What can I say? I love a fresh loaf of bread straight from the oven. Warm, slathered with butter and paired with a soup or a salad (or another slice of bread!). Perfect!
I have been making the same French Bread recipe for my entire marriage. I don't even need to look at the recipe to make it anymore. So I truly don't know what made me deviate from my norm one day, approximately two years ago, and try this bread recipe. But I'm glad that I did. Olive oil and corn meal are pretty peculiar ingredients for baked bread, and they are definitely a noticeable presence in this bread, but the end result is a remarkably soft bread that will have you reaching for a second (and third) slice.
2 cups warm water
2 tsp. yeast
½ cup sugar
½ cup olive oil
½ cup polenta (or cornmeal)
2 tsp. salt
6 ½ cups bread flour
In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warm water.
While waiting for the yeast to bubble and foam, get your stand mixer set up with a large bowl and dough hook accessory. Combine polenta, salt and flour in the mixer bowl. Add the olive oil and yeast mixture and mix well. Knead dough with dough hook for 8-12 minutes. Dough will be bubbly and light, but should not be too sticky. Turn off the mixer and let the dough rest for 1 minute in the bowl.
Divide the dough into thirds and shape into long loaves. Place on greased cookie sheets. Allow dough to rise in a warm location, until the loaves have doubled in size. Bake at 300 degrees for 30 minutes.
If a soft crust is desired, butter bread top as it comes out of the oven.
If a crustier crust is desired, omit the buttering of the top of the bread.