Homemade French Bread


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There is nothing better than a homemade loaf of crusty French Bread. This recipe uses only a few ingredients and while it takes time, it’s easy. Even YOU can make the perfect loaf of french bread!

This is great to serve alongside a spaghetti dinner (or any pasta recipe) and makes delicious garlic bread. It’s also perfect for homemade French toast for a lazy Sunday morning!

Tips for Baking Bread

Yeast The most important part of this recipe is to make sure your yeast is not expired. Use an active dry yeast. You will proof your yeast with a mixture of sugar and water, this ‘feeds’ the yeast so it can rise your bread! If you don’t see a foamy layer like the image below, your yeast isn’t good to bake with.

Flour Start with the smallest amount of flour in the recipe (2 3/4 cups in this recipe). For french bread, you want to add just enough to create a dough that is still slightly sticky. Too much flour will make a dense loaf.

Kneading by Hand  Knead by hand on a lightly floured surface for 3-5 minutes.

Kneading with a Stand Mixer Place the dough in a mixer with a dough hook. Allow it to mix on medium speed for about 2 minutes.

Left image - yeast blooming in a glass bowl. Right image - formed french bread roll on a baking tray.

How to Make French Bread

A true French bread contains just water, flour, yeast, and salt although you’ll commonly find other ingredients added to French bread in North America. French bread can vary in shapes and sizes from baguettes, to loaves to round in shape and is often baked in a steam oven resulting in the perfect crust (I’ve included my tip for getting steam into your oven below in the crust section).

This basic French loaf recipe can be altered to include slivers of garlic, fresh herbs like rosemary or thyme, or even a handful of shredded cheese. The varieties are endless, but all versions start with the same basic steps!

  1. Make Dough
    1. Combine warm water with sugar, and salt until fully dissolved, then stir in yeast. Let it sit until foamy.
    2. Stir in the flour and mix well. Knead a few minutes
  2. Rise #1 about 1 hour in a warm place until doubled.
  3. Rise #2 punch down and rise again 30 minutes.
  4. Form Loaf You can form the loaf from the ball of dough but I like to roll it out to a rectangle and roll it up jelly roll style and pinch the edges under to seal.
  5. Rise #3 Let the bread rise another 30 minutes and then brush with egg white.
  6. Bake until golden brown on top. Cool on a wire rack.

For the Perfect Crust

Add slashes to the loaf You can purchase a tool for this (a bread lame) but if you don’t make a lot of bread, just use a very sharp knife. The purpose for the slashes you see on a loaf of bread is to help keep the bread in the desired shape while it expands as it bakes. If brushing with egg, slash the bread after.

Brush with egg if desired Brushing the outside of the bread with egg white will give a glossy crisp crust, this is optional. For a soft crust, brush with melted butter.

Add Steam Generously spritz both the bread and the inside of the oven with water (don’t spritz your hot glass with water though and be sure to check your user manual first) or add a handful of ice cubes into a cast iron skillet and place it in the oven with the bread. Steam helps give the perfect crust

French bread loaf being brushed with melted butter mixture before baking.

How to Soften French Bread

The best way to keep your homemade French bread fresh is to keep it in an airtight container or zippered bag. French bread can also be stored in aluminum foil as long as it is tightly wrapped but be sure to store it away from extreme temperatures.

Turn into crostini and top with bruschetta, or top with garlic butter for delicious homemade garlic bread.

More Yummy Bread Recipes

4 from 1 vote
Review Recipe

Easy French Bread

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 22 minutes
Rise time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 37 minutes
Servings 14 slices
Author Holly Nilsson
Course Bread
Cuisine French
This is an easy recipe that uses only a few ingredients and a little bit of technique.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup warm water 110° to 115°
  • 1 package active dry yeast 2 1/4 teaspoons
  • 2 3/4 to 3 cups flour
  • 1 egg white

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Instructions

  • Combine sugar, salt, and 1 cup warm water in a bowl. Stir in yeast and let stand 5 minutes.
  • Stir in 2 cups of flour. Continue adding flour a bit at a time to form a stiff dough. Knead until about 5 minutes (or use a dough hook on a stand mixer per notes below).
  • Place dough in a greased bowl and cover with a kitchen towel. Let rise 1 hour or until doubled. Punch dough down and let rise 30 minutes more.
  • Roll dough into a 14"x10" square and roll up jelly roll style to create a 14"x2.5" loaf. Place on a parchment lined pan seam side down. Using a sharp knife, cut 3-4 diagonal slits into the loaf (about 1/4" deep).
  • Cover with a damp towel and let rise 30-40 minutes or until doubled. Brush bread with egg white. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  • Place in the oven and bake 20-25 minutes or until browned. Cool on a baking rack.

Recipe Notes

Place the dough in a mixer with a dough hook and allow it to mix on medium speed for about 90 seconds.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 95, Carbohydrates: 20g, Protein: 3g, Fat: 1g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Sodium: 130mg, Potassium: 35mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 1g, Calcium: 4mg, Iron: 1mg
Keyword french bread

Recipe Adapted Martin, Verneil. “Among Friends Vol II”. Calgary, AB, 1989. 39. Print.

French Bread sliced on a wooden board.
Homemade French Bread sliced on a wooden board.
Top photo - Top view of French Bread sliced on a wooden board. Bottom photo - Slices of French Bread on a wooden board.

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Holly

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Holly is a wine and cheese lover, recipe creator, shopping enthusiast and self appointed foodie. Her greatest passion is creating in the kitchen and making deliciously comforting recipes for the everyday home cook!

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Comments

  1. Saturday night: I started this last night on a whim at 9pm and was in bed before midnight. This was soooo easy (there was a lot of web surfing between risings). I cheated by putting everything in the stand mixer at once (dough hook) – 90 seconds on ‘stir’ and 5 min at med-low speed to knead. 1 rookie mistake: I put the entire 2.75 c of flour in at the beginning. It ended up being a touch too much flour for the weather and resulted in a denser loaf than the family would have liked. Sunday 11am: I woke up to comments of, ‘Why did you go shopping so late?’ :). Visually, the crumb and the crust was true to the pictures here. I’m really impressed. So much so, I’m making another one now to (try to) improve on last night’s loaf. The first made some excellent french toast this am, btw. I’ve been told that ‘now we don’t need to buy it anymore!’. I admire their optimism and will be teaching them the recipe so we can get it into our weekend rotation regularly. Thanks for a great, easy (soon-to-be tween friendly) recipe.4 stars