Homemade French Bread
Oh, you guys.
It’s really a must-have staple recipe in every home cook’s repertoire. And once you go homemade, you’ll never want to go back to that store-bought bagged loaf again. Because nothing in the world compares with a hot, steamy, crusty loaf of soft french bread coming out of your oven.
And the best part? It’s absolutely fool-proof. I swear it.
Even for those of you with a yeast-bread-making phobia, I promise that you can make this bread. The very hardest part of the entire bread-making process is the 50 minutes you’ll spend letting it rise and then kneading it down.
I know. Seeing “50 minutes” anywhere in a recipe usually has me running for the door too. But really, it’s not so bad here. Let me explain…
The process is pretty simple. After making the dough (which I do in my KitchenAid Stand Mixer using the dough hook), you let the dough rest and rise for 10 minutes. Then you knead it (I just turn my mixer on for a minute). Then you let it rest and rise again for 10 minutes. Repeat over and over for a total of 5 rests and 5 kneads.
And it’s really not as obnoxious as it sounds. I just set my kitchen timer for 10 minutes and then wander off to do whatever needs doing around the house. When the timer goes off, I run the mixer for a quick minute and make a tick mark on a pad of paper nearby (so I don’t have to try and remember how many times I’ve repeated the process), and set the timer for another 10 minutes. Then I’m off on my merry way again.
Once the rising process is done, all that’s left is to divide the dough into two portions (because this recipe makes TWO tantalizingly delicious loaves), roll the dough out, and then roll each loaf up (cinnamon roll-style). After 30 minutes in the oven, it’s all done and ready to eat!
See? Really not all that labor intensive. Especially considering the result.
Like I said, this recipe makes two gigantic, wonderful loaves. And it stays soft for days in an airtight container.
Although, I have to admit, it doesn’t usually last that long around our house. We’re all carb-loving people over here, and we easily demolish a loaf of this stuff in a day (or less).
We’ll eat french bread with breakfast, lunch, dinner. But my very favorite way to eat it is as a bedtime snack. I like getting it all warm and toasty, smothered in butter and honey. It’s so cozy :)
I really, really hope you’ll give this a try! It’s so much better to eat your own french bread, and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to make.
Enjoy! I know you will…
- 2 1/4 cups warm water (think bath water)
- 2 tbsp yeast
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp salt
- 2 tbsp vegetable or olive oil
- 5 cups all purpose flour* + up to 1/2 cup more
- 1 egg + 2 tbsp water, beaten
Pour the warm water into a small bowl (I use a 4-cup Pyrex measuring cup). Sprinkle the yeast over the water. Sprinkle the sugar and the salt over the yeast. Add the oil. Let water sit for about 5 minutes until the yeast is foamy (see this post on how to proof yeast).
Fit your stand mixer with the dough hook and add the 5 cups of all purpose flour to the mixer bowl. Add the water to the flour (be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl so that all the sugar comes out). Turn the mixer on low speed and mix until a dough forms. The dough should neatly pull from the sides of the bowl. If it sticks to the sides, add the additional 1/2 cup a little bit at a time until the dough is smooth, elastic, and pulling from the sides.
Once the dough looks just right, turn the mixer off and cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel. Let rest for 10 minutes. Then knead dough for a minute.
Allow to rest and rise for another 10 minutes. Then knead again for a minute. Repeat 3 more times (for a total of 5 rests and 5 kneads).
Preheat oven to 375ºF.
Divide dough into two equal portions. Roll out each portion of dough into a large rectangle, about a 1/4 inch thick. Roll the dough from the long end, cinnamon roll-style. Fold the ends underneath to seal it and shape the bread with your hands a little bit (just to move some of the thickness from the ends to the middle).
Place each loaf on a baking sheet (I bake both loaves on the same baking sheet). Use a sharp knife to cut diagonal gashes in the top of the dough. Brush the egg wash on top of each loaf.
Bake for 30 minutes. Serve immediately or let cool.
You can store in an airtight container for up to a week.
*I've used half whole wheat flour with no problems.
I have never made this recipe without a stand mixer. I assume you can do it, but I can't personally vouch for the outcome.