Cheesecake Cookies -- bar cookies take on the flavor of traditional cheesecake

It was just a given—Nadine Ramey, longtime librarian at Abilene High School, always made these cookies for every social function. They were a real treat and thank goodness she shared the recipe for these easy-to-make, irresistible cookies that taste like cheesecake.

Cheesecake Cookies   Makes 8 or 9" square pan of bar cookies or double the recipe and bake in a 9x12" pan, adding an extra 10 minutes to the baking time in step #8.
Crust & Crumb Topping:
   1/3 cup butter (or margarine) @ room temperature
   1/3 cup packed brown sugar
   1 cup all-purpose flour
   1/2 cup chopped nuts (Nadine used pecans)
Filling:
   8 oz. pkg. cream cheese @ room temperature
   1 egg
   1/4 cup granulated sugar
   1 tablespoon lemon juice
   2 tablespoons milk
   1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  1. Crust & Crumb Topping: Line a 8 or 9" square pan with parchment paper or foil, allowing ends of paper or foil to overlap edges for easy removal of bar cookies. Spray paper or foil with pan release.
  2. Cream butter and brown sugar. Add flour and nuts and mix until crumbly.
  3. Reserve 1 cup of crumb mixture for topping.
  4. Spread rest of crumb mixture into prepared pan.
  5. Bake 10 minutes in a preheated 325° oven -- crust should be lightly browned.
  6. Filling: Add all filling ingredients to mixing bowl and beat until smooth (a few small lumps of cream cheese may still be visible.
  7. Pour of slightly cooled crust. Top with reserved crumbs. 
  8. Return to oven and bake 25 minutes longer, until filling is set.
  9. When cool, remover parchment paper/foil liner from pan and cut into desired shape. Nadine cut the bars into small squares for cookie trays; I cut mine into 9 pieces for dessert sized portion. 
  10. Refrigerate bars until ready to eat.
Recipe without photos . . .
Cheesecake Cookies   Makes 8 or 9" square pan of bar cookies or double the recipe and bake in a 9x12" pan, adding an extra 10 minutes to the baking time n step #8.  
Crust & Crumb Topping:
   1/3 cup butter (or margarine) @ room temperature
   1/3 cup packed brown sugar
   1 cup all-purpose flour
   1/2 cup chopped nuts (Nadine used pecans)
Filling:
   8 oz. pkg. cream cheese @ room temperature
   1 egg
   1/4 cup granulated sugar
   1 tablespoon lemon juice
   2 tablespoons milk
   1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  1. Crust & Crumb Topping: Line a 8 or 9" square pan with parchment paper or foil, allowing ends of paper or foil to overlap edges for easy removal of bar cookies. Spray paper or foil with pan release.
  2. Cream butter and brown sugar. Add flour and nuts and mix until crumbly.
  3. Reserve 1 cup of crumb mixture for topping.
  4. Spread rest of crumb mixture into prepared pan.
  5. Bake 10 minutes in a preheated 325° oven -- crust should be lightly browned.
  6. Filling: Add all filling ingredients to mixing bowl and beat until smooth (a few small lumps of cream cheese may still be visible.
  7. Pour of slightly cooled crust. Top with reserved crumbs. 
  8. Return to oven and bake 25 minutes longer, until filling is set.
  9. When cool, remover parchment paper/foil liner from pan and cut into desired shape. Nadine cut the bars into small squares for cookie trays; I cut mine into 9 pieces for dessert sized portion. 
  10. Refrigerate bars until ready to eat.

Parmesan Potato Bread - recipe from Betsy Oppenneer

Breads From Betsy's Kitchen is the source of this recipe. Betsy Oppenneer, a bread baker, author and baking instructor, offers these comments to describe her Parmesan Potato Bread . . .

It's hard to stop nibbling this exquisite bread. The crust is crisp and the bits of potato are slightly crunch. I love to eat the crust first, then start dipping the soft, sweet insides into a favorite soup...it's heaven! For a slightly marled texture, use shredded Parmesan rather than finely grated."

