3-Hour French Bread

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I don’t know where this recipe originated, but it was passed along to me by my friend, Tiffany.  My son and I were able to have some delightful first, second and third experiences with this tasty bread during a recent visit with Tif and her family.  Let’s just say that we enjoyed it…a lot.  So, we brought home the recipe.

Tiffany and I met in college some twenty years ago.  We have a lot of similar interests–baking, gardening, reading and loving on our families.  She and I do some of the same weird things–homeschool, drive really old vehicles whose “check engine” lights are almost always on and re-use storage bags and parchment paper.  We appreciate one another’s differences, too.  We don’t see eye-to-eye on everything, and we’re okay with that.  Really, Tif’s greatest flaw is that she thinks Double-Stuf Oreos are disgusting.  Obviously, she’s wrong…but I can overlook that.

One of the things that I love most about Tiffany is that I can count on her to tell me the truth in love.  For the better part of a year, I went through a rough patch of adulthood.  I’m not sure exactly what all was the problem, but I felt a desperation and an isolation that was mostly new to me.  I felt out of control and lost and so very, very lonely.  It was awful.  My perspective was so emotion-driven that it was skewed.  I knew that it was skewed, but I had a hard time keeping myself together.

My friend heard my heart.  She did not trivialize my pain.  She did not condescend to my choices.  She just repeatedly pointed me to Christ.  She reminded me that my standard can be found in Him and that He is a safe place for my aching heart.  She encouraged me to set aside time to just praise Him–to bask in His love and goodness.  I knew all of these things already, but my soul was struggling to act on these truths.  She was one of the friends whose loving counsel provided me with both motivation and accountability.  I needed both.

Friends, love one another.  Whether it’s an encouraging email, a listening ear or a warm loaf of bread, love the folks around you.  There’s no time like the present.

So, back to the bread…

This is super easy to make and yields consistent results.  And, any leftovers make killer French toast.

3-4 c. flour
2 t. salt
2 t. yeast
1 t. sugar
1 1/2 c. water

Mix 3 c. flour with remaining ingredients.  Knead, adding in approximately 1 c. more of flour.

Cover and let rise in oiled bowl for 1 1/2 hours.

Make two long loaves.  Let rise 1 hour on parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

After rising time, make four evenly-placed horizontal slashes on top of loaves.  I’ve found that a serrated knife works well for this.

In preheated 450-degree oven, bake for 20-25 minutes, or until internal temperature is between 190 and 210 degrees.  (To create a traditional French bread crust, preheat an oven-safe pan on the lowest rack.  After placing the unbaked bread in the oven, throw a 1/2-cup of water in the hot dish and quickly close the door.)

Brush with butter while still warm, if desired.  (And why wouldn’t you desire it?)

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Recipes

momsrecipesAs I shuffle through decades of recipes from family and friends today, I keep seeing treasured faces in my mind and hearing snippets of conversation in my head.  No, I don’t think I’m crazy (well, that kind of crazy, anyway).  I think I’m re-living part of the legacy that has been left to me.

I know the experts say we should not love on one another with food.  I haven’t followed that rule very well.  I almost cannot help but feed people out of love.  Every time I make a meal that I don’t want to make or go to the grocery when I don’t want to go, it is out of love.  Every time I opt out of the easy in favor of the healthy and every time I make sure that green vegetables have been consumed in adequate amounts, I do so out of love.  I want to provide good food for my family.  I think it’s inherent in my nature.

Then, there’s this thing with wanting to make what my family wants to eat.  I have a list inside one of my cabinet doors of my kids’ favorite meals.  When one of them needs a little extra encouragement or an especially special pat on the back, I sometimes prepare a meal that caters to their specific preferences.  Yes, I understand that this is rewarding my children with food.  No, I can’t say that I think this is not in their best interests.  How can waffles, bacon and eggs be wrong?

Don’t answer that.

As I prepare my first actual cookbook for publication, I look forward to re-living the memories that come with the recipes.  I have been blessed to cross paths with a good many capable cooks, and I am excited to share some of the recipes they have shared with me.

My Mom’s Recipes

Mom's recipes

The kids and I went to stay with my mom and stepdad last week for a couple of nights. I told Mom to make a list of things she needed done so that we could get a few things checked off while we were there. One of the things that she was working up the nerve to tackle was organizing her cookbooks and recipes.

At first glance, it seemed like an easy enough job for the two of us to conquer. It was more a matter of eliminating things than it was of overhauling anything. But, therein lay the problem. How do you get rid of cookbooks and recipes that pull at your heartstrings?

The cookbooks were a fairly black and white operation, and I am thrilled to say that I am the beneficiary of some throwbacks to the ‘70s that my grandmothers had given to my mom. I love old cookbooks, and I love memories of my grandmas’ homemade goodies. I especially love the cookbooks that were actually theirs—ones that bear their handwritten notes in the margins.

The recipes were a little more difficult just because of their sheer number. Mom had been given a recipe box when she got married to my dad forty-some years ago and it was stuffed to its maximum capacity with recipes–and had a tidy stack lying beside it. That old recipe box is well past its prime, but it is a family heirloom for sure. Many of the recipes in it represented people who have greatly impacted my mom’s life—or even my life—and hold a special place in her heart. And, several of those souls are now walking the streets of gold with Jesus, which makes these little remnants of their time on earth even more valuable.

So, laughing and crying, we sorted through every single card and slip of paper. I don’t know how many recipes we touched that day, but it was hundreds. We got rid of all of the ones that Mom had been meaning to try but hadn’t yet gotten around to it. We also made sure to save all of the handwritten ones, family favorites and ones with special memories attached to them. We talked and sorted, chatted and filed. It was a nice morning.

In their own little way, all of those family recipes were a little legacy left to my mom. Where someone else might have seen smudged index cards, spidery handwriting and folded newspaper clippings, my mom saw people she loved and the investment they had made in her. That’s remarkable, really. Our memories are such precious resources of those who have gone before us.

What memories are you making today? What legacy are you leaving? Time is short and life is sweet. Make it good.