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French Loaf

A super dough which lends itself to delightful variations in shape and size.

1 x 8 g sachet instant yeast
750 ml cake flour
375 ml lukewarm water
30 ml butter or margarine
15 ml sugar
10 ml salt
± 250 ml extra cake flour

Salt water glaze (for a crisp crust)
30 ml water
5 ml salt
coarse salt to sprinkle (optional)

Egg glaze (for sheen and to make seeds stick)
1 large egg
30 ml water
sesame or poppy seeds (optional)

  1. Mix the yeast with the 3 cups (750 ml)  flour in a mixing bowl, add all the remaining ingredients except the extra flour and mix well.
  2. Add sufficient extra flour to form a soft, slightly sticky but kneadable dough. Turn out onto a well-floured surface and knead 4 – 5 minutes or until smooth and no longer sticky.
  3. Flour the bowl, return the dough to the bowl, sprinkle with flour, cover and allow to rise in a mildly warm spot until doubled.  Knead down the dough lightly with floured hands.
  4. To make french loaves, divide the dough into 3 to 4 portions, roll each portion into an elongated loaf according to the thickness and length desired and place onto rectangular baking trays greased with butter or margarine.
  5. Brush with salt water glaze if a crisp crust is desired or beat together the egg and water and brush with the egg glaze.
  6. Sprinkle with seeds if used and make a few deep diagonal slashes on top with a sharp knife or pair of scissors.  Or make lengthwise slashes with a knife.
  7. Place the loaves in a mildly warm protected spot to rise until completely doubled.
  8. Preheat the oven to 200°C while the loaves are rising.
  9. Place the loaves into the oven and bake 5 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 170°C and continue baking for another 15 to  20 minutes or until crisp and golden.
  10. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

Yields:  3 – 4 French loaves

Recipe by Carolié de Koster from Art Of Cooking page 822.