Learn how to make french bread at home with this best ever, easy Homemade French Bread recipe! Who doesn’t love a good, chewy loaf of soft french bread?
Homemade French Bread
I can hardly resist a warm slice of bread, slathered in butter, or an entire loaf cut in half and smeared with a garlic butter spread then broiled to make the best garlic bread ever.
Homemade french bread is so much easier to make than you might think. Forget the mediocre loaves from the store. Once you try making this easy homemade french bread yourself, you will never want to go back to those lackluster loaves again.
This french bread recipe makes two amazing loaves of fresh bread with a golden chewy, cripsy crust and soft, fluffy insides. It really is the best french bread recipe ever!
It took me ages to start making french bread at home. For years, I just bought a loaf or two at the grocery store from those baskets of bread near the checkout stands whenever I needed it. But unless I was lucky enough to be there right as the bakery’s bread was coming out of the ovens and being bagged up, those loaves were usually fairly tasteless or even stale. And I would find myself making special trips just to buy a loaf of bread so it would be fresh for dinner.
I finally realized that not only is homemade french bread so much better tasting than storebought, it’s actually hardly any more effort than those extra trips to the store! Yes, it takes a couple of hours from start to finish, but most of that is just rising time. The actual hands on time is more like ten to fifteen minutes!
March Monthly Cooking Challenge
I’m a little late getting to the H.O.N.E. Monthly Cooking Challenge this month, but since March tends to be cold and often rainy still, I can’t think of anything more comforting than freshly baked bread. So March’s H.O.N.E. cooking challenge is to make homemade yeast breads!
I used to be intimidated by working with yeast, despite growing up with a mom who would regularly make bread from scratch for us. But she never measured her ingredients or used a recipe and somehow her bread-making skills were elusive to me.
But it really, truly isn’t as hard or frightening as some people might think to work with yeast and make wonderful, homemade bread made from scratch. And there is nothing like the smell of freshly baked bread coming out of the oven.
Since yeast breads is a really large category, you can go almost any direction with this challenge. Homemade bread recipes with yeast could include bagels, challahs, traditional loaves, soft pretzels, rolls, english muffins and countless other varieties of bread, so there is lots to choose from! Depending on your skill and comfort level, you could make the wonderfully delicious and easy homemade french bread recipe that I’m sharing today. Or here are some of my favorite yeast breads that I’ve shared previously, categorized by level of difficulty:
- Beginner: If you are a total novice to working with yeast or baking bread, I recommend starting with this easy rosemary foccacia bread (which takes less than an hour to make from start to finish!) or this roasted garlic & rosemary no knead artisan bread (which takes longer but makes the most amazing, crusty loaf and requires no kneading at all!). Neither of those recipes require difficult shaping and little to no effort at kneading the dough. But you will still get amazing results and some heavenly homemade made to go with dinner.
- Intermediate: If you have worked with yeast before but still aren’t super confident in your abilities, the french bread recipe that I’m sharing today is a great one to try, as is this Amish white bread that is my most popular bread recipe that I make more often than any other. Or for a sweet option, the glazed apple fritter yeast bread I shared last fall is messy to make but so, so yummy and pretty easy since shaping isn’t involved. Even homemade garlic naan is a great option for a soft, chewy flatbread.
- Advanced: For those who feel confident in their ability to handle yeast breads, challenge yourself with a dough that requires some shaping like this homemade challah bread (there is a step-by-step tutorial in the post of how to make a 6-strand braided loaf), knotted orange sweet rolls (I love making these around Easter time), or cheesy garlic mozzarella swirl rolls.
How to Make French Bread
When learning how to make french bread, here are my favorite tips for getting the softest, chewiest bread with the perfect crust.
- Give the dough a minute to rest during the mixing process. This allows the gluten to relax before you finish kneading.
- Let the dough rise in a warm spot. Yeast breads rise best in warm rooms, which can be tricky if the weather is cold. My favorite spots for letting my bread rise are on top of my stove or by a window if there is sunshine.
- Toss a few ice cubes onto the floor of your hot oven to create instant steam. This trick is what helps create that beautiful crust on your bread with the classic french bread texture. As soon as you slide your loaves into the hot oven, just throw in a few ice cubes and shut the oven door immediately.
