My most recent search for the perfect New Orleans French bread led me to a recipe titled "New Orleans Style French Bread."
Handed to me. On a plate. With butter even. Dontcha think?
I've been trying to achieve that soft, cottony on the inside, super-crisp, crackly on the outside bread served alongside gumbo and bisque and etouffee. Turned into po'boys stuffed with fat shrimp or dripping roast beef.
Check out this video--a Bill Geist/CBS this morning piece on Po'Boys (which, let's face it, is really all about the bread) to see what I'm after.
Don't have time to diddle through the Viagra ad or watch all 5:25 minutes?
Really, you can't give me that? Mile marker 2:23 will explain everything.
My current attempt at perfection comes from the cookbook Louisiana Lagniappe by Mercedes Vidrine.
The dough differs from the previous two French breads I've made because it uses shortening and has three--count them--three separate rising periods.
Now you know why I've been putting this recipe aside for a couple of months.
Since I was getting two loaves out of the deal, I decided to do a little experimenting I convinced myself that the egg white wash from Tony Chachere's recipe was what made his Hard Crust French Bread crusty. I brushed one loaf with egg wash and left the other alone. While the egg washed bread (on the right, above) did turn out crustier, it wasn't as crusty as Tony's Chachere's recipe.
I found the New Orleans Style French bread recipe to be too salty (but I think everything is too salty). It calls for 1 tablespoon of salt! The Boy's initial reaction was, "This is good bread." The Husband's suggestion was to use the Tony Chachere recipe, but increase the amount of salt to match today's recipe.
Here's how the recipes rank so far.
1. (Best) Tony's Hard Crust French Bread
2. French Loaves
3. New Orleans Style French Bread
The Husband & the Boy are in agreement :
1. (Best) New Orleans Style French Bread (because of the amount of salt)
2. Tonys Hard Crust French Bread (for texture)
3. French Loaves
New Orleans Style French Bread
from Louisiana Lagniappe
2 Tbsp shortening
1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp salt
1 cup boiling water
1 cup cold water
1 envelope active dry yeast
6-6 1/2 cups AP flour (I used 5)
Add the shortening, sugar, salt, and boiling water in a large mixing bowl or stand mixer and stir. Add the cold water and cool the mixture slightly to 105-115 degrees F.
Sprinkle the yeast over the mixture. Let stand for 5 minutes Stir to dissolve. Mix in 4 cups of the flour. Mix enough of the remaining flour to form a stiff dough.
Knead until dough is smooth and elastic--about 5 minutes. Place in a greased bowl and turn dough to grease the top. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size (about 1-1 1/2 hours).
Punch dough down and let rise about 30 minutes.
Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead slightly to press out gas bubbles. Divide in half. Shape each half into a long cylinder about as long as the diagonal of a large sheet pan. Place each loaf on a greased baking sheet. Let rise, uncovered, in a warm place until doubled in size (about 1-1 1/2 hours).
With a sharp knife, make 1/4" deep slashes in top of the dough. Bake in a moderate oven, 375 degrees F, for 45 minutes, or until nicely browned. Remove to cool on wire racks.