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How to Make French Bread from Scratch

Updated on March 16, 2016

Homemade French Bread Recipe

Make baguettes with a simple ingredient list of flour, sugar, salt, yeast, and water.
Make baguettes with a simple ingredient list of flour, sugar, salt, yeast, and water. | Source

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4.8 stars from 5 ratings of French Bread

Making Baguettes from Scratch

French bread is fairly simple, though the dough preparation takes some time due to the required rise times. Baguettes are perfect for making garlic bread, crostini, or simply as a side dish to soup. This bread is crusty with a springy center, and is wonderful served with cheese and wine. Consider making some homemade bread for your next picnic!

The French baguette was developed after a 1920 law banned French bakers from working before 4:00am. The traditional French Boule (a ball-shaped loaf) could not be made in time for the breakfast hour, so a thinner, faster loaf was designed. The baguette could be prepared much faster than the boule, and it quickly became the bread of choice in France.

Traditional French Bread only includes flour, water, yeast, and salt. This recipe uses a little vegetable oil to help with the moisture balance of the bread, and has a small amount of added sugar to activate the yeast. In France, bakers will use different ovens (such as brick ovens) or will change the rising times, kneading times, or use rye flour to make their loaf unique.

French Bread Cook Time

Prep time: 3 hours 30 min
Cook time: 30 min
Ready in: 4 hours
Yields: Makes two baguettes.

French Bread Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups flour, all-purpose or bread
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup warm water (110F)
  • 2 tablespooons vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 tablespoon cold water
  • Sprinkling cornmeal (for the baking sheet)

How to Make French Bread Dough

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Add the dry ingredients, including yeast, to a large mixing bowl.Add the vegetable oil and warm water to the dry mixture.Beat the wet and dry ingredients together: 1 minute at low speed, followed by 1 minute at medium speed.Add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until a smooth dough forms.Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover, and allow it to rise for 2 hours in a warm location.
Add the dry ingredients, including yeast, to a large mixing bowl.
Add the dry ingredients, including yeast, to a large mixing bowl. | Source
Add the vegetable oil and warm water to the dry mixture.
Add the vegetable oil and warm water to the dry mixture. | Source
Beat the wet and dry ingredients together: 1 minute at low speed, followed by 1 minute at medium speed.
Beat the wet and dry ingredients together: 1 minute at low speed, followed by 1 minute at medium speed. | Source
Add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until a smooth dough forms.
Add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until a smooth dough forms. | Source
Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover, and allow it to rise for 2 hours in a warm location.
Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover, and allow it to rise for 2 hours in a warm location. | Source

Kneading the Dough

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Place the dough ball on the counter. Press the dough out with your hand.Rotate the dough 90 degrees, fold the dough over, and press the dough out again.After the dough has risen, punch the dough down, divide it in two, and roll it out into two 15" x 8" rectangles. Roll the dough up into two long loaves.Allow the baguette loaves to rise, uncovered, in a warm location for an additional hour. Once the loaves have risen for another hour, bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Place the dough ball on the counter. Press the dough out with your hand.
Place the dough ball on the counter. Press the dough out with your hand. | Source
Rotate the dough 90 degrees, fold the dough over, and press the dough out again.
Rotate the dough 90 degrees, fold the dough over, and press the dough out again. | Source
After the dough has risen, punch the dough down, divide it in two, and roll it out into two 15" x 8" rectangles. Roll the dough up into two long loaves.
After the dough has risen, punch the dough down, divide it in two, and roll it out into two 15" x 8" rectangles. Roll the dough up into two long loaves. | Source
Allow the baguette loaves to rise, uncovered, in a warm location for an additional hour.
Allow the baguette loaves to rise, uncovered, in a warm location for an additional hour. | Source
Once the loaves have risen for another hour, bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Once the loaves have risen for another hour, bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit. | Source

