This beginner French bread recipe is so easy to make, it’s perfect for a new baker. You’ll be surprised at how simple it is, but tastes like it’s fresh from the bakery. It’s soft and chewy on the inside and crispy on the outside. This homemade French bread will be one you’ll make again and again!
A warm loaf of French bread is the ultimate companion to a good meal! Serve it alongside pasta, soup, potatoes and gravy…it’s so perfect with just about anything! Making your own loaf of French bread doesn’t have to be overly complicated. This recipe is simple and easy, with most of the time devoted to letting it rise. It takes little effort but has a big payoff!
This recipe is a really great starting point if you are new to bread making. Making bread from scratch can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be! It just takes practice! As you make bread more and more, you will get a better feel for how the dough should be feeling. I have a few tips in this blog post and in the recipe notes to help you with determining how to know if your dough has been mixed just right.
My #1 tip for this recipe…
- When mixing, you’ll want to reserve one cup of flour and add some more if your dough is excessively sticky or wet. You can always add more flour, but you can’t take flour away. Too much flour will give you dry, dense bread.
After you’ve combined all of your ingredients, check the dough by gently pressing on it with your finger. It should be soft, but not wet or extremely sticky. If you need to add more flour, add only 1/4 cup at a time allowing it to mix in well before testing again with your finger.
I prefer to use instant yeast when I bake quick rising breads. You can add instant yeast directly to your recipe. See my post about instant yeast vs. active dry yeast here for more information about working with quick rising yeast.
The WHY behind rising bread
- Yeast is the leavening agent in bread. Since it is a living organism, it needs food. In this case, it feeds off of the sugars that can be found in flour and other ingredients in recipes. As it feeds, it grows and metabolizes the starches and sugars in the flour – turning them into alcohol and carbon dioxide gas. This gas produces bubbles, which increases the volume of the dough – causing it to rise.
This bread will have two rise times. Each time, you are looking for the dough to double in size. The first rise usually takes about 60-90 minutes, but could slightly vary depending on how warm your kitchen is. It’s always a good idea to keep rising dough in a draft free area of your kitchen. The second rise typically takes about half the amount of time as the first.
Allowing your dough to have two rises helps to build a strong crumb texture. A second rise will help give it better volume, and a more complex and delicious flavor.
Shape the loaf
Shaping this dough is so simple. Spread the dough out into a rectangle with your hands and roll it up, pressing out any air bubbles. Seal the seam shut by pinching the dough together and place seam side down on your baking sheet. Using a very sharp serrated knife, make several slash marks on top of the loaf. This will allow the bread to expand in the oven.
As I began baking more bread, I started investing in new pans and tools that would give me better results. One of these is the French loaf pan, also known as a channel pan. It is a great way to bake a free form loaf. It helps keep its shape and the small holes in the pan allow air to circulate, giving it a crispier crust.
I’ve accumulated my fair share of different kinds of pans over the years, but this French Bread Loaf Pan is one of my favorites!
If you don’t yet own a French loaf pan, baking on a parchment lined baking sheet is still going to yield a great loaf. The parchment will keep it from sticking to the pan. If you’re like me, you’ll want to double the recipe and make two loaves! Both of them should be able to easily fit on your baking sheet together.
Before baking, brush an egg wash on the loaves. This will give a shiny, golden color to your loaves when they bake!
My tip for a fluffy loaf and crispy crust
Steam helps create lift in the bread. You can create steam in your oven by putting a few ice cubes in a metal pan on the bottom rack when baking. They will quickly melt and create some productive steam. Remove the pan about half way through – this will allow the crust to crisp up and you’ll get that amazing flaky crust we all love about French bread!
There is one hard thing about baking this bread…waiting for it cool. I know it’s hard to wait, but the bread is continuing to bake inside as it is cooling. Slicing it too soon could smash the loaf and result in a doughier interior. I promise, it pays to wait!
- Be sure to share your French Bread creation by posting on Instagram and tagging me @thatbreadly. I’d love to see how you are enjoying this recipe with your family!
