I begged her for the recipe, and to my joy, she agreed! She wrote out the recipe for me that night, and brought it along with her the next day when the whole family went bowling.
Only problem? I didn't go. I had a toddler with me, and said toddler needed a nap. Little did I know, that would be my only chance to get that piece of paper.
I tried writing to Aunt May's daughter, but that was no good - she'd been trying to get the recipe for quite a while as well, and had never found the recipe, her mother, a piece of paper and a pen in the same room. D'oh!
Fast forward to last night. We had Christmas dinner at Aunt May's house. It was delicious - turkey, sweet potatoes, funeral potatoes, salad, rolls and the most amazing short-ribs. (I asked - all of the recipes came from Aunt May's daughter...who I'll begin hounding shortly. Those ribs were amazing!) (Note - The turkey was sheer GENIUS. I've heard, of course, that you can make a more moist, flavorful bird by rubbing butter under the skin. This recipe expounded on that greasy goodness by replacing the butter with BACON. That's right - the entire bird was covered in bacon, under the skin. We decided to call it a "burkey". You're welcome.)
I hit Aunt May up for the French Bread recipe again...and finally hit the jackpot! While I was furiously scribbling it down, in case she changed her mind, she told me the background on the bread - it's the recipe she used in college. She used the recipe for years, but unfortunately...it was lost during one of her moves. Luckily, several years later, she met up with an old college friend for lunch and that friend gushed about how she still used the french bread recipe Aunt May had shared with her in college. Aunt May replied, "That's great! Now.....could you give it back to me?"
It's now carefully written on a neon orange notecard, taped into Aunt May's labrinthian recipe notebook.
And now...it's here, too. Enjoy!
(Note - Aunt May gave me a few pointers - she always uses exactly 6 cups of flour total...but she lives in Utah, and the climate doesn't change much. In my own home, in Connecticut, I imagine I'll need to experiment with the flour amounts as the seasons change. Also, when the recipe says to mix and rest, 5 times, using a spoon, she simply leaves the whole mixture in her Bosch mixer and turns it on every 10 minutes.)
Quick French Bread
(From Aunt May)
Mix and let stand to proof yeast, in the bowl of your mixer:
1/2 cup warm water
2 pkg yeast
1 pinch sugar
Mix and add to the yeast mixture:
2 cups hot water
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1/3 cup melted shortening
Add 3 cups of flour and mix well in mixer. Add another 3 cups of flour and mix with a spoon.
Rest 10 minutes. Mix again with a spoon. Rest 10 minutes. Repeat this process a total of five times.
Divide the dough in half and roll out on a floured board, making sure the bread is approximately as long as a cookie sheet. Roll it out so that the loaf is long as thin (again, long as a cookie sheet) and place your two loaves on a cookie sheet. Brush the sides and tops of your loaves with a beaten egg white and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Allow to rise, uncovered, for 60 minutes. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes.