There is a deli north of Pittsburgh called the Wexford Post Office Deli. I've never been there, but my friend took my kids there earlier this summer. The food is good I've been told, but the service? Not so good. I've heard that the service is slow and the staff can be rude. For example...
Ellen, my 14-year-old, was picking out the sandwich she wanted to order and there were several choices of bread to choose from.
She asked the woman behind the counter, "What is the difference between Sourdough and French Bread?"
The woman behind the counter replied, "One is sour, and one is French. Duh!"
Ok, so maybe she didn't say "duh", but she might as well have.
As Ellen told me the story, the mother in me wanted to give the deli owners a piece of my mind - how can you be so rude to a young person who is asking an honest question and is about to spend money in your restaurant?
The baker in me was wondering how I would answer that question. I know what sourdough is - it's bread that has a little tangy flavor. But how would I describe French bread? Is it primarily how the bread is shaped? Does it need to come from France? Is it the texture of the bread or the crust? Can French bread also be a sourdough?
The questions came to me again as I was making this recipe for Ten Grain French Bread, as the recipe was titled. I googled French bread and came up with these attributes:
Crisp and chewy crust
Interior is airy with holes throughout
Most often associated with the baguette, or a thicker elongated loaf, but can be shaped many ways
The traditional dough only contains flour, water, salt, and yeast (no oil or sugar)
It becomes dry or stale after one day (which is why the French buy their bread every day from a boulangerie)
Based on the above attributes, this bread would not classify as French bread, but it's delicious anyway! It has an elongated shape with tapered ends like French bread, but that's where the similarities end. This bread stayed moist for a week and the inside was not holey. Most of the 10-grain cereal used in this recipe is used to coat the outside of the loaf, which resulted in a wonderful chewy and flavorful crust. Toast this bread and make yourself a BLT with those abundant late summer tomatoes you have lying around, or try some of this bread toasted with butter and apricot jam. It's delicious any way you eat it!
10 Grain French Bread
from Marie Patten from Keizer, Oregon via Bob's Red Mill
This bread recipe was a prize winner at the 2005 Oregon State Fair.
Makes two good sized loaves
2 packages or 4 1/2 teaspoons Active Dry Yeast
2 cups Water
2 Tbsp Sugar
1 Tbsp Sea Salt
2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
4 cups White Flour, Unbleached
1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/3 cup 10-Grain Cereal
1 Egg, beaten
1 1/2 cups 10-Grain Cereal
1/2 cup Sunflower Seeds (Raw Shelled), optional
In large mixer bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water (105°-115°F). Stir in sugar, salt, oil, and three cups of flour. Beat vigorously two to three minutes, scraping sides of bowls occasionally. Add remaining flours and 1/3 cup 10 grain cereal to make a stiff dough. Adjust water or flour until desired consistency if necessary. Allow dough to rest 10 minutes and stir down. Repeat resting and stirring down four more times.
Meanwhile, grease two large baking sheets or line with parchment paper and set aside. Turn dough out onto floured surface; knead only enough to coat with flour (two or three times) so it can be handled. Divide in half, roll each into a 12”x 9” rectangle and roll up each from the long side like a jellyroll. Pinch seams to seal. Baste each loaf with beaten egg and coat with the two cups 10 grain cereal and sunflower seed mixture. (Cereal can be placed on wax paper or in an oblong baking dish for ease in coating. There will be cereal left over.)
Place loaves on baking sheets. With a very sharp knife, make three diagonal cuts on the top of each loaf. Cover and let rise at room temperature until nearly doubled in size (about 30-45 minutes). Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake 25-30 minutes or until nicely browned. Remove from baking sheet and cool on racks.