I'm always looking for new bread recipes and one in the current issue (December 2016 - January 2017) of Mother Earth News caught my attention: their Basic French Bread Recipe on page 37. So full credit goes to them for the recipe.
The sidebar says this recipe was first published in 1708.
4 cups white flour (I used King Arthur Bread Flour)
1-1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup warm milk
2 tablespoons butter (I used margarine)
2-1/4 teaspoon yeast
[I added: 1/2 cup unsalted sunflower seeds]
As usual, I didn't bother with the directions. I warmed the cup of milk and added the sugar and yeast so the yeast could get busy fermenting while I assembled the rest.
I melted the margarine in a bowl, added the eggs,salt and sunflower seeds and stirred well.
Then I added the fermenting yeast mixture to this.
All that's left to do is add the flour to the liquid and stir.
I poured the dough onto a lightly-floured pastry cloth and I kneaded it for about ten minutes.
The recipe does not call for kneading but it says the result will have "a cakey texture". I wanted something closer to the American yeast breads I love.
This is how the dough looks after ten minutes of kneading. I then placed it in a greased bowl, covered it with a damp cloth, set it in a warm spot and let it rise for an hour. It should double in size.
Here it is after an hour's rise. Initially it was a ball set in the middle and it has expanded edge to edge and doubled in volume.
Now, pour it back out onto the pastry cloth and knead slightly again. Form into a rectangle and place in a greased loaf pan (standard size: 10" 4.25" x 3"). Again cover with a damp cloth and allow to double in size. I allowed about 45 minutes for this second rise.
Bake at 350° for 40 minutes. This is what you'll get:
As soon as you can handle it, knock it out of the pan and allow to cool a couple of hours before cutting and serving.
I scored the top with a knife for artistic effect (just before baking) but it's not necessary and probably would be better left alone. This isn't an artisan bread, after all.