French Bread

Update 2/2013: This recipe has been on my blog, well, for as long as I’ve been blogging and that’s over five years! It is no exaggeration that this bread is made at least twice a month in my kitchen. It’s perfect to eat just by itself (warm out of the oven? seriously, divine) or to use as garlic bread, french bread pizzas, dipping for fondue. I mean the possibilities are endless. The bread is exactly what unauthentic French bread should be (ignore those cravings for a “real” crusty baguette – this is not it). Soft and tender and absolutely worth all the carbs. Promise.

French Bread

French Bread

French Bread

Note: as with all yeast doughs, I never use the flour amount called for in the recipe as a hard fast rule (unless a weight measure is given and then I pull out my kitchen scale). Because humidity, temperature, altitude and a multitude of other factors can impact how much flour you need in your yeast doughs, I always judge when to quit adding flour by the texture and look and feel of the dough rather than how much flour I’ve added compared to the recipe. This tutorial on yeast may help identify how a perfectly floured dough should be. Also, I often use half to 3/4 finely ground white whole wheat flour with good results - and sometimes I get crazy and use 100% whole wheat flour (always finely ground white wheat) but the bread is a bit more dense with 100% whole wheat flour. If using part or all whole wheat flour, add a few minutes to the kneading time to help develop the gluten.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups warm water
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon instant or active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 5 1/2 - 6 cups flour (see note)

Directions

  1. In a large bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the water sugar and yeast. If using active dry yeast, let the mixture bubble and foam before proceeding (this can take 3-5 minutes). If using instant yeast, proceed with the recipe (no need to let the yeast activate). Add the salt, oil and 3 cups of flour and mix. Add in 2 1/2 to 3 more cups of flour gradually. The dough should clean off the sides of the bowl and not be too sticky but it should still be soft. Knead for 2-3 minutes until the dough is smooth and soft.
  2. Leave the dough in the mixer to rest for 10 minutes and then stir it down (turn on your mixer for 10 seconds or use a wooden spoon to stir down the dough) and then allow to rest another 10 minutes. Repeat for a total of 5 times. Then turn the dough onto a lightly greased surface and divide into two equal parts. Roll each part into a 9X13-inch rectangle. Roll the dough up starting from the long edge and pinch the seam to seal. Arrange seam side down on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat with the second part of dough. Place it on the baking sheet leaving room for both loaves (or use a second baking sheet for the second loaf). Cover with greased plastic wrap and let the loaves rise until doubled in size. With a very sharp knife cut 3 or 4 gashes at an angle on the top of each loaf. Bake at 375 degrees F for 25-30 minutes until golden brown and baked through.
http://www.melskitchencafe.com/french-bread/

Recipe Source: from The Sister’s Cafe

164 Responses to French Bread

  1. marina hernandez says:

    hi mel 2 question.
    1.- if I used olive oil, the flavor is diferente?
    2.- I have UNBLEACHED flour, can i used?

  2. marina hernandez says:

    hi mel…im going to have a late dinner today (8pm), and i would like to make
    righ know the dough, and have ready just to bake at last minute…should i put the dough on the fridge,

  3. Danielle says:

    I just made this today and it is delicious. Mine for some reason did not get as brown as the one in your picture but was definitely done and crunchy. Also, any idea why my bread “split” on the side? Thanks for yet another great recipe!

    • Mel says:

      Danielle – sometimes bread will split like that if there are air bubbles within that side of the crust or if it was pressed too thin in that area while rolling it into a loaf. Hope that helps a bit! (Also, placing your oven rack in the top third of the oven can sometimes help the bread to brown better.)

  4. Ami says:

    What is this egg wash people are talking about in their comments? Did I miss something? My bread did not look like the pic and was a bit dense. I’m new to bread making so any helpful hints would be appreciated! This is my first “Mel” recipe that didn’t turn out, and I’m sure it’s me, not the recipe. Your recipes are a staple in this household. Love your site!!

    • Mel says:

      Hi Ami – the recipe when I first posted it years ago included an egg wash prior to baking but I haven’t used it in years and years so I took it out of the recipe, especially since it isn’t used on the bread in the pictures. I’m guessing if your bread was too dense, you might have overfloured a bit or needed a longer rising time. Good luck if you try it again!

