When I first came across this French bread recipe, I just read right over it. Then I couldn’t find any other French bread recipe that looked good. I am one of those judge-a-book-by-the-cover type of people when it comes to recipes. I am so happy I went back to it. I made this bread three times in one week. When I was in high school, I would spend weekends with my sister sometimes. I remember going to the store and buying a loaf of French bread and some butter. We would watch chick flicks and eat bread. This French bread brings me back to those days of just feeling happy and content.
1 1/2 TBS instant yeast
1/2 cups warm water
1 1/2 TBS sugar
2 cups water
1 1/2 TBS oil
2 1/4 tsp salt
6 cups all-purpose flour
1. Combine the yeast, 1/2 cup warm water and sugar; let it proof for ten minutes. Then add 2 cups of water, the oil and salt and 3 cups of flour. Mix until flour is incorporated, then gradually add remaining 3 cups of flour. Using the dough hook on a stand mixer, knead about five minutes, then turn out onto generously floured surface. Every ten minutes for the next hour, knead two or three times. This is what gives the crust that French bread chewiness. It is not crucial that kneading takes place at exact 10 minute intervals, just make sure to come back at least four times in the next hour to knead the dough a few times, then form back into a ball (keep dough covered with a piece of saran wrap between kneads so it doesn’t dry out).
- This type of kneading is so odd to me. I was always taught to knead once, let rise at least an hour, then knead again. This ten minute knead sounds odd, but it works, so just go with it.
- You can see from the picture above that the yeast grew by a cup and a half. This is a lot more than most breads. Usually the yeast grows by half at most. This extra yeast will help give the bread great softness. It shouldn’t be dense, but rather nice and springy.
2. Divide dough into 2 portions for regular-sized loaves or 4 portions for small loaves. Spread each portion out into a rough rectangle and roll up, jelly-roll style. Take the two ends of each loaf and tuck under slightly. Place on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Spray a sharp knife with cooking spray and cut 3 diagonal lines into the tops of each loaf, about 1-inch deep. Brush loaves with a beaten egg, making sure to get every single spot. Whatever doesn’t get covered with egg wash won’t brown. Raise until doubled, or 30 minutes. Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes, then at 375 degrees for 18-20 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the cooking time.
- I did two small loaves which served 4 people each and one large loaf which served 8 people. I also did one batch as rolls, and they worked great for BBQ pulled pork sandwiches. No matter what you decide to form it as, it is so good.
3.Some bread recipes tell you to keep adding flour until the sides of your bowl come clean – DON’T do that for this recipe. This bread is incredibly tender, which means the dough is going to be softer and stickier. Much of the dough will be hanging onto the dough hook, and some will still be stuck to the bottom and sides of the bowl. You can tell you’ve added enough flour and you’ve kneaded the dough long enough when you can pinch off a small bit and easily roll it into a little ball in the palm of your hand. It will still be a little sticky to the touch, but not so sticky you can’t roll it into a ball.
I have been doing bread for the past year and trying my hand at all the different types. This French bread has had the best results. I brought it to a dinner party, and my friends ate it before dinner was even ready. It is so easy to make and is so versatile in sizes. I think this bread just got bumped up to the top of the go-to bread list. As you can see, I just free hand molded it. I wouldn’t put this bread into a tin, but if you want to make it extra long or in rolls, feel free to try your hand at it. You can see all the air bubbles in the bread. That is due to the yeast and the kneading.