Parmesan Potato Bread   Yield: 2 round loaves
Recipe from Betsy Oppenneer; I made a couple of changes as noted by the comments in ().
2 tablespoons active dry yeast 
2 cups warm water (about 110 F)
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups coarsely shredded raw potato
1 cup finely shredded or grated Parmesan cheese
6 to 7 cups unbleached (all-purpose) flour (1 used 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour for part of the 6-7 cups flour)
Additional olive oil
  1. In a large bowl, stir yeast into water to soften. 
  2. Add salt, garlic, rosemary, olive oil, potato, cheese, and 3 cups flour. 
  3. Beat vigorously for 2 minutes. Gradually add flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until the dough begins to pull away from the side of the bowl.
  4. Turn dough onto a floured work surface.Knead, adding flour a little at a time, until you have a smooth, elastic dough. 
  5. Place dough into an oiled bowl. Turn to coat the entire ball of dough with oil. 
  6. Cover with a tightly woven towel and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
  7. Turn dough out onto a lightly oiled work surface and divide in half. Shape each half into a ball and place onto a well-greased baking sheet (I placed rounds of bread on a baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal.) 
  8. Cover with a tightly woven towel and let rise until almost doubled, about 45 minutes.
  9. About 10 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 375 F. Place a shallow pan on the bottom shelf of the oven. 
  10. Just before baking, brush each loaf liberally with extra olive oil and cut a cross about 1/4-inch deep into the top. (I cut parallel slashes using a lame*.)
  11. Place the bread in the oven and put 5 ice cubes into the pan on the bottom shelf. Close the door quickly to prevent steam from escaping. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the loaves reaches 190 F. 
  12. Immediately remove bread from baking sheet and cool on a rack.
* Baker's LameLame (pronounced LAHM, meaning “blade” in French) is typically a long thin stick made to hold a metal razor used to cut, or score, bread dough to help control the expansion of the loaf as it bakes.
Parmesan Potato Bread   Yield: 2 round loaves  Recipe from Betsy Oppenneer; I made a couple of changes as noted by the comments in ().
2 tablespoons active dry yeast 
2 cups warm water (about 110 F)
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups coarsely shredded raw potato
1 cup finely shredded or grated Parmesan cheese
6 to 7 cups unbleached (all-purpose) flour (1 used 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour for part of the 6-7 cups flour)
Additional olive oil
  1. In a large bowl, stir yeast into water to soften. 
  2. Add salt, garlic, rosemary, olive oil, potato, cheese, and 3 cups flour. 
  3. Beat vigorously for 2 minutes. Gradually add flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until the dough begins to pull away from the side of the bowl.
  4. Turn dough onto a floured work surface.Knead, adding flour a little at a time, until you have a smooth, elastic dough. 
  5. Place dough into an oiled bowl. Turn to coat the entire ball of dough with oil. 
  6. Cover with a tightly woven towel and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
  7. Turn dough out onto a lightly oiled work surface and divide in half. Shape each half into a ball and place onto a well-greased baking sheet (I placed rounds of bread on a baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal.) 
  8. Cover with a tightly woven towel and let rise until almost doubled, about 45 minutes.
  9. About 10 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 375 F. Place a shallow pan on the bottom shelf of the oven. 
  10. Just before baking, brush each loaf liberally with extra olive oil and cut a cross about 1/4-inch deep into the top. (I cut parallel slashes using a lame.)
  11. Place the bread in the oven and put 5 ice cubes into the pan on the bottom shelf. Close the door quickly to prevent steam from escaping. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the loaves reaches 190 F. 
  12. Immediately remove bread from baking sheet and cool on a rack.
                    - - 

Cooked Fruit Salad Dressing (Myra's Apple Salad Dressing)

In our family cookbook, this recipe is called Myra's Apple Salad Dressing. Not sure who Myra might be but Aunt Waunita, who submitted the recipe, offered this explanation, "This recipe was given to me by a sister of Aunt Ida." Perhaps the sister was named Myra. Aunt Waunita suggest using the dressing over a salad of apples, celery and nuts, or over a pear salad. I plan to experiment with both but will start by adding it to a fruit salad.


