How to make New Orleans French bread? Buy a bakery here

How to make New Orleans French bread? Buy a bakery here
March 10, 2011
Judy Walker
The Times-Picayune

This request arrives on a regular basis, although worded in different ways.

"I no longer live in the N.O. area and have a hard time making or buying French bread that tastes like the kind used on po-boys. Any recipe or cooking suggestions you'd share would be appreciated. Thanks. Daniel M."

Daniel, think about this. King cakes fly out of our bakeries by the hundreds of thousands and are shipped all over the world. The reason this can happen is: They are loaded with butter and sugar, which act as a tenderizer and preservative and make them keep well for several days.

New Orleans-style French bread is the opposite. It has very little or no fat or sugar and no preservatives. French bread is fresh for a finite amount of time. Bakeries that supply po-boy breads even do multiple runs to po-boy restaurants per day.

The bread is fresh for one day, and then it's stale and good for pain perdue, bread pudding, stuffing for a vegetable, oyster dressing or breading for fried food. We have all these recipes to use up stale bread for a reason.

French bread does, however, freeze well. So one of your options is to visit New Orleans and stock up.

Nevertheless, since you asked, here's a recipe you or other experienced out-of-town bakers can try. It's from the out-of-print "Lee Bailey's New Orleans" by Lee Bailey with Ella Brennan. It's credited to G. H. Leidenheimer Baking Co.

If you have Richard and Rima Collin's seminal "The New Orleans Cookbook," it also includes a French bread recipe. You can't miss it, as it takes up three pages.

New Orleans French Bread

Makes 4 loaves

2 cups warm (110 degrees) water

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons dry granulated yeast

2 tablespoons vegetable shortening

6-1/2 cups bread flour

1 tablespoon salt

Place the 2 cups water in the bowl of a stationary mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add 1 tablespoon sugar and sprinkle with the yeast. Allow to sit for about 15 minutes, until the mixture is bubbling. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar, the shortening and 5 cups of flour.

Mix until a dough starts to form. Add the salt and the remaining flour as needed until the dough forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Continue to knead with the dough hook for 10 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead by hand for a minute or two, until dough is smooth and elastic.

Return it to the mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set in a warm, draft-free corner to rise for 1 1/2 hours, or until doubled in size.

Punch the dough down, then divide it into four balls. Cover these with a clean dishtowel and let them rest for 15 minutes.

Form each ball into a 16-by-3-inch loaf. Place the loaves on baking sheets, cover them with a damp cloth and set aside to rise for 1-1/2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Gently place the fully risen loaves in the preheated oven and bake for about 30 minutes, until golden brown. Cool on racks.

MORE ON THROW CUPS: The throw cup probably is the only truly useful thing that comes flying off of Carnival floats. But even if you avoid parades like the plague, it's still possible to have a cabinet full of them from your kid's school carnival, your friend's bar mitzvah or your favorite po-boy shop or bar. They're also a popular souvenir and a symbol of our walking-around-drinking culture.

So what do you do with the accumulation? You can, of course, drink from them, or send a stack off to a college apartment. But what else? I asked my social media network for suggestions.

Ed Branley gives them away in the computer classes he teaches all over the world during the year as an icebreaker, to create a little excitement.

Ashley Dwyer uses them to hold pens at work. "Nice way to have a little Carnival year-round, " she says.

Using them as holders is common. They work with craft supplies, makeup or toiletries.

They're also popular for paint projects. Sue Wespy Ceravolo writes: "I use them as semi-disposable paint cups. Sturdier than basic plastic cups. Perfect way to recycle."

In the kitchen, you can use the smallest sizes as scoops for anything you keep in bulk. The one in my sugar bin holds just under 1 1/2 cups. You can also use them as scoops in dog food -- but be sure to measure it and make a fill mark on the inside of the cup so you don't accidentally fatten up your pooch.

On, commentor "rice and gravy" noted that the cups can be used for "N'awlins style portion control, " as in "how many fried shrimp in an overstuffed po-boy? A large throw cup full" at a convenience store in Kenner.

In the garden, I use one as a scoop in potting soil. In the urns in front of my house, an upside-down stack of cups serves as risers to boost a potted plant so that it's even with the top of the urn.

I'm not the only person to use them as risers. On, "all things considered" wrote: "A friend of mine from Metairie used to keep plenty in his home. During the famous May 8th flood, as the water started coming into his house, he used them to raise his furniture out of the water enough to save it all."

Susan Langenhenning, the T-P fashion editor, has punched holes in the bottoms and used them as seed cups for tomato and other plants. InsideOut editor Stephanie Stokes has used them in the garden to hold beer for slug and snail bait.

As a mom, Stokes also finds school-project uses. Her son cut down a couple of different-size ones when he had to build a tennis-ball-hurling catapult. And, she says, if you cut them down and poke brads through holes in the bottoms, "you can use them as the wheels for a car made from a shoebox or milk carton."

Stokes and Amanda Phillips both noted the Speed Stacks competition phenomenon, a game played with stacking cups. In other areas, people pay money for cups to stack.

"When our kids were little, " Valkyrie writes on, "they would use go-cups for hours as bowling pins or stack to use as targets, just like arcade games."

Phillips takes throw cups to the beach for kids to use in the sand, and to play in water in the tub or at the beach. They're also useful for rinsing kids' hair in the tub.

Similarly, Jill Elliott uses one when she bathes her dogs.

Throw cups can even be used to hold other beverages. Phillips has used throw cups as a makeshift coozie for bottles or cans while on the parade route, and Eileen Andrews uses them as cup holders while on a float.

Commentors on also had some ideas: "I take a stack with me when I go out of town and leave them here and there. They're good looking and folks usually enjoy having a couple, " writes tamburello. "Also, when I go to cities that don't allow open containers, I find that I'm less likely to get harassed when drinking from one of those than a clear plastic 'bar' cup. Sure, they know what I'm drinking, but tend to let it slide because I'm not making it obvious."

And the usefulness of throw cups is not limited to New Orleans.

"The parade in our German town is Sunday, " Phyllis Carter wrote the week before Mardi Gras. "The most useful thing from a float is a little plastic cup -- filled with schnapps!"
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