After much debate, a survey of online readers, and following on the heels of some traumatic turkey roasting events, my mother and I have decided to make my homemade lasagna for Christmas Dinner this year.
Since learning that a Christmas lasagna is quite popular, I thought I’d share an easy recipe for making your own homemade French bread, and then how to turn it into the perfect cheesy garlic bread to eat with the meal.
If you don’t find kneading dough to be a fun, therapeutic activity, having a decent stand mixer really helps. I love being able to make my own bread despite having joint pain in my hands, thanks to my mixer.
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- Pinch of sugar
- 1 package (2 ¼ teaspoons) active dry yeast
- 1 ½ cups warm water
- 1-2 Teaspoons olive oil, divided
- Measure yeast, sugar and warm water into large mixing bowl (or the bowl from the stand mixer). The water should feel slightly warm on your wrist, but not hot or it will kill off the yeast. Stir the yeast mixture and let it sit for 3-5 minutes to ‘wake up’ the yeast. You should see a bubbling of the surface.
- Stir in salt and 3 cups of the flour.
- Begin either kneading by hand or using the dough hook on your stand mixture, set to the lowest speed. After around 3 minutes, add in as much of the 4th cup of flour as you can, a little at a time, kneading or mixing the dough until it is fully combined, or around 7 minutes. If the dough is getting too dry to accept more flour, you may sprinkle a little water on it and knead the flour in by hand. The dough should have a smooth, elastic feel.
- Oil the bowl with a little olive oil and set the dough inside, then turn it over so that both sides are lightly coated.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a clean cloth and set in a warm area to rise. The dough should double in size in about 2 hours.
- Punch down the dough by striking it with your fist in the center. (That is my favorite part.)
- Divide the dough in half.
- Take each half, one at a time, and roll it on a smooth cutting board or nonstick surface. As you roll the dough away from you, pull both ends away from each other. This will lengthen the bread and create a surface tension on the bread that allows for even expansion.
- Put the loaves, spaced apart, on a nonstick pan and set in the warm area to rise again. After an hour or so, the dough should have nearly doubled in size.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. On a lower rack, preheat a shallow pan.
- Score the top of each loaf by inserting a butter knife at a 45 degree angle and making diagonal cuts around ¼ inch deep every couple inches across the length of the bread.
- When the oven is heated, add 1 cup of cold water to the pan to create steam. Place the pan with the bread on the center rack.
- Bake for 15 minutes, then lower temperature to 350 degrees.
- Bake 20 more minutes, then remove pan and using a brush or oil mister, coat the surface of the bread with a little olive oil.
- Return bread to oven and bake for 10 more minutes, or until golden brown on the outside and hollow sounding when tapped.
Perfect Cheesy Garlic Bread
At this point, you should have a lovely homemade French bread that is crispy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside. A beautiful accompaniment to a meal on its own, it can also be transformed into the perfect cheesy garlic bread.
This bread is so good, it may be promoted to the main dish of the meal. “Perhaps a little pasta with your bread, Sir?”
Sure, you can start from this point and use a store bought loaf of French bread, and even a jar of minced garlic, but this homemade version offers a richness and depth of flavor that can’t compare.
2 loaves of fresh French bread
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 stick of butter (1/2 cup), softened
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded (optional)
- Mash up butter with a fork in a container and then thoroughly mix in garlic.
- Cut loaves of bread in half lengthwise and lay on pan with the inside surface facing up.
- Generously spread butter mixture on bread, covering top surface.
- Place pan in oven and set to high broil.
- After the butter melts, remove pan and sprinkle cheese evenly over surface.
- Return to broiler and let cook a couple more minutes, watching closely.
- Remove the bread as soon as the cheese begins to turn golden brown. Do not leave in too long or it will begin to burn quickly.
Slice and enjoy.
Note: If you are omitting the cheese, simply broil with the butter on the bread for a couple minutes, until edges are golden brown.
Extra butter mixture and cheese can be refrigerated or even frozen until the next time you make the bread.
Please note: there are affiliate links contained in this post. If you should choose to purchase any products by clicking on a link, I may receive a small percentage of the purchase price.