Homemade French Bread

by Allison @ Alli 'n Son on March 20, 2011

I’m a bit obsessed with making bread. I’ve gone through three bread machines in less than 18 months. Yes, three. Finally, I just decided to stop buying them, since they obviously can’t keep up with my bread-consuming needs.

Also, I guess we eat a lot of bread.

I was hesitant to jump into making bread by hand after being spoiled by bread machines for so long. You can’t get much easier than dumping in a bunch of ingredients, pressing start, and walking away. But I was determined to live without a bread machines. Especially the ones that stop working partly through the cycle, leaving you with a mess of ingredients and no freshly baked bread for the week. Which is a sad, sad thing.

So I started out with a whole wheat bread recipe from a friend. Which was successful. I moved on to the most complicated French bread recipe I could find, which was not so successful. Then came sourdough. And of course rosemary foccacia. All very, very successful.

Finally, I tackled French bread again. I was bound and determined that it would not get the best of me. A slightly different recipe, a little bit easier, and less time waiting for it to rise.

French Bread

It was fantastic.

Plus, with this recipe you can make all sorts of variations. I made garlic French bread along with the traditional loaf. There are so many yummy things you can sprinkle in or on top of the loafs before baking. Plus, this recipe makes two large loafs, so you can experiment as you go, one traditional and one with cinnamon sugar perhaps.

My Sunday afternoons are often spent in the kitchen, making breads for the coming week. It does take a while. It’s not necessarily a lot of work, but there’s a lot of down time. Letting the dough rise, and rise again. Shaping it and letting it rise once more before finally baking. But that effort pays off nicely in the end.

I think it’s safe to say that I’ve said good-bye forever to bread machines. Their ease just can’t compete with the end results of making bread by hand.

French Bread

French Bread

Adapted from AllRecipes.com

Prep Time: 25 Min
Cook Time: 40 Min
Ready In: 2 Hrs 40 Min

  • 5-6 cups all-purpose or bread flour
  • 5 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 2 teaspoons salt {sea salt is wonderful}
  • 2 cups warm water {110º F}
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tablespoon water

In a large bowl, combine 2 cups flour, yeast and salt. Stir in 2 cups warm water and melted butter, and beat until well blended using a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment. Stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can.

On a lightly floured surface, knead in enough flour to make a stiff dough that is smooth and elastic. Knead for about 8 to 10 minutes total. {Or knead in your mixer with the dough hook for 8 minutes on low-medium sped.} Shape into a ball. Place dough in a greased bowl, and turn once. Cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled {about 30 minutes to 1 hour}.

Punch dough down, and divide in half. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Cover, and let rest for 10 minutes. Roll each half into large rectangle. Roll up, starting from a long side. Moisten edge with water and seal. Taper ends.

Grease a large baking sheet. Place loaves, seam side down, on the prepared baking sheet. With a very sharp knife, make 3 or 4 diagonal cuts about 1/4 inch deep across top of each loaf. Lightly beat the egg white with 1 tablespoon of water, and brush on. Cover with a damp cloth. Let rise until nearly doubled, 35 to 40 minutes.

Bake in a preheated 375º  F oven for 20 minutes. Brush again with egg white mixture. Bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, or until bread tests done. If necessary, cover loosely with foil to prevent over browning. Remove from baking sheet, and cool on a wire rack.

Tips: For an even crispier crust, spray the loaves with water right before baking, then every 5 minutes for the first 10 minutes of baking.

Add-Ins: To make flavored bread, before rolling up the dough, add in the ingredients. The roll, sprinkle a little more on top, then continue on with the recipe.

  • Butter, garlic and Parmesan cheese for garlic bread
  • Butter, cinnamon and sugar for cinnamon roll bread
  • Fresh or dried herbs
  • Cheddar or mozzarella cheese

Meal Plan

Dinner

Monday: Leftover lasagna {The Pioneer Woman Cooks}
Tuesday: Enchilada Soup
Wednesday: Bacon-wrapped turkey
Thursday: Butternut Squash Soup
Friday: Homemade pizza on beer battered crust and homemade sauce {AllRecipes.com}
Saturday: Leftovers
Sunday: Sourdough Waffles {King Arthur Flour}

Snacks

New Recipes to Try

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