  5. Michelle Garringer says:

    Hi Mel- i made this yesterday and OMG thank you SO much for posting it, this is my keeper for the best bread i ever made, the crust was crispy ( i have a pizza stone but baked these loaves on a baking sheet with a silicon mat) “soft” french bread interior which is just what i wanted, i just finished lunch and it was the best french bread pizza base ( hot chicken sausage and cheese) and garlic cheese bread. what a lovely recipe you have posted i’m so happy with my loaves and i am so glad i decided to make the two loaves, it was easy to make, i just kept mine in the stand mixer with dough hook, also i used instant yeast and bread flour, the result was a soft fluffy crumb and crispy crust. i WILL test it for french toast as recommended by the other reviews. for others wondering should i – YES! make this bread!

  6. Michelle Garringer says:

    Mel- i love this recipe! Thank you SO MUCH for posting. its perfect exactly the type of crust/fluffy interior i prefer, i’ve made 4 loaves in the past week because i keep thinking up ways to use it! the first two loaves went to french bread pizzas, SO SO GOOD. i tried it fresh out of the oven ( cooled) with just butter- fantastic- and then made garlic bread- this morning i tried it for french toast. SERIOUSLY that turned out really the best i’ve ever made at home with bread from scratch. french bread for french toast. HMM. i feel sad i had years of mediocre french toast because i hadn’t found this recipe for the bread!

  7. dawn says:

    Delicious and easy…my two favorite elements in a recipe!

  8. Nita says:

    I made this French bread this morning and it was so delicious! I loved the flavor and the soft plush texture. It also was very easy to make , this was my first time making a French bread loaf. My family loved it and we have already eaten 1 whole loaf! I plan on making another batch tonight so we can try your French bread pizza.

  9. Pal says:

    Listen, I have not yet tried your recipe. I thank you in advance as I am new to breads. I recently moved to Colombia, yes the country not Columbia in South Carolina, USA, and the bread here is horrendous. I am being forced to learn to bake bread so that I can survive here. You would not believe how bad the flour is here. I am desperate to import some real flour from the USA or Canada. What I to complain about is your complete lack of specification of what type of flour to use. All purpose, standard, bromated, durum, bread flour, artisan flours? The one thing that I do know is that flour is ‘everything’ to baking. Please provide some details in your recipe ingredients. Otherwise, keep on rockin as I enjoy the site.

    • Mel says:

      Pal – I use unbleached all-purpose or white whole wheat flour or a combination of both. You could definitely experiment with other types of flours thought. Good luck!

  10. Danielle says:

    Mel-was the 1 TBSP of salt a typo? My bread turned out pretty salty. It was perfect other than that. Next time I’ll cut it in half.

  11. Katie says:

    This bread was yummy, but it wasn’t fluffy and didn’t raise well. It definitely wasn’t the size of a typical french bread loaf, but smaller and dense. I am new to baking with wheat flour. I used half white whole wheat flour and half white flour. How do you get it to rise? I gave it about an hour and 15 minutes to rise, but didn’t have more time than that before dinner. Yours looks so pretty!

    • Mel says:

      Hi Katie – with whole wheat flour, I always try to knead longer (this recipe is a bit unusual in how it is being kneaded but you could increase the number of times or mix it longer). Also, take care not to overflour. Wheat flour naturally makes a bread dough slightly more dense and overflouring only compounds that. The dough is usually slightly sticky (but easily forms a ball if a small piece is rolled in your hand). Hope that helps!

  12. Pamela says:

    Making this now. I started with the 5.5 cups of flour, figured I could add more to the 6 if needed but even at 5.5 I think it might be over floured. My dough is smooth and soft but not sticky at all after it’s first kneading in the machine. I assume it’s going to make it a heavier less puffy bread? I’ll proceed with the stirring and resting for the remainder of the recipe and see how it all turns out and post the results. Next time I guess I need to add even less than the 5.5 cups to obtain the slightly sticky texture it’s suppose to have?

    • Mel says:

      Hi Pamela – if the dough is overfloured then yes, the bread might turn out a bit heavy. If that happens again, sometimes I drizzle in a tablespoon or so of water and let the dough mix a bit to soften it up slightly.

  13. Pamela says:

    Thank you, I almost added a bit more water but was afraid I would mess it up. Had I checked back I would have added some. Just came out of the oven a few minutes ago and it smells wonderful. Not nearly as pretty shaped as yours. DD and I did a quick taste and it tastes great, much better than store bought. Hopefully there will still be some left when DH gets home from work tomorrow morning so he can try some LOL

  14. Danielle says:

    I found you on pinterest and decided to try your French bread recipe. I’ve attempted French bread a few times and haven’t been successful in making it as good as bakery bought bread. We are planning to use the bread to make roasted veggie and turkey panini’s for supper tonight. My husband live fresh French bread so I’m hoping this turns out as well for me as it seems to have for everyone else who as left a comment.

