French Bread

Making bread at home really isn’t that hard – it just takes a bit of time. An added bonus is just how amazing your home will smell.

The house smells amazing and when you pull this french bread out of the oven you will have a hard time waiting for it to cool down enough to slice.

The house smells amazing and when you pull this french bread out of the oven you will have a hard time waiting for it to cool down enough to slice.

4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
2 teaspoons active dry yeast (from a 1/4-oz package)
1 tbsp sugar
1 2/3 cups warm water (105-115°F)
3 tablespoon olive oil

Dissolve sugar in 2/3 cup of the warm water, stir in yeast. Allow yeast to bloom for 15 minutes. Set aside the other 1 cup of warm water, adding the olive oil and vinegar.

Meanwhile – stir flour and salt together. When yeast has bloomed, stir into flour mixture along with the remaining cup of warm water and olive oil/vinegar mix.

It is pretty easy to do this in either food processor or stand mixer, using the dough hook – allow the machine to do some of the kneading for you – but take the time to finish the kneading yourself to feel the texture. You want a relatively soft,but firm dough.

Place in greased bowl, turning to coat with oil – cover, and allow to rest in a warm, draft free place.

45 – 60 minutes later it should have doubled in size. punch it down, turn again and allow to rise one more time until doubled.

Separate dough in half. Roll out and form loaves. Repeat with the other half. If you happen to have french loaf pans, grease well and allow to rise again in those pans. Most of us however don’t have those pans. I used my roaster, with parchment paper separating the two loaves.

Ready for the oven - if you like, give each loaf a few diagonal slices.

Ready for the oven – if you like, give each loaf a few diagonal slices.

Preheat oven to 425 – on lowest rack place 9 x 13 baking pan full of boiling water (hint – put baking pan in oven first, THEN fill with boiling water). On upper rack place baking tray with bread.

Bake for 20-30 minutes until crunchy and nicely browned.

Allow to cool slightly before slicing.

Sweet Basil Pesto

I think one of my favorite herbs is basil – always makes me think of summer and freshness – drinking Holy Basil Tea right now in fact!!

Basil Pesto

3 cloves garlic

4 cups packed fresh basil leaves

1/2 cup toasted pine nuts

1/3 cup finely grated best quality parmesan cheese

2 tbsp lemon juice

2/3 cup olive oil

1 tsp kosher salt

drop garlic cloves into food processor while it is running, continuing with basil, pine nuts, parmesan, lemon juice and salt.  Pulse after it is finely chopped, and with motor still running slowly add oil – scrape down the side of the bowl a few times. Do another couple pulses just to make sure it is all finely blended.

This keeps easily in the fridge for up to a week, and will store well in freezer also.  Either freeze in small containers, or in ice cube trays.  Once they have frozen in the trays, pop them out and store in a ziplock bag.

This makes an amazing pasta dish – toss it with freshly cooked pasta, adding either a bit of the pasta cooking water or heavy cream, whichever is your preference that night!  

Other suggestions:

Pizza topping, with prawns and carmelized red onions – sprinkle with fresh spinach

Blend with butter and spread on french bread for an alternative to garlic bread

Top a grilled steak with a tbsp of pesto

blend 1 tbsp with 2 tbsp red wine vinegar & 5 tbsp olive oil for a salad dressing