Who knew homemade French bread could be so easy?! Skip the bakery and learn how to make your own crusty French bread loaves at home.
Remember when the pandemic first started and so many people hunkered down at home and used their free time to learn how to make their own bread? I was not one of those people. With three kids doing school at home, I had less time to tackle baking projects, not more! But now I’m ready to welcome in the new year by learning some new kitchen skills and one of the first I wanted to tackle was homemade French bread.
Easy French Bread Recipe from Scratch
Okay, so I have to confess—I thought making French bread would be complicated. Isn’t there a reason we pay a premium for it at the bakery?! Well, after giving it a try, I realize that I was so wrong. French bread from scratch is easy!
And you know what else? It’s pretty fun too!
The process itself is a little bit…therapeutic? Maybe it’s the punching and shaping and kneading. But even better is the satisfaction you feel after you take your perfect French bread loaf out of the oven. It has a crusty outside and a soft inside that’s made for slathering with butter. Add your favorite soup (or try one of my favorites: Potato Soup) and you’ve got a simple, satisfying meal for a chilly winter day.
- Active dry yeast – Remember, active dry yeast isn’t the same as instant. You can’t substitute one for the other!
- Warm water – If you don’t have an instant read thermometer, just know that this feels warm to the touch, but not hot.
- Olive oil
- All-purpose flour
- Egg white
- Cold water
How to Make French Bread
1. Proof the Yeast
Combine the warm water, yeast, and sugar in a small bowl. Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes, or until it’s foamy.
2. Make the Dough
Combine the sugar, oil, salt and 2 cups of flour in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Turn it on to mix the dough ingredients; once they come together, stir in additional flour until a stiff dough forms.
Remove the paddle attachment and replace it with the dough hook. Turn your mixer back on and allow it to “knead” the dough for 5-8 minutes. Alternatively, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it by hand until it feels smooth and elastic, 6-8 minutes.
4. Let the Dough Rise
Place the kneaded dough in a greased bowl, turning the ball of dough once to coat the top with oil. Cover and let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
5. Form the French Bread Loaves
Punch the dough down in the bowl, then turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Shape it into a 16×2-1/2-inch loaf or two smaller loaves. Sprinkle the cornmeal onto a greased baking sheet and place the loaf onto the cornmeal. Use a knife to make three diagonal cuts across the top of the loaf. Cover the unbaked loaf lightly with a towel and let it rise again for 30-60 minutes
Preheat your oven to 375°F. In a small bowl, beat the egg white and cold water; brush this mixture onto the loaf. Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake until the bread is golden brown, 25-30 minutes.
Carefully remove the loaf from the pan and place it on a wire rack to cool.
Here are some of my favorite ways to use French bread:
- Serve it alongside Tomato Bisque Soup.
- Toast it and top it with Strawberry Rhubarb Jam or Crockpot Strawberry Raspberry Jam.
- Make it into homemade garlic bread or French Bread Pizza.
- Perfect served with Baked Spaghetti.
- Use any leftover stale bread for Overnight Baked French Toast Casserole.
How to Store French Bread
Wrap your French bread well or store it in a brown paper bag, bakery-style. It will keep at room temperature for 2 to 3 days. You can also freeze French bread for up to 3 months; just let it thaw at room temperature when you’re ready to use it.
What is the difference between French bread and a baguette?
French bread is a wider loaf and while it has a crusty exterior, that crust isn’t quite as hard as that of a baguette.
Is French bread the same as Italian bread?
It’s similar, but not quite the same! Italian bread is denser and the crust is more chewy, less crunchy.
Is French bread dough supposed to be sticky?
No, it shouldn’t be very sticky. If it’s too sticky to work with, add a bit more flour.
Can you let French bread rise too much?
Yes, you can! Don’t leave it to rise longer than recommended in the recipe. This will give it a fermented, sour taste and affect its texture.
More Basic Recipes Every Cook Should Know
Easy Homemade French Bread
- 1 package 1/4 ounce active dry yeast
- 1 cup warm water 110° to 115°
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
- 3 to 3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 large egg white
- 1 teaspoon cold water
- In a small bowl, combine the warm water, yeast and sugar. Let sit for 5 minutes, or until it has begin to foam.
- To a mixer bowl, add oil, salt, and 2 cups flour. Using the paddle attachment, blend until mixed well.
- Stir in enough remaining flour to form a stiff dough.
- Remove the paddle attachment and add the dough hook – allow to “knead” for 5-8 minutes.
- Alternatively, turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top.
- Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
- Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface.
- Shape into a 16×2-1/2-in. loaf. Or you can shape into two smaller loaves.
- Sprinkle cornmeal over a greased baking sheet; place loaf on baking sheet.
- Make three diagonal cuts across the top. Cover lightly with a towel. Let rise for 30-60 minutes
- Once the dough has risen, preheat oven to 375°.
- Beat egg white and cold water; brush over dough.
- Bake until golden brown, 25-30 minutes.
- Remove from pan to a wire rack to cool.