Homemade French bread has never been easier! This simple recipe produces a light and fluffy loaf of French bread that will rival any bakery!

This easy homemade French bread is so simple and perfect for a bread making beginner.

But as you can see from all the comments below, it’s just as valued by expert bread makers, too!

Two loaves of fresh homemade French Bread on a parchment-lined sheet pan.

Making French Bread Dough

This straightforward bread dough can be made in a stand mixer or by hand.

  • Warm water
  • Yeast (instant or active dry yeast)
  • Bit of sugar and oil
  • Salt
  • Flour (all-purpose or bread flour)

At the start, the dough will look shaggy and rough.

Shaggy bread dough mixing in Bosch mixer.

But as it kneads, it will become soft and smooth.

The most important part of this dough (and other yeast doughs) is to judge the amount of flour by the look and feel of the dough rather than the exact amount of flour called for in the recipe.

Factors such as humidity, elevation, room temperature, how we each measure flour, and more can affect the amount of flour added. So don’t stress about precise flour measurements and continuously feel the dough to achieve a soft dough that is slightly tacky but doesn’t leave a lot of residue on your fingers.

Too little flour and the dough will be a mess to handle. Additionally, the bread won’t hold its shape as it rises and bakes.

Too much flour and the dough won’t rise well and the bread will be tough and dense.

Bread dough in Bosch mixer.

Two Methods for Dough Rising

In the recipe, there are two methods to letting the dough rise:

  1. Leave the dough in the mixer, cover with a lid or towel, and let the dough rest for 10 minutes. Stir it down by turning on the mixer for 10 seconds or so. Repeat the “rest and stir down” cycle five more times.
  2. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl and cover with a towel or greased plastic wrap. Let the dough rise until doubled, about an hour or so, depending on the warmth of your kitchen.

I alternate between the two methods depending on my mood. The 10-minute increment rising method is unique to this original French bread recipe. The idea is that allowing the dough to rise this way produces a lighter crumb.

But the more traditional rising method also results in a delicious, fluffy loaf.

A loaf of french bread on a cutting board with two slices cut out.

How to Shape French Bread Loaves

The question I get asked the most about this easy homemade French bread is how to shape the loaves.

The loaves can really be made any size or shape; I usually end up making 12-inch loaves, but if they end up being a bit thinner or chubbier, it’s no big deal!

Press each portion of dough into a flat rectangle and fold the bottom edge up and over the dough, pressing the seam flat with your hand.

Pressing dough flat for bread loaf.

Then, roll the dough up again to meet the top edge.

Fold the top edge over and press or pinch lightly.

Rolling dough into loaf shape.

Take the end of the bread dough and fold it up and over an inch or two to give an even thickness all the way down the loaf.

Pinch to seal the end. Repeat on the other end of the dough.

Then, deliberately and thoroughly pinch and seal the entire length of the loaf.

Pinch seaming of bread dough loaf.

How to Score the French Bread Dough

Scoring the bread dough (in my house, also called: slashing or gashing) helps the dough rise better AND prevents it from cracking in unexpected places while baking.

Using a bread lame for this task is extremely helpful. A bread lame is a long stick or utensil with a razor blade on the end. The razor is used to make thin cuts in the dough.

If you don’t have a bread lame, using a clean, sharp razor blade or an extremely sharp kitchen knife can work. Be aware that if the knife isn’t sharp enough, it’ll likely deflate the dough.

The bread loaves can be scored before or after the final rise. I prefer to do the slashing and gashing before they rise as I’ve had one too many loaves of risen bread deflate at the first touch of the razor, and there is nothing so soul crushing as when that happens.

Slashing bread dough with razor blade bread lame

Let the bread loaves rise until noticeably puffy before baking.

French bread dough loaves rising on parchment paper.

Easy Hack for Crusty French Bread

For a delicious golden crust, immediately before putting the bread in the oven, toss 3-4 ice cubes onto the bottom of the oven. Add the bread and quickly (but gently!) close the oven door.

The steam as the ice cubes hit the toasty bottom of the oven will lightly crisp up the outer crust as the bread bakes.

Important Note! Please consult your oven’s manual for details or caution on putting ice/water on the bottom of the oven floor – I’ve never had a problem, but everyone should do their own research and use their own best judgment (also take care not to toss the ice cubes on the glass oven door as it could crack). 

If you are struggling to get a deeper golden crust on the French bread, try:

  1. Increasing the oven temperature by 25 degrees and/or
  2. Moving the oven rack up one position (I find my bread browns the best in the middle or upper middle area of my oven)
A hand holding 4 pieces of ice.

Whole Wheat French Bread

As noted in the recipe, French bread works quite well using whole wheat flour. I’ve found the best results are when using white whole wheat flour (red whole wheat flour makes a denser, heavier loaf).

I recommend subbing in half whole wheat flour to start and then adding more whole wheat flour as you continue to make subsequent batches of bread.

If using whole wheat flour, add a 2-3 minutes to the kneading time to help develop the gluten (also, adding a couple tablespoons of vital wheat gluten/gluten flour can also help the whole wheat bread bake up light and fluffy).

Baked loaf of homemade French bread on parchment paper.

Helpful Tip: If you’ve struggled with your bread flattening out while baking instead of holding the perfect shape, you might try these French bread pans {aff. link}. I have them and LOVE them. I don’t use them every time I make this bread, but I do pull them out quite often (I also use them for this rosemary bread). 

A loaf of french bread on a cutting board with two slices cut out.

Perfect Homemade French Bread

With over 2,500 5-star reviews, this homemade French bread has become a favorite for so many of you.

Hundreds of you have let me know that you have been intimidated by homemade bread until you found this recipe! It is easy, foolproof, and will make you feel like a bread making rock star.

