Easy French Bread Recipe
Homemade Bread - One of Life's Simple Pleasures
Nothing beats the smell of fresh-baked bread. One of the joys in my life is seeing eyes light up as loaves of french bread come out of the oven. The ease of making this bread adds to the delight I feel knowing that I've made it myself, with my own ingredients, at a fraction of the cost of buying it from a bakery.
If you feel any trepidation about trying to make bread, put your mind at ease. The process is simple and the ingredients are few. Roll up your sleeves and enter the wonderful world of home-baked bread.
Time (including rising)
- Prep time: 2 hours
- Cook time: 15 min
- Ready in: 2 hours 15 min
- Yields: Two 16' baguettes or one 16" loaf
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 tsp white sugar
- 1 tsp yeast
- 2 cups unbleached flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp cooking oil, (or cooking spray)
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 tbsp water
Warm up a large mixing bowl by rinsing it with hot water. Add warm water and sugar. Stir to dissolve. Sprinkle yeast on surface and let sit until yeast dissolves (about 5 minutes). Combine flour and salt. Add the flour mixture to water and yeast, about 1/2 cup at a time and stir with a fork until dough comes away from the side of the bowl. Add more flour, a spoonful at a time until it forms a soft ball.
Flour a clean flat surface (counter or a glass-top stove). Empty the dough onto the flour and sprinkle some more over top of it. Roll up your sleeves, flour your hands and prepare to knead.
Press the heel of your hand into the centre of the dough and push away from you. Fold the dough in half, from the back to the front. Turn the dough a quarter turn and repeat. Sprinkle flour as needed to keep it from sticking to the surface and your hands. Continue to knead until dough is smooth and elastic and does not stick - 2 or 3 minutes. Form into a ball.
If the house is chilly, you can let the dough rise in the oven. Turn it on until you feel the element warm up and then turn it off and place the bowl in the oven. I use the plate-warming element on my stove top. Put it on the high setting until it is warm and then turn it off. You can also let it rise on top of the refrigerator.
Wash and dry the bowl. Coat the inside of the bowl with oil or cooking spray. Place the dough in the bowl and turn it over so that it is coated. Seal the bowl with plastic wrap and put in a warm place to rise.
Once the dough has risen to double its bulk (about half an hour), remove the plastic wrap and give it one punch.
Forming and Final Rising
On a floured surface, knead the dough again for a couple of minutes. Divide the dough into two equal pieces. Using a rolling pin or clean bottle, roll each piece into a rectangle about 16" wide x 8". Don't worry if it is lopsided, but keep in mind that the closer it is to a rectangle, the more uniform the final baguette will be.
One loaf or two?
If you prefer, you can roll the dough out without dividing it. Continue on with the instructions but bake the loaf for 15-20 minutes. Keep in mind the serving size and the nutritional values will not apply.
With the long side towards you, roll each of the rectangles into a baguette (jelly roll style). With the seam underneath, tuck each end under to form smooth ends. Place on a baking sheet - either lined with parchment paper or greased. Lightly cut 5 shallow, diagonal slits with a VERY sharp knife.
Let rise until double in size (about 45 minutes).
The egg wash is enough for 8-10 baguettes or 4-5 loaves of bread. You can put it in a baggie and freeze it flat. When you want to bake another batch, break it into quarters and thaw out one section. Otherwise you can use it in scrambled eggs or an omelete.
Create an egg wash by combining the egg and water in a small bowl and mixing thoroughly. With a pastry brush, very gently brush top and sides of each baguette. Left over mixture can be placed in a baggie and frozen flat for future loaves.
Bake in centre of a preheated 400F oven for 12-15 minutes. Keep an eye on the loaves. They are done when the crust is golden and they sound hollow when tapped.
Cool on a rack for 5 minutes and enjoy!
|Serving size: 3 one inch slices|
|Calories from Fat||9|
|% Daily Value *|
|Fat 1 g||2%|
|Carbohydrates 22 g||7%|
|Fiber 1 g||4%|
|Protein 4 g||8%|
|Sodium 240 mg||10%|
|* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.|
- Ensure your yeast is fresh. It can be quick rise, breadmaker or instant but it cannot be old! Check the expiry date. If it is nearing or past the date, throw it out and buy some new yeast.
- The egg wash is the key to a golden, crunchy crust. You can make the bread without it but the crust will be chewy.
- If you have a breadmaker, you can use the manual setting to do the mixing and initial kneading. Once it has run the cycle, continue on from step 4.
- Use a serrated knife to cut the baked bread. You can also use a steak knife.
- The baked bread freezes well. When it has cooled completely, wrap tightly in plastic and seal in a freezer bag.
- This recipe toasts really well. It also makes fabulous french toast or bread pudding (if there is any left over!).