More recipes to try
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Need extra help learning how to make insanely delicious breads?!
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“The Baking Academy has helped me to be more confident with baking bread. In the past, I would try new recipes and often fail because I didn’t quite understand all the particulars of bread making…I appreciate Heather’s tutorials, zoom meetings, videos and detailed explanations of the WHY behind the techniques of bread making.” -Brittny from Mesa, AZ.
This French bread is so easy to make, it’s the perfect recipe for a beginner bread baker. You’ll be surprised at how simple it is, but tastes like it’s fresh from the bakery.
- Prep Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 30 minutes
- Total Time: 2 hours 45 minutes
- Yield: 1 large French loaf 1x
- Category: Bread
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: French
- 1 & 1/2 cup (341g) warm water (110°F)
- 1 Tablespoon instant yeast
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 Tablespoons sugar
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 4–5 cups (480-600g) bread flour
- 1 egg, plus 2 Tablespoons of water
- Make the dough: Attach the dough hook to your electric mixer. Add the water, yeast, salt, sugar, olive oil and 4 cups of the bread flour to your mixing bowl. Combine on low speed until the dough comes together in one large mass (about one minute). Stop mixer and check dough with finger. If it’s excessively sticky or wet, add 1/4 cup of flour and mix until combined. Check with finger again and repeat if needed. Dough should be soft but not wet. Knead on low speed for 5 minutes. Dough should clean the sides of the bowl and form a soft ball. Let it rest in the mixer for 5 minutes after kneading.
- First rise: Spray the inside of a large bowl with nonstick spray. Put the dough in the bowl and turn so all sides are coated with the spray. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise until doubled in size, about 60-90 minutes.
- Prepare your baking pans: If using a baking sheet, line with parchment paper. If using a french loaf pan, spray with nonstick spray. Set aside.
- Shape the loaves: Sprinkle work surface with flour and turn out the dough. Take the dough ball and with your fingers, spread it out into a rectangle, about 8 inches by 15 inches. Roll the dough up lengthwise, pushing any air bubbles. Pinch the seam to the loaf to seal it shut. Put the loaf seam side down on your prepared pan. With a sharp knife, make 3-4 slashes in the dough. This will allow it to expand in the oven.
- Second rise: Cover the loaf with the kitchen towel and let rise again until doubled in size, about 30-60 minutes. The second rise should be about half of the first rise time.
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- In a small bowl, crack one egg and add 2 Tablespoons of water. Whisk together and brush onto the loaf. This will give the bread a shiny, golden crust.
- Put the bread in the oven on the center rack. Before closing the oven door, put a handful of ice in a metal pan and position on the bottom rack. This will create steam in the oven, yielding a crispy outer crust.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden. When tapping on the bread, it should have a hollow sound.
- Allow bread to cool completely on a wire rack. The bread will continue to bake on the inside as it cools. Slicing when too warm may result in a doughy, smashed loaf.
- There are many factors that can change the results of a yeast bread dough. Heat, humidity, altitude, flour types can all yield slightly different results. When I’m adding flour to a bread recipe, I always check my dough before adding the last cup of flour. I touch the dough with my finger and gauge how much more flour it needs. If the dough is still very sticky and wet, I add 1/4 cup flour at a time, mixing for about 30 seconds and checking again. Bread dough should be soft to the touch, but not sticking excessively to your fingers. It’s always best to go lighter on flour, because you can always add more during the shaping process. Mixing in too much flour will yield a dry loaf. The more you practice, the better you’ll get at knowing how the dough should feel.
- I’ve made this bread substituting two of the cups of flour for wheat flour. This gives it a great flavor and adds extra nutrition!
- Make bread bowls by dividing the dough into 4 equal pieces. Round them out into smooth round dough balls. Put them on a baking sheet lined with parchment or sprayed with nonstick spray. Make a small slash with a sharp knife on the top of the bread ball. Follow recipe steps 5-10. To serve, cut off tops and hallow out the middle, making a bowl shape. Fill with your favorite soup. See my post for making pumpkin bread bowls!