I had never been to Rachel's before, but I had heard really good things about the food, the atmosphere and the people who worked there. So, I arranged to spend the day with Rachel in her bakery. I had such a great time learning and talking in the kitchen all day! Rachel and her employees were very nice and shared their passion for positive hospitality and good food willingly. I enjoyed it there so much I became an employee a couple months later! That was four years ago now and I have grown so much since then and continue to learn by working at what is now called Anna's Bread (Rachel retired).
At Anna's Bread we pride ourselves on being a small, local bakery/café that still specializes in European style breads and pastries as well as serving daily breakfast and lunch options with international influences. Working at the bakery has taught me so much about food, and helped nurture my curiosity in the kitchen. Since beginning my work there I have learned to make French staples like pastry cream and lemon curd as well as entire cakes, soups & stews and so much more. The lessons I've learned from both Rachel & Anna have been invaluable in my development as not only a chef, but a human being as well. I have taken what they taught me and brought it all back home to my own kitchen. I love to experiment and try new recipes, no matter how daunting the task.
One of the things I have never attempted since working at the bakery is making my own bread. I know surprising, right?! I've seen probably thousands of loaves of bread come and go from Anna's and I have yet to try making my own...until today! I took this French Bread dough recipe from Rachel herself and decided to try my hand at making some loaves. Using the skills I learned from working at the bakery I was able to work out how long to let the bread rise, how best to shape the bread, how to get that crunchy exterior and how long to bake it all on my own. I am actually very happy with the way the loaves turned out. They were satisfyingly crusty on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. I am very proud of the growth I have made from working at the bakery and will cherish my time there forever.
I encourage everyone to try making their own bread. I know it may seem time consuming or a little daunting to take the steps necessary to make it, but I promise your hard work would be worth it when you take those loaves out of the oven and take your first bite! Happy baking!
2 1/2 cups warm water
4 tsp. yeast
2 tsp. salt
6 cups flour
Stir the yeast into the warm water and let sit for about 10 minutes, until the mixture is foamy.
Add 4 cups for flour and mix well until the flour is combined.
Dissolve the salt in 1 Tbs. of warm water and add to the dough. Mix well.
Add the remaining 2 cups of flour until the dough is no longer sticky.
Dump the dough onto a floured work surface and knead until it is smooth and elastic.
(about 10 minutes)
Place the dough in a greased bowl and cover with a damp cloth and let raise in a warm place for 1 hour.
Once the dough has doubled in size punch it down and dump onto a work surface.
Cut the dough in half and shape each piece into a round loaf.
To shape the dough, tuck the bottom edges of the loaf underneath while rotating the dough to create a smooth outer surface.
Place the finished loaves on a baking sheet covered in flour and lightly dust the top of the bread with flour.
Let the bread rise for another 45 minutes.
While you bread is rising, preheat the oven to 425 degrees and fill an 8x8 baking pan with water.
15 minutes before the bread goes in the oven, place the baking pan of water on the lowest rack of the oven. (The steam from the water is how the bread creates the crispy crust)
Once the bread is ready, place it in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes, remove the baking pan of water and discard.
Let the bread bake for another 25-30 minutes until the outside is golden brown and the loaf sounds hollow when you knock on the bottom if it.
Let the bread cool for 15 minutes and enjoy.