How to Make French Bread from Scratch
Homemade French Bread Recipe
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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
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 DoughClick thumbnail to view full-size
Kneading the DoughClick thumbnail to view full-size
How to Make French Bread
- 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.
- 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.
- Lightly flour the counter top (or other surface) and knead the dough for about 5 minutes, until it feels smooth and elastic.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and grease a large cookie sheet. Sprinkle cornmeal on the cookie sheet, if desired.
- 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.
- 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.
- Bake the loaves at 375F for about 30 minutes, or until the loaves sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.