven warms). Keep an eye on it. Each oven is different.

This loaf is a favourite in my family. The egg whites make for a high-protein bread which is very light (4 1/2 cups of flour make two good size loafs). It is also excellent as pizza crust.

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