Helena says: Finally, after 5 failed bread attempts using other places recipes, this is THE recipe to use! Happy dance! Thank you for sharing this awesome recipe! Delicious bread!

Valerie writes: Such a fantastic, easy recipe. The “hands on” time is minimal and it comes out perfect every time. Thanks for sharing a recipe that’s become my “to do” dinner bread! 

Nichole says: Followed instructions exactly! First time making any sort of bread ever. The bread turned out perfect!!!!

Pia commented: Hands down my go-to bread recipe. Today’s edition is 1/3 dark rye flour, with Italian herbs and caraway seeds mixed in and sprinkled with everything bagel topping. Yum! Best bread recipe ever, and so easily customizable!

Two loaves of fresh homemade French Bread on a parchment-lined sheet pan.

FAQs for Homemade French Bread

Can I halve this recipe?

Yes! Halve all the ingredients straight across – just keep an eye on the amount of flour and judge the final amount by the look and feel of the dough.

Does this bread freeze well?

Yes, it freezes great (after baking and cooling).

How can I get the crust of my bread more golden brown?

Moving an oven rack up or down can help. In my oven, the bread browns best in the upper half of the oven. Also, you can try increasing the oven temp by 25 degrees.

Can this bread recipe be made by hand without a mixer?

Absolutely! You can mix the ingredients in a bowl with a spatula or spoon and knead by hand.

Do I need to measure differently if I’m using instant/dry active yeast?

I always use the same amount interchangeably. Recently, I’ve heard that active dry yeast doesn’t need to be proofed in liquid first, but I always still do when using active dry yeast (no need to proof with instant yeast).

Can I divide the dough to make smaller loaves?

Yes, just keep an eye on baking time – smaller loaves may need less baking time.

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Easy Homemade French Bread

Easy Homemade French Bread

4.65 stars (2817 ratings)

Ingredients

  • 2 ¼ cups warm water, 110-115 degrees F
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon instant or active dry yeast (see note)
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons salt (see note)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, canola oil, vegetable oil or avocado oil
  • 5 ½ – 6 cups (781 – 852 g) all-purpose flour or bread flour (see note)

Instructions 

  • In the bowl of an electric 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 clear the sides of the bowl and form a soft ball that doesn't leave a lot of dough residue on your fingers.
  • Knead for 2-3 minutes until the dough is smooth. If the dough starts to cling to the sides of the bowl (or the center column if using a Bosch or other mixer with a center), add 1/4 cup of flour at a time until a sturdy but soft ball of dough forms.
  • Rising Method 1: Leave the dough in the mixer, cover with a lid or towel, and let the dough rest for 10 minutes. Stir it down by turning on the mixer for 10 seconds or so. Repeat the "rest and stir down" cycle five more times.
  • Rising Method 2: Instead of letting the dough rest for 10 minute spurts and then stirring it down, transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl and cover with a towel or greased plastic wrap. Let the dough rise until doubled, about an hour or so, depending on the warmth of your kitchen.
  • Turn the dough onto a lightly greased surface and divide in half. Pat each section into a thick rectangle, 9X13-inches or thereabouts (doesn't have to be exact). Roll the dough up starting from the long edge, pressing out any air bubbles or seams with the heel of your hand, and pinch the edge to seal. Arrange seam side down on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper (I use separate baking sheets for each loaf).
  • With a bread lame, razor blade or VERY sharp knife, cut several gashes at an angle on the top each loaf (you can wait to score the bread until after it rises, but it can easily deflate if the razor/knife isn't sharp enough).
  • Cover the loaves with greased plastic wrap or a kitchen towel, and let rise until noticeably puffy and nearly doubled in size, about an hour.
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and make sure an oven rack is in the center position. If you find your bread isn't browning as much as you like, preheat the oven to 400 or 425 degrees and/or move the oven rack up one position (watch carefully so the bread, especially the bottom, doesn't burn).
  • Optional: for an extra golden, crisp crust, place the loaves in the preheated oven and immediately toss 3-4 ice cubes on the bottom of the oven. Close the oven door quickly but gently. (See note below!)
  • Bake the loaves for 25-30 minutes until golden and baked through.
  • If desired, brush melted butter over the hot loaves (this softens the crust a bit, so if you want a crispier crust, don't butter the top).

Notes

Ice: consult your oven’s manual for details or caution on putting ice/water on the bottom of the oven floor – I’ve never had a problem, but everyone should do their own research and use their own best judgment (also take care not to toss the ice cubes on the glass oven door as it could crack). 
Flour: 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 the exact amount of flour called for in the recipe. This tutorial on yeast may help identify how a perfectly floured dough should be. The goal should be a soft, supple dough that is slightly tacky to the touch but doesn’t leave a lot of residue on your fingers.
Whole Wheat Flour: this recipe works well using whole wheat flour (best results are with white whole wheat flour – I recommend subbing in half whole wheat flour to start and then adding more as you continue to make the bread and judge the results with whole wheat flour). If using whole wheat flour, add a 2-3 minutes to the kneading time to help develop the gluten (adding a couple tablespoons of gluten flour can also help the whole wheat bread bake up light and fluffy).
The Original Recipe: called for 1 tablespoon salt; over the years I’ve decreased that amount just slightly but you can use the full amount. If you don’t have an electric mixer, this dough can be made by hand using a large bowl and a wooden spoon or spatula and mixing/kneading by hand.
Serving: 1 Slice, Calories: 233kcal, Carbohydrates: 47g, Protein: 6g, Fat: 2g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Sodium: 220mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 1g

Recipe Source: adapted slightly from The Sister’s Cafe

loaf of french bread on a white cutting board