Basic French Bread

three slices of french bread

In a rush? You can skip straight to the French bread recipe at my Tumblr.

My bread blog is now under way, and my brain is buzzing with all sorts of fun recipes to try. I’ve scoured the internet, bugged friends and family, and watched several baking shows to create a list of breads that are a must-have for every kitchen.

One of the most popular breads, however, was French bread. I love the flavor and the texture of French bread, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a good recipe.

Unfortunately, the one reliable recipe I had was meant for those with a mixer, and I do not have a mixer yet. I made do with what I had and tried to create the bread by hand, and this was the result.

french bread sliced

Not bad for a first try, but not great either. My loaf was lumpy and misshapen. The dough was dense and tough to work with. And if you look close in the picture above, you can still see a bit of swirl when I rolled the dough, and it didn’t rest long enough to merge together.

But I think with a bit more practice, I’ll be able to make French bread with ease.

Time

Prep time: 5-10 minutes
Rise time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Cook time: 20-30 minutes
Total time: Approximately 2 hours

Ingredients

French bread follows the same standard ingredients for most breads:

  • 1 Cup 2 Tablespoons Warm Water
  • 1 Tablespoon White Granulated Sugar
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Salt
  • 2 1/4 Teaspoons Dry Active Yeast
  • 1 Tablespoon Canola Oil
  • 3 Cups Flour*

*You’ll also want a little extra flour for your hands, especially if you don’t have a mixer.

Additional Equipment

In addition to the above ingredients, you may want these tools on hand when you make your bread:

This recipe originally required a mixer, so if you have one, you’ll have a much easier time making this recipe. However, it is possible to do it by hand if you have some patience.

Instructions

To start, combine water, yeast, and sugar in a stand mixer (or in a bowl if you don’t have a mixer). Allow the yeast to dissolve and soften before you add the oil, salt, and flour. For easier mixing, add half of the flour and mix it thoroughly before adding the other half.

The dough will be dry and lumpy, like the picture below.

french bread dough ball

Let the dough rest for 10 minutes. If it’s in a mixer, stir it down. If it’s in a bowl, punch it a couple of times. Then allow it to rest for another 10 minutes. Repeat stirring (or punching) and resting 5 times.

Eventually the dough will look a little less lumpy and a little more smooth.

french dough ball in bowl

Turn your dough out onto a floured surface. Knead it two or three times more and allow it to rest again.

french bread dough ball

Use a rolling pin to roll your dough into a 9 in. x 13 in. rectangle. The more rectangular your flattened dough, the more even your final loaf will be. I wasn’t precise with my dough, and I ended up with a loaf that was too thick in the middle and thin on the edges.

rolled out french bread dough

Roll your dough from one long end to the other. Pinch the edges together.

french bread dough next to rolling pin

Place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Cover and let rest for another 30 minutes.

Cut 3 angled slashes into the top of the dough. I used a dull knife, and I ended up mushing my loaf in an attempt to cut through the dough, so you won’t see my cut dough here.

Bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 to 30 minutes. Check at 20 minutes to avoid over baking.

french bread on white plate

Slice and enjoy! I had my first loaf with some pasta at dinner, but it also tasted magical with just a little butter at breakfast the next day.

Secrets to Success

I learned quite a few secrets to bread making while attempting this recipe. First, let your dough rest after handling it, especially before rolling it out. If you work your dough too much, the yeast will seize and stiffen, making the dough difficult to flatten.

Second, use a very sharp utensil for slashing into your bread. A sharp knife works, but scissors are more effective. If you plan to make a lot of bread in the future, you may want to invest in a bread lame or scoring tool.

Third, use a proper bread knife for slicing your bread. The serrated edges will help cut through the tougher outer crust. Don’t push the knife into the loaf, or you will squash your bread. Let the gentle sawing motion of the knife do the work for you.

Nutritional Information

I sometimes like to read nutrition labels on the foods I eat. It helps me know whether I’m eating something healthy or something naughty. While bread isn’t necessarily healthy, this French bread isn’t exactly naughty compared to other recipes I’ve tried.

french bread nutrition label

You should note that the calories and macronutrients will vary depending on how many slices you cut in your loaf as well as the ingredients you use.

Did You Try It?

I’m not an artisan bread maker, so my bread turned out a little less than perfect. But if I can make bread, then so can you. Let me know how your French bread turned out. Do you have any secrets for better flavor? Do you cut your loaf differently? Let me know in the comments below!