This dressing is SWEET so a little dab will do ya! I added just about 2 tablespoons of the dressing to 1 chopped apples and then mixed in blueberries, halved red grapes and chopped mint.

Note: I added cinnamon to the recipe and think it heightens the flavor . . . especially since I'm a cinnamon fan + cut down the sugar from 1 cup to 3/4 cup.

Cooked Fruit Salad Dressing (Myra's Apple Salad Dressing)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 egg
1 tablespoon butter
  1. Mix together all dry ingredients in a small mixing bowl.
  2. Add vinegar, water and egg to a small saucepan; whisk to completely incorporate the egg.
  3. Add dry ingredients to the vinegar mixture and cook over a medium temperature until mixture in thick (it should coat a metal spoon); stir constantly, about 4 to 5 minutes.
    Above -- Mixture is beginning to thicken.
    Below -- Mixture cooked until thick enough to coat a metal spoon.
  4. Remove from heat and add butter.
  5. Cool and refrigerate until ready to use.
Recipe without photos . . .
Cooked Fruit Salad Dressing (Myra's Apple Salad Dressing)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 egg
1 tablespoon butter
  1. Mix together all dry ingredients in a small mixing bowl.
  2. Add vinegar, water and egg to a small saucepan; whisk to completely incorporate the egg.
  3. Add dry ingredients to the vinegar mixture and cook over a medium temperature until mixture in thick (it should coat a metal spoon); stir constantly, about 4 to 5 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and add butter.
  5. Cool and refrigerate until ready to use.
Recipe without photos . . .
Cooked Fruit Salad Dressing (Myra's Apple Salad Dressing)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 egg
1 tablespoon butter
  1. Mix together all dry ingredients in a small mixing bowl.
  2. Add vinegar, water and egg to a small saucepan; whisk to completely incorporate the egg.
  3. Add dry ingredients to the vinegar mixture and cook over a medium temperature until mixture in thick (it should coat a metal spoon); stir constantly, about 4 to 5 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and add butter.
  5. Cool and refrigerate until ready to use.

Lime Cilantro Rice -- a refreshing side dish!


Although you can use any kind of long-grain rice in this recipe, basmati is light and fluffy with a  fragrant aroma and a slightly nutty taste. It combines with the lime and cilantro to create a refreshing side dish!
Pair it with Mexican food or we found it to be a wonderful accompaniment to roasted chicken.


Lime Cilantro Rice   About 4 servings
Drizzle of canola oil (less than 1 tablespoon)
1/2 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup basmati (long-grain) rice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2+ cups chicken broth
Juice and zest of 1 lime
Chopped fresh cilantro
  1. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for about 4 or 5 minutes, adding the garlic about half way through the cooking time.
  2. Reduce heat to low and add the rice and salt. Cook over low heat for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly so rice doesn't burn. 
  3. Add about 1 1/2 cups of the broth, the zest of the lime and most of the juice, reserving a squeeze of two of the juice to use at the end. 
  4. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook 10 to 15 minutes or until rice is tender. Add more broth as needed.
  5. Just before serving, add remaining lime juice and chopped cilantro.
Recipe without photos . . .
Lime Cilantro Rice   About 4 servings
Drizzle of canola oil (less than 1 tablespoon)
1/2 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup basmati (long-grain) rice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2+ cups chicken broth
Juice and zest of 1 lime
Chopped fresh cilantro
  1. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for about 4 or 5 minutes, adding the garlic about half way through the cooking time.
  2. Reduce heat to low and add the rice and salt. Cook over low heat for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly so rice doesn't burn. 
  3. Add about 1 1/2 cups of the broth, the zest of the lime and most of the juice, reserving a squeeze of two of the juice to use at the end. 
  4. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook 10 to 15 minutes or until rice is tender. Add more broth as needed.
  5. Just before serving, add remaining lime juice and chopped cilantro.

