Friday, June 1, 2007

Easy French Bread

2 1/4 cups warm water
2 packages yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup shortening
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or soft shortening
6 cups all-purpose flour, stirred and measured
1 beaten egg with 1 tablespoon water (optional)

In large mixing bowl combine warm water and sugar. Sprinkle yeast over top; allow to soften. Add salt, shortening, and 3 cups flour; beat well with heavy spoon. Add enough remaining flour so that dough pulls away from side of bowl. Leave spoon in batter and allow dough to rest 10 minutes; stir down with spoon; allow dough to rest 10 minutes; stir down again. Repeat until dough has been stirred down 5 times.

Turn dough out onto floured board; knead two or three times to coat dough with flour so dough can be handled. Divide dough into two parts. Roll each portion of dough into rectangle 9x12 inches. Roll dough up, starting from long side; pinch edge of loaf to seal. Arrange seam side down on large baking sheet that’s been greased or sprinkled with cornmeal, allowing room for both loaves. Repeat with second portion of dough.

Cover lightly; allow to rise 30 minutes. With very sharp knife, cut three gashes at an angle in top of each loaf; brush entire surface with egg wash (1 egg beaten slightly with 1 tablespoon water). If desired, sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds. Bake at 400* F. for 25 minutes or until brown. Cool on racks. Makes 2 loaves.

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