How to Make French Bread

  1. Add the sugar, flour, yeast, and salt to a large mixing bowl. Add the vegetable oil and warm water, then beat the dough for 1 minute at low speed with an electric mixer. Turn the electric mixer to medium and beat for 1 more minute.
  2. Stir in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until the dough is no longer sticky and won't absorb any more flour.
  3. Lightly flour the counter top (or other surface) and knead the dough for about 5 minutes, until it feels smooth and elastic.
  4. Spray a bowl with olive oil cooking spray or lightly grease with butter. Place the dough in the bowl and turn it so the greased side is up. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let the dough rise for 2 hours, or until it is double in size. If you are using "quick rise" yeast, the rise time may be shorter than 2 hours: the 2 hour time is for standard, active dry yeast.
  5. Test the dough by pressing it with your index finger: if the indentation remains, the dough is ready. Punch down the dough and divide it into two equal parts.
  6. Take the first segment of dough and roll it into a rectangle about 15" long by 8" wide. Starting at the 15" side, roll the dough tightly into a long loaf and pinch the ends under to seal the loaf. Repeat with the other segment of dough.
  7. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and grease a large cookie sheet. Sprinkle cornmeal on the cookie sheet, if desired.
  8. Place both loaves on the cookie sheet, and cut diagonal slashes across the top of each loaf. Brush each loaf with cold water let the loaves rise for 1 hour in a warm location.
  9. Place an egg white and 1 tablespoon of cold water into a small bowl. Brush each loaf with the cold water. If desired, sprinkle each loaf with sesame seeds.
  10. Bake the loaves at 375F for about 30 minutes, or until the loaves sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Comments

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    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      2 years ago from Western New York

      I make baguettes all the time, Kristen! We love making garlic bread from this recipe!

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 

      3 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Leah, great hub. It's so informative and well detailed on making your own bread.

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      5 years ago from Western New York

      IslandBites, I make this recipe frequently as it is great for making homemade garlic bread (I just slice the bread and spread with a garlic/butter mixture and bake at 400 degrees F until the crust is crisp and the garlic butter has melted)!

    • IslandBites profile image

      IslandBites 

      5 years ago from Puerto Rico

      Nice recipe!

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      5 years ago from Western New York

      I make this quite frequently, PacificWorldDMC! It is always nice to have fresh bread with dinner (or for a picnic)!

    • PacificWorldDMC profile image

      Pacific World DMC & PCO 

      5 years ago from Barcelona

      Thnkas for the recipe!

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      6 years ago from Western New York

      This is my favorite bread recipe, formosangirl - it is really easy to make and is SO delicious out of the oven!

    • formosangirl profile image

      formosangirl 

      6 years ago from Los Angeles

      I am going to try this recipe with an egg wash. Thanks for sharing.

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      6 years ago from Western New York

      I hope you enjoy making the baguettes, Thelma! We lived in Ireland for a while and we could certainly find baguettes, but we missed some of our other favorite foods. It is amazing how comforting your favorite foods can be when you are away from home!

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 

      6 years ago from Germany

      Wow! I can make it in the Philippines when I´m there. I live very far from Manila and I can´t buy this baguette in our town. It seems so easy to make. Thanks a lot for sharing the recipe of one of my favorite breads.

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      6 years ago from Western New York

      Thanks, molometer - my favorite part of the whole process is baking the bread, because the entire house smells amazingly good!

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      6 years ago from Western New York

      It's amazingly easy, lindacee! I have been making a few baguettes when we have a party to attend (and we're supposed to "bring a dish to pass") - the fresh bread is amazing and it really isn't that hard to do!

    • molometer profile image

      molometer 

      6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi Leah,

      There is nothing better than fresh bread, especially fresh french bread. Sharing again.

    • lindacee profile image

      lindacee 

      6 years ago from Arizona

      That's much easier than I imagined. As I read through your recipe, I thought I could actually smell the dough proofing and the bread baking! :) Great recipe! I'll definitely give it a try.

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      6 years ago from Western New York

      I always thought they were difficult, too, Simone - before I tried them! I think this is the easiest bread recipe I've ever done, and I love it because baguettes are so "user-friendly." You can make garlic bread or even sub sandwiches!