Fruit & Nut Granola Bars

Granola bars are great for breakfast on the go or for snacking . . .

Fruit & Nut Granola Bars   Makes a 8x12" pan of bars
2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup slivered almonds
3 tablespoon butter
2/3 cup honey
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup oat flour (blend oats in the blender to make your own or purchase)
1 1/2 to 2 cups dried fruit, chopped (I used a combination of pitted dates, dried apricots and dried cranberries
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line an 8x12" baking pan with parchment paper, allowing paper to overlap on ends for easy removal of granola bars; spray bottom and sides of pan with pan release.
  2. Spread oats and almond on a sheet pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. When done, reduce oven temperature to 300°.
  3. Meanwhile, place butter, honey and brown sugar, salt and vanilla in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir until sugar melts and mixture is well blended.
  4. Transfer lightly browned oat mixture to a large mixing bowl, add oat flour and dried fruit and then stir in butter and honey mixture. Stir until well blended.

  5. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Cover with a sheet of wax paper and use your hands to evenly flatten mixture. 

  6. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool and then refrigerate at least 2 to 3 hours before cutting. Note: Easily lift chilled bars out of baking pan by grabbing excess parchment paper overlapping ends of the pan.

Recipe without photos . . . 
Fruit & Nut Granola Bars   Makes a 8x12" pan of bars
2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup slivered almonds
3 tablespoon butter
2/3 cup honey
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup oat flour (blend oats in the blender to make your own or purchase)
1 1/2 to 2 cups dried fruit, chopped (I used a combination of pitted dates, dried apricots and dried cranberries
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line an 8x12" baking pan with parchment paper, allowing paper to overlap on ends for easy removal of granola bars; spray bottom and sides of pan with pan release.
  2. Spread oats and almond on a sheet pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. When done, reduce oven temperature to 300°.
  3. Meanwhile, place butter, honey and brown sugar, salt and vanilla in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir until sugar melts and mixture is well blended.
  4. Transfer lightly browned oat mixture to a large mixing bowl, add oat flour and dried fruit and then stir in butter and honey mixture. Stir until well blended.
  5. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Cover with a sheet of wax paper and use your hands to evenly flatten mixture. 
  6. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool and then refrigerat at least 2 to 3 hours before cutting. Note: Easily lift chilled bars out of baking pan by grabbing excess parchment paper overlapping ends of the pan.

Slow Cooker Swiss Steak

Slow Cooker Swiss Steak over
Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes 
Before leaving for the day, I prepped the veggies and meat and added it all to the slow cooker. When we arrived home, I added a slurry to thicken the sauce and then dinner was ready!
Great for those days when you're gone or when you don't want to deal with last minute preparations. Also a great way to tenderize less-tender cuts of meat.

