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Stuffed Shells and Fresh Bread

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Since most of dinner, tonight, came out of the freezer, I had plenty of time to bake a loaf of bread. I have a few go-to recipes for bread but one of my all-time favorites is from James Beard. I actually have this recipe memorized. It is no-fail every time. It also lends itself to experimentation. I’ve switched out some of the flour for rye, buckwheat, or whole wheat, and have topped it with sesame seeds, poppy seeds, caraway seeds, and coarse salt.

It works no matter what.

Tonight was a basic white loaf with sesame seeds.

James Beard’s French-Style Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 cup warm water (100° to 115°, approximately)
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 egg, mixed with water
  • sesame seeds
  • 3 tbsp cornmeal

Directions

Combine the yeast with sugar and warm water in a large bowl and allow to proof. Mix the salt with the flour and add to the yeast mixture, a cup at a time, until you have a stiff dough. Remove to a lightly floured board and knead until no longer sticky, about 10 minutes, adding flour as necessary. Place in a buttered bowl and turn to coat the surface with butter. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 1½ to 2 hours.

Punch down the dough. Turn out on a floured board and shape into a long, French bread-style loaf. Place on a baking sheet that has been sprinkled with the cornmeal but not buttered. Brush loaf with egg wash and then liberally sprinkle with sesame seeds. Slash the tops of the loaf diagonally in three or four places. Place in a cold oven, set the temperature at 400° and bake 35 minutes or until well browned and hollow sounding when the top is rapped.

And then the freezer-meal. I had sauce, meatballs, and stuffed shells all done up from a while back. Those meatballs are finally running low – only one more container. I did use up the last container of sauce, so maybe I’ll make a new batch of that tomorrow… The shells were actually store-bought. I need to make up a batch of them, too.

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Nonna ate two shells and a meatball and skipped the bread. Her appetite has definitely improved since moving in. Unfortunately, so has mine – I didn’t skip the bread. Or the butter.

Oh well. It all came out great and there’s leftovers for lunch tomorrow…

And more cake, tonight!

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