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      6 years ago from San Francisco

      I don't know why, but I've always seen baguettes as very fancy and difficult to make- perhaps because of documentaries I've watched on bread makers who are super finicky about their craft.

      I love that this recipe is so simple, though. You've made this process seem so accessible! Now I think I have the confidence I need to give this a go.

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      6 years ago from Western New York

      Oh, homemade pizza is divine! I hope you give this one a try, Emma. I haven't tried homemade pizza before (with the dough made from scratch), but that's next on my list!

    • Emma Harvey profile image

      Emma Kisby 

      6 years ago from Berkshire, UK

      I have been making my own pizzas and want to move onto making bread. As I love French bread I really want to give this a go. It looks delicious!

      Voting up :)

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      6 years ago from Western New York

      Defnitely try this one, Rose! It is one of the easier yeast bread recipes. I love baguettes - perfect with some cheese and a little wine. Ahhh... now if only the weather would cool down a bit so I wouldn't mind baking! Ha!

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 

      6 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Great job with this recipe! I have just started to experiment with making bread and biscuits from scratch the past couple years and would like to do it more often. I will keep this one in mind.

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      6 years ago from Western New York

      Thanks, Hyphenbird! they were really good. I think we ate these particular ones with olive oil and balsamic - delish!

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 

      6 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      We love fresh homemade bread and these loaves look scrumptious. Thanks for an easy and wonderful recipe.

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      6 years ago from Western New York

      It is a very simple recipe, teaches - one of the easiest breads to make, in my opinion. And perfect for making a panini or sandwich with, too (in addition to garlic bread, etc)! I was going to make some more today, but it is 96 degrees and we have no air conditioning, so it will have to wait for the cooler weekend!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      6 years ago

      I love the smell of bread baking in the oven and then eating it fresh as soon as it's done. This is a first I have seen on making french bread. Looks like it would be simple enough to bake.

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      6 years ago from Western New York

      Homemade baguettes and homemade soup would be divine, scribenet. Especially on a cold day! There is something about simple, wholesome food that makes my heart sing!

    • Scribenet profile image

      Scribenet 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I have been making my own bread on and off for about a year in cooler weather and I love the process. French bread and baquettes have to be the best to go with soups...and if the soup is home-made...it is nirvana!

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      6 years ago from Western New York

      I hope you give it a try, molometer! It is pretty easy to do - though it does take a bit of time. Thanks for the comment!

    • molometer profile image

      molometer 

      6 years ago from United Kingdom

      What a great idea. Bookmarking this hub for future experiments into making my own bagettes.

      Thanks.

      voted up useful interesting and awesome and sharing.

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      6 years ago from Western New York

      Thanks, Suzie! There is nothing better than homemade bread. It is just so light and the smell is divine as it bakes.

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      6 years ago from Western New York

      These baguettes are pretty simple to make, Gordon, especially if you're already familiar with yeast bread recipes. It is pretty inexpensive to buy, but it is also fairly easy to make (if you have the time to let it rise and then come back and punch it down/roll it into loaves). I thought the morning start time law was interesting, too. Thanks for your comment!

    • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

      Leah Lefler 

      6 years ago from Western New York

      I'm going to make another couple of loaves for tonight, vespawoolf - we're having spaghetti for dinner and I love making fresh garlic bread to go with it! Thanks!

    • Suzie HQ profile image

      Suzanne Ridgeway 

      6 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Dying to give this a go!! Great hub with easy instructions, good photos and layout! Nothing like homemade bread!! Voting up, more and sharing!

    • Gordon Hamilton profile image

      Gordon Hamilton 

      6 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom

      Love this idea. I have made bread many times before but I've never thought about making French style bread like this, even though I buy it probably a couple of times a week, every week. Maybe it's because it's so inexpensive to buy that I've never bothered but you've definitely prompted me to give it a go. Interesting fact also about the 1920 law - I didn't know that. I enjoyed reading this - thanks.

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 

      6 years ago from Peru, South America

      There's nothing like homemade bread, and a hot loaf of French bread sounds fabulous right now. Another beautiful recipe complete with photos...thank you!

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