Slow Cooker Swiss Steak     4 to 6 servings
1/4 to 1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon+ seasoned salt (such as Tex-Joy)
Pinch of two of black pepper
1 to 1 1/2 lbs. round steak
2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 onion, cut into slices
2 to 3 carrots, diced
1/2 to 1 red, yellow or green pepper, sliced thin
1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomato
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar, or to taste
2 teaspoons cornstarch, option
  1. In a shallow container, mix flour, seasoned salt and pepper. Dredge round steak in flour mixture to coat.
  2. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat and sauté the onions, carrots and peppers. 
  3. Remove and add to the bottom of a slow cooker.
  4. Add the steak to the skillet (adding more oil if needed). Cook until lightly browned on both sides.
  5. Place steak on top of veggies, top with mixture of tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce and brown sugar. 
  6. Cover and cook 8 to 10 hours on Low -- round steak should be very tender. 
  7. During the last couple of hours, remove a ladle or two of juice. Set aside to cool. Once cool, add cornstarch to create a slurry to thicken the sauce. Add slurry to slow cooker and continue to cook until time is up, meat is tender and sauce in slightly thickened.
    Tomato slurry ready to add to slow cooker to create a thickened sauce.
  8. We served our Swiss Steak over Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes.
Recipe without photos . . .
Slow Cooker Swiss Steak     4 to 6 servings
1/4 to 1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon+ seasoned salt (such as Tex-Joy)
Pinch of two of black pepper
1 to 1 1/2 lbs. round steak
2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 onion, cut into slices
2 to 3 carrots, diced
1/2 to 1 red, yellow or green pepper, sliced thin
1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomato
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar, or to taste
2 teaspoons cornstarch, optional
  1. In a shallow container, mix flour, seasoned salt and pepper. Dredge to round steak in flour mixture to coat.
  2. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat and sauté the onions, carrots and peppers. 
  3. Remove and add to the bottom of a slow cooker.
  4. Add the steak to the skillet (adding more oil if needed). Cook until lightly browned on both sides.
  5. Place steak on top of veggies, top with mixture of tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce and brown sugar. 
  6. Cover and cook 8 to 10 hours on Low -- round steak should be very tender. 
  7. During the last couple of hours, remove a ladle or two of juice. Set aside to cool. Once cool, add cornstarch to create a slurry to thicken the sauce. Add slurry to slow cooker and continue to cook until time is up, meat is tender and sauce in slightly thickened.
  8. We served our Swiss Steak over Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes.

French-Style Country Bread

French-Style Country Loaf and a slice (right
from the oven) slathered with butter & honey.
Yum!
Found this recipe at King Arthur Flour website. It is made in several steps so is a little time consuming but not difficult, and yields crusty French-style artisan bread.
The recipe is flexible as starter can be used 2 hours after mixing or can be held at room temperature up to 16 hours. Once the dough is mixed and kneaded, it needs to rise for 1 to 2 hours or can be allowed to slow-rise in the refrigerator before proceeding with the recipe.

French-Style Country Bread      Yield: 1 large or 2 medium loaves.
Starter
   1 cup cool to lukewarm water (90°F to 100°F)
   ½ teaspoon active dry instant yeast
   1 ¼ cups bread flour                       
   ¼ cup white whole wheat flour or whole wheat flour
Dough
   All of the starter (above)
   1 to 1 ½  cup lukewarm water (100°F to 115°F) – original recipe called for just 1 cup
   but my dough was  way to dry without some extra water
   ¾ teaspoon active dry instant yeast                       
   1 tablespoon granulated sugar
   3 ¾ to 4 cups bread flour
   1 ½ to 2 1/4 teaspoons salt
   ---
   Cornmeal
  1. To make the starter: Stir all of the starter ingredients together to make a thick mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest for at least 2 hours at room temperature. For best flavor, let the starter rest longer; overnight (up to 16 hours) is best.
    Above: Starter right after mixing.
    Below: Starter after setting overnight.
  2. To make the dough: Stir down the starter with a spoon and add the water, yeast, sugar, 3 ¼ cups of the flour, and the salt. The dough will be a loose, messy mass. Let it rest for 12 to 15 minutes, then stir it again; it should become more cohesive and a bit smoother. Dough handles better once it's had time for the flour to absorb the water while resting and relaxing. By using this method, you'll tend to add less flour, and have much bigger holes in your finished bread. 
  3. Knead the dough, adding more flour as necessary, to make a soft dough, 10 to 12 minutes.
  4. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl or plastic container, cover with lightly greased plastic wrap, and let it rise until almost doubled (depending on the weather, this could be 1 to 2 hours). If you're going out, or if you prefer, let the dough rise slowly in the fridge. If your dough has been refrigerated, allow it to come to room temperature before shaping; it'll warm up and rise at the same time.
    Above: Dough after being place in lightly greased bowl.
    Below: Dough about 2 hour rise.
  5. Deflate the dough gently, but don't knock out all the air; this will create those "holes" so important to French bread. For one large loaf, form the dough into a round ball; for two loaves, divide the dough in half and shape into two balls.
    Gently deflated dough.
  6. Place on a cornmeal-dusted silicon baking sheet or piece of parchment paper onto a baking sheet. Gently place the ball(s) of dough on the baking sheet, seam-side down.

