How Your Basic White Bread Recipes Can be Special

It’s where we all start with our bread machines, but you can take those basic white breads to a whole new level from Baguettes to Ciabatta.

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For many of us, a white bread loaf is the first loaf we bake when we get our new bread machine. Eventually we foray into new bread adventures with wheat, fruits and nuts and other bread variations. But there are some variations on a basic white bread that can be fun to make and taste great. This includes variations on French bread from the traditional batard to baguettes and French loaves topped with seeds like poppy seeds or sesame seeds.

Not to be outdone, an Italian bread recipe emerged in 1982 known as Ciabatta bread. Similar in consistency and texture to the French Baguette, Ciabatta bread is flatter than a Baguette and is the bread of choice for sandwiches known as Panini.

Some of the recipes we’ll explore can be made in your bread machine across the entire cycle. Others only require the dough cycle on the machine and are then shaped and finished in your oven. Either way, get ready to discover some of the great and simple recipes that use white bread as a base.

 

Traditional White Bread Machine Recipe:

This recipe is for a traditional white bread that you bake in the bread machine across the entire cycle. It makes a 1 1/2 pound loaf.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 3 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast

DIRECTIONS:

Add the ingredients to the bread pan in the order indicated and choose the basic bread or white bread setting; 1.5 pound loaf and medium crust.

 

Country White Bread Recipe:

This is a white bread variation that is slightly sweet with a very light texture. It’s also a good recipe for dinner rolls which you can shape and finish in the oven.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1cup water, plus
  • 1tablespoon water (70-80 F)
  • 1large egg
  • 4 1⁄2teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 3 1⁄4cups bread flour
  • 1⁄4cup sugar
  • 1 1⁄2teaspoons salt
  • 2 1⁄4teaspoons instant yeast

DIRECTIONS:

Select the basic bread setting; 1.5 pound loaf and medium crust. If you’re going to use this recipe for dinner rolls select the dough cycle setting. Once the dough cycle is complete, melt a couple of tablespoons of butter in your hands and shape the dough into 16 uniformly sized balls. Cover and let rise for 30 to 40 minutes. Bake in a 350° oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until the rolls are golden brown and serve.

 

French Bread Machine Recipes

There are variations on French bread ranging from the Batard which is similar in shape to an elongated, flattened football -to the baguette which is long and slender with a thick, golden crust that crackles when you squeeze it. The interior of the bread is springy and off-white in color with varying sized air pockets distributed throughout the interior. Both of these recipes are intended to be shaped and finished in the oven. There are instructions in the recipes for how to achieve that crunchy crust with glazes, but you can also spray the loaf with water mid-way through baking to achieve similar results.

 

French Batard Loaf Recipe:

batard 1

1 pound loaf

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3⁄4 cup water
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1⁄4 cups bread flour
  • 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 1⁄2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • cornmeal for dusting the bread pans
  • olive oil for first glaze

SECOND GLAZE:

  • 1 large egg white
  • 1tablespoon water

TOPPING:

  • sesame seeds
  • poppy seeds

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Add ingredients to bread machine pan in order listed in recipe.
  2. Select dough cycle. When cycle is complete, remove dough from machine to a lightly floured surface. Roll dough into a 15×10 inch rectangle.
  3. Beginning at long end, roll up tightly as for jelly roll. Pinch seams and ends to seal. Taper ends by gently rolling back and forth. Place loaf, seam side down on a greased baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Lightly brush loaf with oil.
  4. Cover and let rise until almost double in size, 20 to 25 minutes. With a sharp knife, make 3 or 4 diagonal cuts about 1/4 inch deep across the top of loaf. Lightly beat egg white and 1 tablespoon water and brush some of egg white mixture over top of loaf. Bake at 375 for 20 minutes.

If you like, brush again with remaining egg white mixture and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake 5 to 10 minutes more or until browned. Bread should sound hollow when tapped.

batard 2

 

French Baguettes Recipe:

French Bread 1 - Full loafFrench bread 3 - sliced

Yield two 1-pound loaves

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 1/4 cups bread flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast

DIRECTIONS:

Place ingredients in bread pan as indicated by recipe. Select the Dough cycle, and Start. Dough will be sticky and wet once cycle is completed, resist the temptation to add more flour. Place dough on a lightly floured board, cover with a large bowl, and let rest for 15 minutes. Lightly flour or use parchment lined baking sheets. Divide into 2 pieces, and form each into a 3×14 inch oval. Place loaves on prepared sheets, dimple surface, and lightly flour. Cover, and let rise for approximately 40 minutes. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Dimple dough for a second time, and then place loaves in the oven on the middle rack. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. During baking, spritz loaves with water every 5 to 10 minutes for a crispier crust.

