Yesterday I made bread using the recipe below from cooks.com, and I've had little open faced sandwiches all day, homemade bread with a thin layer of butter + cucumber slices + a dollop of aoili + salt and pepper, homemade bread drizzled with olive oil and covered with sun-dried* tomatoes, homemade bread with a leaf of butter lettuce + a basil leaf + a sun-dried tomato + a slice of fresh mozz.
WARREN'S FRENCH BREAD BAGUETTES
6 to 7 c. bread or unbleached flour
2 tbsp. sugar
1 to 1 1/2 tbsp. salt
1 pkg. yeast (Fleischmann's regular or Rapid Rise)
2 1/2 c. water (tap water, very hot to wrist)
Egg white for glaze
I use a heavy duty mixer because of the large amount of flour.
Put about 5 cups flour, sugar, salt, and yeast into a large mixer bowl. Mix by hand. Then mix in the water, again by hand. Mix by machine, adding more flour as needed using dough hook. Knead until dough is smooth and elastic. Place dough in greased bowl; cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let rise in warm place until light and doubled in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Punch dough down. Cover with inverted mixer bowl and let rest for 15 minutes approximately.
Divide dough into 4 pieces. Form a baguette from each piece by first beating it with your palm into an oval approximately 5x3 inches. Then roll the oval into a rope. Flatten the top with your hand (POUND IT) while simultaneously stretching it to about 2 feet long. Fold the flat rope into thirds and pound it with your palm into a rectangle approximately 10x4 inches. Roll the rectangle into a baguette. Place in prepared baguette pans. Make three 1/4 inch deep slashes with razor blade. Repeat with the other pieces of dough.
Brush baguettes with beaten egg white. Cover; let rise in warm place, about 45 minutes.
START WITH COLD OVEN. Put small pan of boiling water in bottom of oven. Spray (mist) the loaves with warm water. Start the oven at 450 degrees; after 10 minutes, spray loaves again, filling oven with mist. Continue baking for a total of approximately 35 minutes.
If loaves don't "thump" done and look nice and brown, reduce temperature to 350 degrees and check at 5 minute intervals for a nice hollow "thump." Cool as usual on wire racks. Please note, my baguettes have never looked like the ones you get in proper French bakeries, but they taste pretty good, and every time I try this I get a little bit closer to the ideal.
* Italian food is very popular here, so now it is possible to get very good and inexpensive, locally-grown and packed Italian foods. I've been eating sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil like it is going out of style.