Continental Bread: A Recipe from Better Days

Hello all! Our next post was supposed to be all about sourdough starter and how to begin your own, but we’ve been incredibly busy the last few weeks teaching cooking classes at our favorite local spice shop – The International Pantry. (Don’t fret, that post is still coming!)

If you’re a Norman or Oklahoma City native, you’ve probably heard of this amazing little shop that carries something special for every type of food lover out there – whether you’re just cooking at home for your family or are a seasoned chef or baker. Any tea lovers out there? They’ve got like three aisles filled with every tea you can imagine, and some that you’d never know you need.

Fall Cooking Class Menu 2022

The menu for last night’s class was delicious: Roasted Butternut Squash Soup, Garlic Herb-Crusted Pork Loin with a side of Swiss Chard and Sweet Potato Hash, and fluffy Ricotta Jam Thumbprint cookies for dessert. (The cookies were originally supposed to be made with Mascarpone, but you learn to work with what you’ve got.)

The day before the class, I decided that we needed a bread to go with the soup and figured it’d be a good time to use my favorite bread recipe thus far: French and Italian-Style Continental Bread loaves. These loaves are similar to French baguettes except slightly thicker, with just as much crunchy crust on the outside. They take about five hours of prep time but are very minimal when it comes to “kneading”. Most of that time is spent on proofing and letting the loaves rise, which is a combined three to four hours minimum.

The Illustrated Treasury of Cooking

I had no idea the bread would be so popular during our class. Two of our guests literally argued over the last slice, and I thought, “That’s how you know it’s good.” When the class was over, I had a line of guests wanting the recipe for the bread. I was happy to share it with them, but the only copy that I have is on a yellowed page, secured in a rusted three-ring binder from 1955 bearing the title – The Illustrated Treasury of Cooking. We found this vintage gem of a cookbook in an antique shop in Sulphur Springs, Oklahoma during an overnight trip to celebrate our eighth wedding anniversary.

The Illustrated Treasury of Cooking

How magical it is to bring this dormant recipe back to life and share it with our friends and community. Like many things that age well, this recipe is consistent and infallible, as long as you hold onto your patience. If you start trying to rush the process, your bread won’t turn out the way you want it. Make sure that you have all of the time you need before you begin and follow each step carefully. You will not be disappointed.

Continental Bread Recipe

Continental Bread

(Preparation Time: 5 Hours – 2 Loaves)
– 1 1/2 cups milk, scalded
– 1 package dry active yeast (or 2 teaspoons)
– 1/4 cup lukewarm water (no hotter than 100 degrees)
– 1 1/2 tablespoons butter, margarine, or shortening (room temp)
– 1 tablespoon sugar
– 4 cups sifted white flour (or bread flour)
– 2 teaspoons salt
– 1/2 tablespoon sugar
For egg wash:
– 1 egg white
– 1 tablespoon water

1. Using a small saucepan on the stove, bring the milk to a simmer then turn off heat and transfer milk to a glass bowl and allow it to cool to no more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. (Any hotter than that could kill your yeast so give it the time it needs to cool and check its temperature before using.)

2. In a small bowl, soften yeast in the lukewarm water (Remember, no hotter than 100 degrees.) Add 1 tablespoon of sugar and mix thoroughly. Give the mixture a few minutes to become frothy, then add your butter or shortening and cooled milk and mix well.

3. Sift into a large mixing bowl the flour, salt, and sugar. Make a hole in the center of the dry ingredients, pour in the yeast mixture and stir thoroughly.

(Side note: The recipe doesn’t specify whether to use an electric mixer or not, but I didn’t have any success using one and wouldn’t suggest it.
I began mixing the dough with a wooden spoon until it was shaggy, then used my hands to gently knead the rest of the dry bits in. You don’t want to over knead it, so it takes less than five minutes to fully combine everything.)

4. Cover the bowl with a clean damp cloth and set it in a warm, not hot, place to rise for about 2 hours. Your dough should double in size.

5. Sprinkle your counter or bread board lightly with flour. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking oil or rub with shortening.

6. Punch down the dough. Turn it out onto the board and cut the dough into two equal parts. Form and roll each piece into a long loaf. Cut diagonal slits across the top of each loaf, about 1/2 to 1″ apart. Place the pan in a warm, not hot place and let the loaves rise to slightly more than double in bulk.

7. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and place a shallow pan of hot water on the bottom rack of the oven.

8. Bake the loaves 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue baking 30 minutes longer. Remove the pan from the oven 5 minutes before the bread is finished baking and brush the loaves with the egg wash (1 egg white and 1 tablespoon of water beaten together). Return the pan to the oven and bake 5 minutes longer.

9. Allow loaves to cool for 10 minutes or more before slicing. (Allow them to cool completely before wrapping or storing them.)

I hope you find success with this recipe and wish you all of the patience to follow through with it. The results are more than worth it, especially with a really good butter. If you’ve been a part of any of our past cooking classes, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We’ve truly enjoyed working with, and feeding, every one of you.

Follow us on Instagram @FryedHouse and tag us in your baking and cooking endeavors! We’d love to see what you’re creating.

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