Sunday, May 19, 2013

French Bread

We are so lucky as a family to have so many good friends. Luckier still, to have those friends going through the same life stages as we are. Now that the weather is getting nicer my hostess bug is starting to itch. I have always loved having friends over, as much as I like going other places for dinner. I think this itch has gotten stronger since becoming a stay at home Mom. While it is the best job in the world, I do lack in adult interaction. I do belong to a couple of parent's groups and have play dates that give me the conversation binges I need during the week, but there is something about having a reason to wash the floors, scrub the sink, and make lots of good food that would be way too much for my husband and I alone. Being able to entertain people, make new recipes, and chat about baby sleep and poop to other parents is priceless.

This past weekend we had two dinners at our house, and took a trip to Homer Lake with John's boss and his family to check out the "natural play area" there. I have an abundance of goat cheese from our local goat farm, as well as some walnuts and local honey. So I decided to make an appetizer of crostini with goat cheese, walnuts and honey. For this, I needed french bread. At one point I may have bought a loaf from the store. Well, what fun is that? So here is my new awesome french bread recipe, as well as my crostini and a fabulous muffaletta sandwich recipe that we took for our family picnic. \

This bread is my own creation. I'm very proud of it!

This is the water, yeast, honey, and vinegar mixture. I mixed it all in the bowl of my stand mixer, and after the yeast was able to proof for 5 minutes or so, I added the rest of my ingredients, which were salt, olive oil, and flour. The amounts of each are listed in the recipe below.

I love a good rise in my dough! Look at how high and bubbly it is!

I made 4 smallish loaves out of this recipe.

Never a bad moment for practicing our letters in the flour on the table.

Here are my fancy slits in the bread. After your oven is preheated to 350 degrees, and the bread has had a chance to rise again, I give them a spritz with water - this will help the crust form that nice "french bread" appearance.

All baked up! Aren't they pretty?

I tried to slice the loaf pretty thin for my crostini. You can see the whole grain goodness on the inside. This bread is also tasty with a slather of butter or some olive oil and parmesan cheese.

Whole Wheat French Bread

2 1/2 cups warm water
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp white vinegar
2 packets active dry yeast
1 Tbsp salt
1/3 cup olive oil
6-7 cups flour - I used a mixture of whole wheat and white whole wheat flours - about half and half

Combine the warm water, honey, and vinegar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Add the yeast and let if proof for about 5 minutes. Then add the salt and olive oil. Mix in 6 cups of flour - I used 3 cups whole wheat flour and 3 cups white whole wheat flour. Add in enough additional flour until the dough is no longer sticking to the sides of the bowl as it kneads. A wet dough is better than a dry dough, so be careful. This dough does best if it is a little sticky. Let the dough hook do its thing for about 5-6 minutes. Then remove the hook and cover with a little oil and seran wrap, and let rise for about an hour. One great thing about summer time is that I don't have to search everywhere for a warm place!

After an hour, punch down the dough and separate it into 4 sections. Roll each section into your desired shape. You can also make 3 larger loaves, 2 really large loaves, or even 2 sandwich loaves. Make slits about an inch deep. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Let rise for another half hour or so, covered with a tea towel. Spritz with water and bake for about half an hour, or until nice and brown on top.

Goat Cheese, Toasted Walnut, and Honey Crostini

1 french baguette, sliced thinly
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Goat cheese - about 4-5 ounces
1/2 cup whole walnuts, toasted (toss with oil, sprinkle with salt, and bake 5-7 minutes)
Honey to drizzle

With a pastry brush, brush olive oil on each side of bread slices to cover the surface. The extra virgin olive oil on the bread gives these a lot of flavor, so don't be skimpy. Toast the crostini in the oven at 375 for about 10 minutes. Flip, and bake another 5 minutes or so, or until each side is nicely toasted. Let cool slightly. Spread with goat cheese and then add 2-3 pieces of toasted walnut. Drizzle them all with a generous amount of honey.

Griesbaum Muffaletta

One loaf French Bread
1/2 cup green olives
1/3 cup black olives
1/2 an onion
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
Venison summer sausage, sliced thinly (or traditionally can use salami and other lunch meats
Provolone cheese
Roasted red peppers

Split french bread in half lengthwise and dig out some of the middle. Save this for other uses, like making bread crumbs (or, like me, spread soft butter on it and eat it all while making the sandwich). Combine olives, onion, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in food processor and process until a chunky paste is made. Spread this on both sides of the baguette. Then layer sausage, provolone cheese, red peppers, and another layer of sausage. As you can see, I was generous with my fillings. Wrap tightly and place in fridge for at least 6 hours (Mine sat over night). Cut into 4 pieces and serve.

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