Apart from its importance at table, bread, in many of the recipes in this book, has an important place: Stale or completely dried out, it accompanies soups; crumbs, soft or dried, are used for certain gratins and for breading; soaked and squeezed dry, it is a major element in other gratins and a minor but vital one in many pâtés and stuffings; it is cooked crisp in butter for croutons and croûtes and baked in puddings.
I gave a recipe in The French Menu Cookbook for an approximation of the French country loaf of bread which I continue to find adequate. Instructions for oven temperatures and lengths of cooking times vary greatly among authors (and so they should, depending on the size of the loaves and the desired thickness of the crust). Any of the recipes, either for American white bread or for French bread, to be found in American cookbooks (French cookbooks simply don’t give bread recipes—they expect you to buy your bread at the baker’s) will give good results if you cut out the milk, shortening, and sugar and bake the loaf on a flat surface rather than in a bread tin (my oven contains a heavy plaque rather than the grill to be found in most kitchens and I have taken to the habit of putting the loaf to raise on a sheet of aluminum foil that has been sprinkled with semolina, a stiff cardboard beneath it, and, with an abrupt motion, slipping the aluminum foil directly onto the hot oven plaque). A pan of water should be kept in the bottom of the oven. It is valuable to experiment with different flours (I have had interesting results with small additions of barley flour—about ½ cup to 3 or 4 cups of regular flour) and, in particular, one might profit from the current health food fashion to use the unbleached, stone-ground flours available. Those I have found in France have a fine flavor—they raise less than the more highly refined flours and give a heavier crumb.
Copyright © 1974 by Richard Olney. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.