I am a sucker for bread. My favorite part of the grocery store is the coffee and bread aisle. I get the yeast smell of the hundred plus loaves of bread mingled with the scent of freshly ground coffee.
I am no stranger to the loaves of bread strategically placed in warming boxes at the entrances of the store and this bread is very much like those temptations. I have tried numerous bread recipes over the years hoping to recreate the deliciousness at home and this one is the winner.
Don’t let the long prep time or instructions list throw you off. Most of the time is hands off. Once the mixer has done its work you just knead the ball of dough by hands a couple of times every ten to fifteen minutes. The extra tiny bit of work is worth it, I promise.
Chewy French or Italian Bread
Soft grocery store bakery French or Italian style bread.
Prep time: 2 hours
Cook time: 30 minutes
Total time: 2 hours and 30 minutes
Yield: 2 large or 4 small loaves
- 1 1/2 Tablespoon or 4 1/2 teaspoons yeast
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 1 1/2 Tablespoon or 4 1/2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 cups water
- 1 1/2 Tablespoon or 4 1/2 teaspoons oil. I used olive oil but vegetable will work
- 2 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 3 cups bread flour
- 1 egg beaten with 1 Tablespoon water
- Additional all purpose flour if needed and for dusting
- cornmeal for dusting the baking sheets if desired
In a large bowl mix together yeast, 1/2 cup water and the sugar. Let it proof for 10-15 minutes it should increase in volume quite a bit and be very foamy.
In the bowl of a stand mixer stir together the 2 cups water, oil, salt, and 3 cups all purpose flour. Add in the yeast mixture and stir well. Add the 3 cups bread flour and mix well.
Knead using the dough hook for about five minutes. You might need to add a bit of additional flour. It was raining when I made this and with the six cups of flour it was more like cake batter. Add very small amounts of flour if needed until you can roll a small bit of dough into a ball. You want the dough to be sticky and soft but not wet and batter like.
Generously flour your counter or a cookie sheet for easier clean up and scrape the dough on to it. Knead with your hands 3 or 4 times and shape dough into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest for 10 minutes then knead and shape again. Repeat the kneading and shaping 3-4 times. After the final kneading and shaping divide dough in half for 2 large loaves or fourths for smaller loaves.
Roll each into a rectangle and roll up jelly roll style pinching to seal. Place seam side down on a lightly greased cookie sheet. I like to put a little cornmeal where the loaf is going to sit. Be careful not to overdo it because cornmeal burns easily and it smells awful when it does.
Turn oven to 425 degrees. Brush the loaves with the egg wash and make 3 to 4 slits across the top of the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled which will take 30-45 minutes.
Bake at 425 for 10 minutes then at 375 for 18-20 minutes.
Notes: I used half bread flour because I was running low on all purpose but you can use all purpose flour for the full amount.
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