    I studded one loaf with walnuts and rosemary leaves.
  7. Cover the bread gently with lightly greased plastic wrap, and let it rise until it's puffy and about 40% to 50% larger, anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes.
  8. Preheat your oven to 475°F.
  9. Slash or cross-hatch the bread with a sharp knife or lame. Dust it with a little flour. Spritz water into the oven with a clean plant mister, and place the bread in the oven. Reduce the heat to 425°F and spritz with water every few minutes for the first 15 minutes of baking.
  10. Bake the bread for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until it's a rich golden brown, and its interior temperature registers at least 190°F on a digital thermometer. The smaller loaves may bake more quickly, so keep your eye on them.
  11. Remove the bread from the oven, and cool it on a rack. Store bread, loosely wrapped in paper, for a couple of days at room temperature; wrap it in plastic and freeze for longer storage.
Recipe without photos . . .
French-Style Country Bread      Yield: 1 large or 2 medium loaves.
Starter 
   1 cup cool to lukewarm water (90°F to 100°F)
   ½ teaspoon active dry instant yeast 
   1 ¼ cups bread flour                        
   ¼ cup white whole wheat flour or whole wheat flour 
Dough 
   All of the starter (above)
   1 to 1 ½  cup lukewarm water (100°F to 115°F) – original recipe called for just 1 cup 
   but my dough was  way to dry without some extra water
   ¾ teaspoon active dry instant yeast                        
   1 tablespoon granulated sugar
   3 ¾ to 4 cups bread flour 
   1 ½ to 2 1/4 teaspoons salt
   ---
   Cornmeal
  1. To make the starter: Stir all of the starter ingredients together to make a thick mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest for at least 2 hours at room temperature. For best flavor, let the starter rest longer; overnight (up to 16 hours) is best.
  2. To make the dough: Stir down the starter with a spoon and add the water, yeast, sugar, 3 ¼ cups of the flour, and the salt. The dough will be a loose, messy mass. Let it rest for 12 to 15 minutes, then stir it again; it should become more cohesive and a bit smoother. Dough handles better once it's had time for the flour to absorb the water while resting and relaxing. By using this method, you'll tend to add less flour, and have much bigger holes in your finished bread.
  3. Knead the dough, adding more flour as necessary, to make a soft dough, 10 to 12 minutes.
  4. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl or plastic container, cover with lightly greased plastic wrap, and let it rise until almost doubled (depending on the weather, this could be 1 to 2 hours). If you're going out, or if you prefer, let the dough rise slowly in the fridge. If your dough has been refrigerated, allow it to come to room temperature before shaping; it'll warm up and rise at the same time.
  5. Deflate the dough gently, but don't knock out all the air; this will create those "holes" so important to French bread. For one large loaf, form the dough into a round ball; for two loaves, divide the dough in half and shape into two balls.
  6. Place on a cornmeal-dusted silicon baking sheet or piece of parchment paper onto a baking sheet. Gently place the ball(s) of dough on the baking sheet, seam-side down.
  7. Cover the bread gently with lightly greased plastic wrap, and let it rise until it's puffy and about 40% to 50% larger, anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes.
  8. Preheat your oven to 475°F.
  9. Slash or cross-hatch the bread with a sharp knife or lame. Dust it with a little flour. Spritz water into the oven with a clean plant mister, and place the bread in the oven. Reduce the heat to 425°F and spritz with water every few minutes for the first 15 minutes of baking.
  10. Bake the bread for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until it's a rich golden brown, and its interior temperature registers at least 190°F on a digital thermometer. The smaller loaves may bake more quickly, so keep your eye on them.
  11. Remove the bread from the oven, and cool it on a rack. Store bread, loosely wrapped in paper, for a couple of days at room temperature; wrap it in plastic and freeze for longer storage.