  15. Shannon says:

    My loaves were wider and flat on the bottom……are they suppose to be more like baguettes??? What should i do different? The dough was sticky….was it to sticky????

    • Mel says:

      Shannon – It sounds like you need more flour – that will help the loaves hold their shape. I think THIS tutorial will help answer your question. The French bread is meant to be light and fluffy.

  16. Michelle says:

    First, thank you for putting all the best recipes in one place. I’ve tried lots of them and am rarely disappointed. You are one of my 3 go-to recipe sites (the others are ATK and King Arthur so you are in excellent company!)
    Have you ever doubled this bread recipe and if you have, do you double the yeast? I know that doubling the yeast is not necessary for lots of recipes and wondered what your experience has been. I’m going to be making this x10 (in probably 2 batches) for yw camp this summer and am trying to determine the yeast ratio for this one.

  17. Anne says:

    Hello Mel , thank you so much for all the work you do to make me a better baker! I never thought I would ever make my own bread, but it’s been a couple of months since I’ve started, and the whole family thanks you!:)

    I’m getting a little daring here, and planning to make a couple of this french bread for sandwiches to take for a picnic lunch.. I would like to bake the bread ahead of time, freeze and then re-heat on the morning of the picnic to build the sandwiches.. I wanted to ask, how to and in what to wrap the loafs and how to reheat the bread.. I trust your advice more than all the tips on the internet.. Hope to hear from you..

    Once again, Thank you so much!

    • Mel says:

      Hi Anne – so happy you are a bread baking expert! I love hearing that! Ok, so on this french bread, I would make it, bake it and let it cool completely. Then double bag or put in a freezer bag and freeze. If it were me, I wouldn’t reheat at all. I’d just take it out of the freezer the night before you want to make sandwiches and let it sit at room temp until the morning. If you want warm bread, I’d do the same (let it thaw overnight) but then cover in foil and pop it in a 325 degree oven for 5 or so minutes. Good luck!

  18. Jenn says:

    Thanks for this recipe. I’m making it for the second time right now. I’m just curious about why this bread has to be kneaded and rise five separate times. I’m fairly new to bread baking still, but I’ve never seen a recipe like this before. Does it change the flavor or texture compared to just doing the traditional 2 rises? Just curious about the baking science. :) Thanks!

    • Mel says:

      Jenn – From my experience (when I just let the bread rise normally like other bread recipes), the five separate 10-minute rise times adds a chewiness and airiness to the bread that isn’t there without those steps. I’m not sure of the exact science but I just know the bread tastes and looks better. :)

  19. Sherry says:

    Hi Mel! Found your recipe through Pinterest and made it today. Read it thoroughly and read your working with yeast directions. Very helpful instructions and fantastic recipe. I found it a little difficult to roll out on a well greased surface because it was so elastic and keep pulling back into a small rectangle, but once I got it to the right size, it rolled beautifully. By the time I popped it in the oven, I was so excited. It looked amazing. It tasted even better. We demolished half of the first loaf before dinner and finished the other half with dinner. So, so good. I can’t wait to make it again. Thank you!!!

  20. Stephanie says:

    Finally! I have tried bread recipe after bread recipe and they’re always tough and dry. This one turned out perfect. I’ll be adding this one to the rotation for sure. Soft and delicious. Thank you!

    • Stephanie says:

      It’s me again, the same Stephanie from above. I just wanted to let you know that this bread also works in a loaf pan to make a fantastic sandwich bread. It’s the same time and everything. The only difference is that the bottom doesn’t get quite as crunchy but that could be because I baked it on stoneware the first time and in a glass loaf pan the second time. Both ways are fantastic! Thanks again!

  21. Elaine says:

    True French Bread, by LAW in France, has nothing but yeast, salt, flour, and water. That is by law in their country.

  22. Kelly Finger says:

    I don’t see anywhere regarding the type of flour I should use: a-p or bread?
    Thanks!

  23. Sally Smith says:

    I love this recipe and have made it too many times to count. Recently, it’s been dense and the texture is a little off. What could I be doing wrong? Thanks!

    • Mel says:

      Hi Sally, glad you love this recipe. It’s nearly impossible for me to know what might be going on with the bread these last few times you’ve made it, especially without more detail. Have you moved to a different house/location? Higher or lower elevation? More or less humidity? Those factors can make a difference. Have you floured the dough any differently than in the past?

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