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!
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.
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!
- Make Dough
- Combine warm water with sugar, and salt until fully dissolved, then stir in yeast. Let it sit until foamy.
- Stir in the flour and mix well. Knead a few minutes
- Rise #1 about 1 hour in a warm place until doubled.
- Rise #2 punch down and rise again 30 minutes.
- 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.
- Rise #3 Let the bread rise another 30 minutes and then brush with egg white.
- 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
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.
More Yummy Bread Recipes
- Bacon Cheddar Garlic Bread – loaded with toppings!
- Irish Soda Bread – deliciously dense bread
- Caprese Bruschetta – perfect on top of French bread!
- Easy Crostini – crunchy, versatile, and garlicky!
- Homemade Garlic Bread – classic side dish
Easy French Bread
- 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
- 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 Adapted Martin, Verneil. “Among Friends Vol II”. Calgary, AB, 1989. 39. Print.