- Make gashes in the top of each loaf using a really sharp knife or bread lame slashing tool. This helps the bread cook evenly, releases some of the air bubbles, and just makes your bread look pretty too (although truthfully, I get a little gash-happy and tend to do more than I ever mean to!). You want your knife to be super sharp so it doesn’t deflate the beautifully risen loaves. Or just use a lame bread slashing tool (pronounced lahm, it means “blade” in French). It’s an inexpensive and handy tool if you find yourself making homemade bread on a frequent basis.
- If you like french bread with a crispy crust, brush the outside of each loaf with an egg wash before baking. Just whisk 1 egg white with 1 teaspoon of water and use a pastry brush to lightly brush this on right before popping the loaves in the oven.
- For a softer, most flavorful and chewy crust, brush each loaf with melted butter right after baking while it’s still hot. This is my preferred approach and I use about 1 tablespoon of melted butter per loaf of bread and just brush it on with a pastry brush.
You could also absolutely use a french bread pan if you have one, although I have always been happy with how these turn out baked right on my trusty baking sheets.
If you make this french bread or decide to try one of the other yeast bread ideas I mentioned above, share your photos using #honecookingchallenge on Instagram or email me, tweet me, or upload a photo of your recipe to my Facebook page! I love to see what you create!
Who doesn't love a good, chewy loaf of soft french bread? I can hardly resist a warm slice of bread, slathered in butter, or an entire loaf cut in half and smeared with a garlic butter spread then broiled to make the best garlic bread ever. Learn how to make french bread at home with this best ever, easy Homemade French Bread recipe!
- 2 1/4 cups warm water (around 110 degrees F)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon instant or active dry yeast
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 tablespoons oil (olive oil, vegetable oil, or canola oil all work well)
- 5 1/2-6 cups all-purpose flour or bread flour
- Melted butter, for brushing on top of the baked loaves
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the warm water, sugar, and yeast and let the yeast proof for 3 to 5 minutes until foamy (unless using instant yeast, in which case you don't need to wait for it to bubble and foam).
Add the salt, oil, and 3 cups of the flour to the yeast mixture and mix using the dough hook attachment for a minute or two, just until it starts to combine. Add in the remaining 2 1/2 to 3 cups of flour about half a cup at a time while the mixer is running, just until the dough forms into a ball that starts to come away from the sides of the bowl and doesn't leave a lot of sticky residue on your fingers when you touch it. Continue to knead the dough for 2-3 minutes until smooth, adding a little more flour if the dough starts to stick to the sides of the bowl again. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes, then knead again for another 1-2 minutes.
Transfer the dough to a large, lightly greased bowl and cover it with a kitchen towel or a piece of plastic wrap sprayed lightly with cooking spray. Let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about an hour.
When the dough has risen, turn it out onto a clean counter that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray and divide the dough into two equal sections. Working with one half of the dough at a time, pat it into a large rectangle, roughly 9x13-inches.
Roll the dough up starting from the long edges into a tight cylinder, turning the ends under and pinching the edges together to seal, then placing the loaf seam side down on a french bread pan or baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat mat. Repeat with the remaining dough to form the second loaf, using a separate pan or making sure the baking sheet you are using is large enough that the loaves won't touch as they rise and bake.
Cover the loaves with a kitchen towel or a piece of plastic wrap sprayed lightly with cooking spray and let them rise again a warm place for another 30-45 minutes, until nearly doubled again in size.
When the loaves are close to being fully risen, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Just before putting the loaves in the oven, cut several gashes on an angle about 2-inches apart along the top of each loaf using a very sharp knife or baker's lame. If you like a crispy crust, brush each loaf before baking with an egg wash made with 1 egg white beaten with 1 teaspoon of water.
Transfer the loaves to the oven and toss 3-4 ice cubes right onto the bottom of the oven floor and immediately close the oven door. The moisture trapped in the oven from the evaporating ice cubes will help create the classic crust that french bread is known for. If you are using two baking sheets and don't have room to cook both loaves at the same time, wait to cut gashes in the top of the second loaf until after the first loaf has baked.
Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Brush loaves with melted butter after removing from the oven, if desired.
Recipe slightly adapated from Mel's Kitchen Cafe.
Did you make this recipe as part of the monthly cooking challenge? Tag @houseofnasheats on Instagram and hashtag it #honecookingchallenge.
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