''No matter how many unusual recipes I demonstrate in a cooking class it is always the bread recipe people want,'' says Andrea Metzger, who teaches a class in French-cooking-the-American-way.
Andrea, the wife of Marine Maj. Peter Metzger, attended cooking school in Paris while a college student there.
Later stationed at Camp Pendleton in southern California, she started classes , which include such recipes as Praline Squash Puree, Artichokes Stuffed With Eggs, Mushrooms and Bearnaise, Normandy Baked Apples, and a delicate Creme Brulee.
Before every class she sets out little crocks of sweet butter and baskets of homemade French bread and everyone snacks during cooking.
''I never dreamed making bread could be so easy until I got a food processor, and I've been baking it ever since,'' Andrea says.
She makes it so often the recipe is in her head, as is Gougere - a cheese-cream-puff ring she serves as a brunch bread or with beef.
''It makes such a light puff it goes well with nouvelle cuisine,'' she says.
Andrea, now stationed in Quantico, often takes napkin-wrapped loaves of her French bread as hostess gifts to dinner parties. It never fails to please.
The secret is in the crisp crust, reminiscent of brick oven baking. She uses no gimmicks, no bricks, or hearthlike stones, just a small spray bottle which releases a fine mist of water over the loaves of baguettes - the long, skinny bread so popular in France.
''I spray the dough every 15 seconds for the first 3 minutes after putting it in the oven,'' Andrea says. ''It seems like a lot of spraying, but it does the trick if you want crusty bread.''
One precaution: Don't spray water on the light bulb in the oven or it might explode.
Here are her favorites.
Metzger French Bread 1/2 cup warm water 1 teaspoon granulated sugar 11/2 packages dry yeast 3 cups unbleached flour 2 teaspoons salt 1 teaspoon sugar 1 cup warm water, scant Cornmeal 1 egg white mixed with little water
In 1/2 cup warm water, from 105 degrees F. to 115 degrees F., dissolve 1 teaspoon sugar and yeast. Proof it until it foams and is double in size. Place flour, salt, and 1 teaspoon sugar in food processor bowl with steel blade.
Turn on processor and mix dry ingredients. With machine still on, add yeast mixture and 1 cup scant warm water. Depending on the flour, sometimes you need the whole cup, and sometimes a little less.
Keep machine on and when ball forms, about 2 minutes, count to 60 and turn it off. Place in an oiled bowl, turn ball of dough over to coat surface with oil, and let rise in warm place for 11/2 hours or until doubled.
Punch down, place on board, cut in half, and form into long baguettes. Spray baguette pans with nonstick spray and sprinkle with cornmeal. Let rise covered with clean tea towel until doubled. Slash top with razor in diagonal stripes. Place in a 400-degree F. oven for 30 to 45 minutes. During first 3 minutes spray with water every 15 seconds.
Halfway through baking, brush loaves with egg white mixed with a little water. Makes 2 loaves.
Andrea's Gougere 1/2 pound butter 1 cup water 1 cup all-purpose flour 4 eggs 3/4 to 1 cup Gruyere cheese (or Cheddar), grated
Salt to taste
Grate cheese in food processor with steel blades. Set aside. Heat butter in water until melted and boiling vigorously. Add 1 cup flour all at once and immediately beat in the pan, over heat, to form a ball that leaves the sides of the pan. Remove from heat. Place in food processor with steel blade. Cool 5 minutes.
Turn processor on and add 4 eggs, one at a time, and continue processing until all eggs are incorporated and surface is shiny, about 30 seconds after adding last egg.
Add cheese and salt: Process to blend, about 15 seconds. Drop by tablespoonsful on a greased cookie sheet in a 10-inch circle and then place half-teaspoonful balls on top between larger ones. Bake at 400 degrees F., 40 minutes. Serve hot with butter and raspberry preserves for brunch; with garlic-herb butter to accompany beef, ham, or pork. Serves 6.
Quantico Gazpacho 6 medium tomatoes 2 cups canned condensed beef broth 1/2 teaspoon basil 3 tablespoons lemon or lime juice 2 tablespoons olive oil 1/2 cup finely diced sweet onion 1 large avocado, peeled and cubed Salt Avocado slices Thinly sliced onion rings Sour cream 6 slices cooked bacon crumbled
Peel tomatoes and cut into large pieces, saving juice. Whirl smooth in food processor with steel blade, adding beef broth gradually. Blend in basil, tomato juice, lemon or lime juice, olive oil, and onion. Gently stir in cubed avocado. Add salt if needed.
Chill thoroughly. Ladle into shallow bowls and to each add several slices avocado, onion rings, 1 tablespoon sour cream, and some crumbled bacon.
Serve with French bread brushed with garlic butter and toasted. Serves 6.