Easy French Bread [Recipe]

Here is a keeper for your recipe collection.  I– love– it.  It’s actually not specifically a French bread recipe, but I often use it to make French loaves. 

This is a basic bread recipe that can be used as a base for just about every type of bread you want to make.  Tweak it by adding whole wheat flour to make it whole wheat, or oats, nuts, or seeds for a little texture.  Just make sure you add your “Extras” to the water before you start adding the flour to stiffen it up.

Pretty much, if you learn to make this, you’ve learned the basics of bread making, just like that.  Easy peasy. 

Here’s how you do it!

Easy French Bread
Makes 2 large loaves
Preparation time:  3 hours, start to finish, including rising times

1/2 c. lukewarm water
1/2 tsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. (or 1 pkg.) dry active yeast
2 c. lukewarm water
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. oil
Approx. 5+ cups all-purpose flour
1 egg mixed with 1 tsp. cold water, to glaze

In a large drinking glass or measuring pitcher, combine the 1/2 c. lukewarm water with 1/2 tsp. sugar and dry active yeast.  Stir to combine and let this rest about 10 minutes, till risen and bubbly.

Note:  Careful not to use hot water!  If the water is too hot, it will kill the yeast and you’ll have to start again.  Allowing the yeast to rise in the cup, separate from the rest of the ingredients, is to test the yeast and make sure it’s rising well.  This prevents wasting your other ingredients, should you have to start again.

While the yeast is rising, combine the rest of the water, salt, sugar, and oil in a large bowl or the bowl of an electric mixture.  Add the risen yeast mixture and about 2 cups of flour.  Stir to combine.  If you’re mixing the bread by hand, continue adding flour in small amounts until the mixture is difficult to combine by stirring.

Turn the dough out of the bowl onto a work surface generously dusted with flour and knead, adding flour, until the mixture forms a smooth soft dough.  If using an electric mixer, add flour in small amounts, and scrape the dough off of the sides of the bowl often.  When the dough begins to leave the sides of the bowl on its own, it should be ready– The consistency should be stiff, spongy, and slightly sticky.  If you’ve never made bread before, I recommend kneading it by hand until you learn, by experience, what the consistency should feel like. 

Turn the dough into a greased mixing bowl and cover with plastic.  Let this rise in a warm place for 1 hour, or until doubled in bulk.

Note:  You can test the dough by sticking your finger into it.  If the indentation bounces back, it needs to rise some more– if it remains, it is done.

Grease your hands with a little oil, punch the dough down, and divide into 2 sections.  Roll the dough into long loaves, folding the dough and pinching it underneath to make it smooth.  Using a sharp knife (I like to use a serrated knife), score 3 slits in the dough about 1/4″ deep.  Cover with a tea towel and let it rise for 35 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Beat 1 egg with 1 tsp. cold water, and brush on top of the loaves.  You can sprinkle black pepper, poppy seeds, or sesame seeds on top of the glaze for decor at this point.  Let the loaves rise, uncovered this time, 10 minutes more.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown and the loaves sound hollow when tapped.  Cool on wire racks.

Tip:  This recipe makes a soft crust.  If you want a crusty loaf, brush the loaves with water before baking instead of the egg glaze.
 

Like all homemade bread, this is delicious served warm with butter.  Mm-hm.

 

Back next week!  But in the meantime I’d like to ask:  What’s your favorite kind of bread?

–Naomi

**EDIT:  Check Out This twist on this bread… Delicious!

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64 Comments »

  1. Hi there!

    Keeping the bread in a warm place will help it rise better. Sometimes if your environment is very cool, it will take longer to rise than otherwise.

    All the best!

    –Naomi

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  2. I cut the recipe in half and used my bread maker to prepare the dough. I also chose organic flour, olive oil and sugar and kosher salt. It turned out delicious! It's a keeper for sure. Have you tried with whole wheat flour? Thank you.

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  3. Hi Marcia!

    YES, this is a basic bread recipe that can be adapted for pretty much any addition you want to make – If you use ALL whole wheat flour, the bread will be much heavier. If you use only about 1 cup per loaf of whole wheat flour and the rest white, however, the bread will still be a wheat bread taste with a fluffy texture.

    I often also add oats, nuts, or other things like that to the dough – It comes out great. Glad you've had success with this recipe!

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  4. I have to tell you I've been making bread, rolls you name it for far too many to think about:). I love the fact that your recipe is so simple and versatile . I've saved it here on my iPad and plan to get up Mon morning and go for it:) ( don't cook on Sun) thanks so much for sharing, even us “older folks” like new simpler recipes. God Bless

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  5. I have made this bread a few times now and every time it is a hit. This time I added golden flax and sunflower seeds can't wait for it to rise again so I bake it and dig in.. this is a great recipe and an easy one that I share with beginners….my boys are always so happy to see these loaves.

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  6. I’ve made this a few times, and it’s always been delicious! I especially like to turn it into garlic toast 🙂 I do have a question, though … about how long should you mix/knead it in the stand mixer? I’ve never had any trouble when I do everything by hand, but when I try it with my KitchenAid, it seems the dough never smooths out/is very sticky and I end up finishing it by hand. I was thinking I’m not letting it go for long enough? Thanks for any thoughts you might have!

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    • Hi Jen!

      I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed this recipe! I know exactly what you mean about how it goes in the mixer – it does always seem stickier. 10 minutes mixing should be enough, so long as the dough is well combined. It will always feel stickier in there, you just have to get a feel for the thickness of it. I have made the mistake of adding too much flour to try to bring down the stickiness, but then the bread dries out faster.

      So, my thoughts are – Keep doing what you’re doing, and rather than feeling the dough for smoothness, feel it for thickness. Once the texture seems right, you’re probably good to go – Just grease your hands to handle it so that it doesn’t stick too much.

      Thanks for your comment!

      –Naomi

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      • Hi Naomi,
        Thanks for the reply! I just did that with the too much flour this past weekend 😦 … I kept adding “just a little bit more,” thinking it had to be almost done but that went on for too long. Thanks for the suggestion on the texture, I never really paid attention to that before, I was so focused on the stickiness!
        Thanks 🙂
        Jen

        Liked by 1 person

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