Today, we have the second film in this year’s 12 Days of Oscar feature that is nominated to win an award at this year’s ceremony. Les Miserables, based on the musical by the same name (which is based on Victor Hug0’s 1862 French novel by the same name), the film starts when convict Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is released from prison and vows to start a new life of honesty, breaking parole while prison guard Javert (Russell Crowe) vows to bring Valjean to justice. Valjean develops a relationship with Fantine (Anne Hathaway), who has turned to prostitution to pay for her daughter Cosette (Amanda Seyfried)’s care. Following Valjean’s struggle to live a good life on the wrong side of the law, the film spans seventeen years ending with the June Rebellion of France. Les Miserables is nominated for eight Oscars: Costume Design, Makeup and Hairstyling, Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song, for “Suddenly”), Production Design, Best Picture of the Year, Best Actor in a Leading Role (Hugh Jackman), and Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Anne Hathaway).
The crime for which Valjean is imprisoned is stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s children. It’s easy to make jokes about how fantastic that bread must have been, but this takes place during a time of political turmoil and great poverty in France. Still, we do know that French bread is really among some of the best anywhere. French baguettes must be baked daily (the French government has laws that they must be preservative-free), and are distinguished by their long shape and crisp crust. Obviously to make some of the longer baguettes, you’d need a very large oven. Being limited to a standard home oven, I made one loaf of bread long enough to fit diagonally onto my seventeen inch baking pan. This is possibly the best French bread I’ve ever had, and it will be making a regular appearance in my kitchen. It has a great crust, and toasts up beautifully.
- 1 cup lukewarm water
- 1 1/2 tsp. olive oil or melted butter
- 1 1/2 tsp. sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp. salt
- 3 C. bread flour (plus more if needed)
- 1 tsp. instant yeast
- 1 egg white + 1 tsp. water whisked together, for glazing
To make this in a bread machine, place all ingredients except for the egg white mixed with water into the bread pan of a bread machine. Choose the dough setting and after 5-10 minutes, check that the dough is forming a loose ball that sticks to the sides of the pan and then pulls away. If it is too dry, add water 1 tsp. at a time. If it is too wet, add flour 1 Tbsp. at a time. Shape and bake as directed below.
To make the dough without a bread machine, dissolve the yeast and sugar in 1/2 C. of the lukewarm water.
In a mixing bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment), combine the flour and salt.
Add the remaining 1/2 C. of water, olive oil or butter, and salt to the flour and mix to combine.
Add the yeast mixture and mix to combine.
Switch to the dough hook attachment and knead (or knead by hand on a lightly floured surface) for 10 minutes.
Place the dough in a greased bowl and allow it to rise for 1 hour, until doubled.
Punch the dough down and let it rest for 15 minutes.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface.
Roll the dough out into an oval slightly longer than you want your finished loaf of bread to be.
Starting from a long side, roll the dough up (like a cinnamon roll) and pinch the seam together.
Place the dough seam side down on a baking pan and pinch each end of the bread together, then turn the dough under so each end is rounded.
Cover the dough with a clean dish towel and let it rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.
Heat the oven to 425 degrees.
Beat the egg white and water together to make the glaze and brush it over the surface of the loaf.
Using a sharp serrated knife, cut diagonal slashes about 1/2 inch deep and 2 inches apart across the top of the loaf.
Bake for 20 minutes, reduce the heat to 350 degrees, and bake for 5-10 minutes, until bread is golden brown.
Remove the bread from the pan and place on a cooling rack for 20 minutes before slicing.
Serving size depends on length of loaf and how thick it is sliced.
Source: adapted from Salad in a Jar