French bread is characterized by a crisp crust, nice volume, and a close-grained, chewy texture. It is distinctly different from a white bread made with milk, honey, and butter. The addition of egg whites makes for an extra crispy crust. If you are going to make this bread using the Delay Timer, be sure to use powdered egg whites, which perform just like fresh egg whites when whipped with cold water.
This loaf is best when eaten slightly warm, or at room temperature within eight hours of when it is baked—there is no fat in it to help keep the bread moist, and the flavor changes when it is day-old. This is an excellent loaf with all the characteristics of traditional French bread except its shape. If you would like to turn this dough out before baking and shape it into long loaves to bake in the oven, prepare it on the Dough cycle.
Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until almost stiff and soft peaks are formed. Set crust on medium or dark, and program for the Basic or French Bread cycle. Place all the ingredients in the pan according to the order in the manufacturer’s instructions, adding the egg whites in with the water; press Start.
When the baking cycle ends, immediately remove the bread from the pan and place it on a rack. Let cool to room temperature before slicing.
Recipe excerpted with permission from The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook: A Master Baker’s 300 Favorite Recipes for Perfect-Every-Time Bread-From Every Kind of Machine (Harvard Common Press, 2000). Buy on Amazon.