I know I’ve said this before, but I really love making bread. This semester’s schedule is especially conducive to bread-making, which makes me really happy. I’m done around noon every day, so I have the rest of the day to do whatever. Usually that’s mostly studying, but the one nice thing about this bread in particular is that there’s really very little hands-on time. It takes almost 3 hours total to make, but only about 15-20 minutes of actual work. During the rest of that time, you can do whatever you want. I usually end up studying, but there are much better things you could do…I suggest a bath (with a glass of wine, of course!) or maybe a manicure.
This is just a basic french bread recipe with the addition of a packet of onion soup mix. This gives it a really nice onion taste — not too strong, but enough that you notice it’s there. The crust came out really well, too. I usually have problems with the crust softening once the bread cools, but these loaves stayed soft on the inside and crispy on the outside.
There are a few things that I’ve learned after making (and messing up) quite a few loaves of bread. First, you should always add less flour than you think you need to begin with. I used to add way too much flour to the dough right at the beginning, not realizing that more is usually added during the kneading process. I always try to get a dough that feels silky to the touch and is just slightly tacky (not completely dry on the outside) but won’t leave little bits stuck to your hands. Secondly, it’s always good to knead more, rather than less. I read somewhere (and of course when I just went to try to find the article again, it’s nowhere to be found) that nothing bad comes from over-kneading, but under-kneading can lead to a very dense and heavy loaf.
Onion French Bread
Makes: 2 baguettes
5 to 5 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 envelope onion soup mix (I used Lipton’s Beefy Onion)
2 pkg. (1/4 oz. each) active dry yeast
3 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. salt
2 c. warm water
2 tbsp. shortening
1) Combine 2 cups flour, soup mix, yeast, sugar and salt in a large bowl.
2) Add the warm water and the shortening. Beat on medium speed for 3 minutes.
3) Add enough remaining flour to form a very soft dough.
4) Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 4-5 minutes. Place in a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel.
5) Let rise for 1 hour.
6) Place dough back on the floured surface and knead an additional 4-5 times.
7) Divide the dough in half. Roll each half into a 14×6 inch rectangle.
8) Beginning with one of the longer sides, roll up the dough. Tuck in each end and pinch all edges to seal.
9) Place each log of dough onto a greased cookie sheet.
10) Cover the cookie sheets with greased plastic wrap and let rise for 30-40 minutes.
11) Make four diagonal cuts across the top of each loaf, abut 1/2 inch deep.
12) Bake loaves at 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes, until outside is nicely browned and hard to the touch.