One of the best things about having a baby is that your friends and family bring you dinners. Between my loving church and our supportive school, our family received meals for 6 weeks! Let me just say: I love to cook, but I do NOT turn down any opportunity to have dinner fixed for me. EVER.
A sweet friend from church brought us a delicious dinner accompanied by a perfect loaf of french bread...that was homemade. Unlike my favorite artisan bread recipe, this lovely loaf is light, subtly sweet, silky in texture, with a slightly crisp crust. If you're going to eat fluffy, white bread, you might as well enjoy it this fresh. Think spaghetti dinner, think french toast, think this bacon-cheesy goodness. Well, now you can stop thinking and start making...
Perfect French Bread adapted from Taste of Home
1 package active dry yeast 1 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees F), divided 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar 1 1/2 tablespoons shortening 1 1/2 teaspoons salt 1 egg 4-4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup warm water. Add the sugar, shortening, salt, egg, remaining water, and 2 cups of flour; beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. Turn the speed to medium and knead for 8 minutes, or until smooth and elastic.
Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
Punch dough down. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Flatten into a rough rectangle. Fold in half long ways and pinch the seem. Fold in half long ways again, and pinch the seem. Turn the dough seam-side down and lightly roll from the center to the ends to double the length of the loaf. Place seam-side down on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover loosely with a dry towel and let rise until doubled.
Slash the loaf four or five times diagonally with a sharp knife.
Bake at 350 degrees F for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan and place on a wire rack to cool completely before slicing.