French bread 2 - full loaf at low angle

 

Ciabatta Bread

Ciabatta was first invented in 1982 by Arnaldo Cavallari. He was a baker in the town of Adria, a suburb of Venice. Cavallari noticed that many sandwiches that were popular in Italy were made with French baguettes which had been imported from France. He was worried about the effect this was having on his business so he started to experiment with bread recipes and came up with Ciabatta bread. He also introduced the idea of grilling this bread as a sandwich and it was referred to as a Panini. The bread proved highly popular and soon bakers all over Italy were baking Ciabatta. It’s crusty bread with large air-pockets and cavities inside and is typically shaped as a rectangular, flat loaf. A key ingredient for this bread is bread flour given the high amount of gluten in traditional bread flour. Variations also started to occur including one from Rome that included the addition of marjoram to the recipe.

You can use your Ciabatta bread to make a hearty sandwich, grill it if you like to make a Panini sandwich, or simply slice it and dip it in olive oil. You can herbs of your choice from rosemary to parsley or do as the Romans do and add marjoram. The recipe is fairly simple and the only trick is to make sure you create the rectangular, flat shape so you can cut it crosswise to make your sandwiches if you like. Be forewarned. This recipe requires something called “yeast-proofing.” It means you combine the warm water, sugar and yeast first and let it rest. There’s a small amount of yeast in this recipe which is part of the art and science of Ciabatta, but it needs some special attention.

You’ll also notice you have a wetter and almost batter like dough. Let it rise in the machine and it will firm up a bit. Remove it and work with it and try not to add too much flour while you’re working the dough into shape. If you need to, add a little olive oil to your hands to form and shape the dough into the rectangular shape. A little olive oil on your rolling pin might be a good idea too for rolling it out to a flatter shape. If you must, dust a bit of flour.

 

Traditional Ciabatta Bread Recipe:

ciabatta 2ciabatta 3

Makes a 2 pound loaf

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups warm water (110 F.)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1⁄2teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cups bread flour
  • 1 3⁄8 teaspoon active dry yeast

TO PREP THE BAKING SHEET:

  • 1teaspoon olive oil
  • 1tablespoon fine ground cornmeal

OPTIONAL:

  • flour for topping lightly
  • olive oil for brushing
  • dried rosemary
  • dried marjoram

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In the bread pan, proof the yeast by pouring in the warm water and dissolving the sugar in it then sprinkling the yeast on top. Let the yeast proof for 10 minutes with the bread machine’s lid open.
  2. Add the flour and salt and select the dough cycle. After the dough has started to knead add the herbs if you like. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
  3. Grease a baking sheet with the 1/2 tsp olive oil. Brush the olive oil inside the baking sheet, and then sprinkle the cornmeal all over the bottom of the pan.

ciabatta 4ciabatta 6

HERE’S THE TELEGRAM!

This is not going to look like any dough you have made in your bread machine before. It’s going to look more like a thick batter. When the cycle is done, take the dough from the bread machine and pour it out to a somewhat rectangular shape about 3/4 to 1 inch thick (1 to 2 centimeters). You can actually move the pan around to shape it because of its batter-like texture. Cover and let rise for 20 to 30 minutes but don’t be disappointed if the rise is slight. Bake at 425F°/220°C for 30 to 40 minutes or until golden brown. For a crunchier look and feel, brush a little olive oil onto the top and dust with some flour prior to baking. Let it rest for 10 minutes! This will give the batter/dough a chance to finish baking internally.

When done either slice for dipping or cut into sandwich squares and cut crosswise and top with your favorite toppings. I like sautéed ham, grilled onions, mozzarella cheese and a bit of mustard. It’s all up to you as you explore the cool and contemporary variations based on white bread recipes.

 

Steve Nubie

Steve Nubie has been writing professionally for 38 years. He is a Chef and has traveled across Asia and Europe studying language, culture and cuisine. He instructs culinary classes in the Culinary School at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Illinois and has written extensively on cuisine, cooking, diet and nutrition. He is a published author of 10 books including a cookbook and continues to write on subjects related to culinary trends.

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