How to Bake Your Own French Bread
Making your own bread from scratch can be one of the most satisfying cooking projects you'll ever enjoy.
Don't let the length of the instructions scare you - it's surprisingly easy, completely delicious, and people are always enormously impressed.
"You made that?" they ask. "From scratch?"
It's as though you'd just announced you'd climbed Mt Everest without an oxygen mask.
Not bad, for a couple hours in the kitchen - so let's get started!
- 7 cups flour
- 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 2 1/2 cups water
- 2 tablespoons sugar, granulated
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 egg
- Yellow corn meal, [optional]
- In large mixing bowl, combine 3 cups of flour and the yeast.
- In separate dish, heat water, sugar, salt, and butter until warm.
- Mix the water with the flour mix and stir well. Stir in 2 ½ cups more flour.
- Turn out onto lightly floured surface and gradually knead the last of the flour in for about 10 mins, until dough is smooth.
- Shape dough into ball and grease surface lightly. Cover and allow to rise until double - about 1 to 2 hours.
- Punch down and divide in half.
- Roll each half into a 12x15 inch rectangle. Starting with long edge, roll up tightly. Taper ends and tuck under.
- Place each loaf diagonally, seam down, on a baking tray sprinkled with cornmeal. Gash tops diagonally every 2.5 inches, ¼ inch deep. Brush with egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water.
- Cover and let rise in warm place until double - about 1 hour.
- Bake in 375 oven for 40 mins. Remove from sheets and cool.
Prepare your ingredients
In a large mixing bowl, combine 3 cups of flour with the yeast, and stir well.
In a separate bowl or pan, heat water, sugar, salt, and butter until warm [I usually put them all in a bowl and microwave it for a few minutes]. Make sure it is warm, but not hot - the butter should be melted but the mixture should still be comfortable to touch.
Mix it up
Add the liquid mix to the flour mix, and stir it together well. Add 2 1/2 cups more flour.
Lay the dough out on a lightly floured surface, and knead in the remaining flour over a period of at least ten minutes.
Knead the dough, and return to bowl
When you've finished kneading the dough, form it into a smooth ball. Rub a little oil on your hands, and oil the surface of the dough.
Return it to the bowl, cover, and leave in a warm place to rise for two hours, or until doubled in size.
Let the dough double
Uncover again when the dough has doubled in size. [If you have trouble getting it to rise, make sure it's in a warm enough place -if it's too cold, it'll rise slowly]
Punch it down again
Punch it once right in the middle. It'll deflate, but it's supposed to. Divide into two equal portions.
Roll it out
Take one of the dough pieces, and roll it out on a lightly-floured surface, using a rolling pin. It should form a rectangle roughly 12 inches by 15 inches.
Roll it up
Starting with the long edge, begin to roll it. Make sure you don't leave large air pockets.
You should now have a log of dough - the beginnings of your loaf. Repeat the whole process with the other lump of dough, for your second loaf.
Cut the surface
Taper the ends and tuck them under.Place the roll seam down, on an ungreased cookie sheet sprinkled with yellow cornmeal [optional].
Take a sharp knife, and gash the top diagonally about every 2 inches, about 1/4 inch deep.
Cover with egg
Take your egg and mix it well with about a tablespoon of water. Brush liberally over the surface of your bread.
Leave your bread to rise again for an hour.
Preheat oven to 375F, and brush your bread with another thick coating of your egg mix.
Put in the oven, and bake for 40 minutes.
Take out of the oven - two lovely loaves of bread!
Ideally, you should let it cool before slicing, but in my house, half the first loaf usually vanishes in the first five minutes.