Simple French Bread Recipe Rating -
Not all things in life need to be simple to enjoy, but if you're looking for the absolute best French Bread recipe, simplicity is definitely the key. For something as easy to bake as a french loaf, using more than four ingredients is just absurd! Countless other recipes will tell you otherwise, calling for additions such as egg whites, butter, sugar and even vinegar. To them I say Bah! All you need is flour, yeast, salt, water and a good technique to obtain crusty french loaves with a soft and delectable interior. Nothing more, nothing less. So isn't it about time you ditched the complication and discovered a truly simple french bread recipe?
The Key -
If you've already managed to read my "How to Bake a French Baguette" recipe, then you'll already be familiar with the Cold Fermentation technique. The process of cold fermentation calls for the freshly made dough ball to be placed in the refrigerator for 12-72 hours before baking. During this time, yeast will slowly and more thoroughly convert sugars into gas. This thorough conversion by the yeast develops enhanced flavor and aeration in the final loaves. I believe this technique should never be skipped if you wish to achieve quality french bread.
Recipe Specifics -
- Yields - Two Loaves
- Fermentation - 12-72 Hours
- Proofing - 1-2 Hours
- Baking - ~1/2 Hour
- 2 3/4 Cups Flour
- 1 Package Active Dry Yeast
- 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
- 1 Cup Warm Water
After reading through the recipe specifics, you're probably thinking to yourself that this is going to be a long and arduous process. Don't give up on me yet though! It does take a while for your bread to set up properly, but overall, you'll only have to spend a fraction of that in "hands-on" time. For the rest, you can set the dough aside and let nature run its course.
Process - Day One
Day one can be better called the preparation day. In total, you'll spend around five minutes.
- Start off by sifting the flour and salt into a large bowl. Add the package of yeast and combine.
- Add the cup of warm water to the flour/yeast mixture and mix well with a fork until a loose dough ball forms.
- On a floured surface, knead the dough for 2-3 minutes or until a smooth and consistent dough ball forms.
- Place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set the dough in the refrigerator and allow to cold ferment for 12-72 hours.
Process - Day Two
On day two the dough will be cut, folded and allowed to proof before finally baking.
Folding the Loaf
- When you're good and happy with your dough and the amount its risen in cold fermentation, slowly and gently remove from the bowl onto a well floured surface.
- With the sharpest blade you have, slice the dough into two sections. Once cut, gently form the dough into loose rectangles.
- To fold into a french loaf, take the bottom edge of one long side and fold towards the top middle. Pinch it in position as you go.
- Next take the opposite top edge and fold over the crease you just made. Pinch the seam shut to seal your loaves.
- Place the loaves on a greased and floured baking pan with the seam side down. Cover with a floured hand towel and allow the loaves to rest at room temperature for 1-2 hours. This is the process of "proofing", or allowing your dough to rise even more.
- When you're about a half hour away from baking, begin to preheat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. The oven needs to be completely preheated and hot to bake good bread! Also be sure to place a shallow baking tray at the bottom of your oven to preheat. This will be the steam bath to create the crusty exterior texture everyone desires!
- Once the oven is ready, slice diagonal 3/4" deep gashes into the tops of the loaves. This will allow for the final "expansion" of the bread.
- Quickly place the loaves into the oven and pour 1 cup of Hot Water into the shallow tray at the bottom. Close the door as quickly as possible to trap steam in the oven. Reduce heat to 450F and bake for 12 minutes.
- After 12 minutes, reduce the heat once again to 400F and continue to bake for 14-15 more minutes.
- Your French Loaves should be deep golden in color and sound hollow when tapped on. I always judge by eye, but for you thermometer people out there, the internal bread temperature should reach 190F.
All that you have to do now is wait for the loaves to cool down. It should take about a half an hour to cool enough to the point where they can be eaten. Enjoy these french loaves for anything including sandwiches, french toast or even just with butter spread on them. I hope that you have enjoyed my article and also learned how to make this simple french bread recipe for yourself! I appreciate your visit and also invite you to have a gander through some of my other great recipes below.
Easy French Baguettes - If you've made it through this recipe with no problems, baguettes aren't a whole lot harder. Just a couple more folds and a quick roll produces easy french baguettes.
Summer Squash Bread - If you're not in the mood to wait very long, Summer squash bread is the way to go. Have zucchini or yellow squash bread in under an hour and a half.
Pumpkin Pie From Scratch - No joke here. I'll show you how to start with a pumpkin, flour and a few other simple ingredients and turn them into a holiday classic, Pumpkin Pie!
Country Buns - How about we bake something for breakfast? How does eggs, potatoes, bacon and country gravy sound wrapped up in a soft yeast bread? Oh it's good.
Comments for Simple French Bread Recipe -
Barb on July 07, 2014:
Just to make sure everyone understands, you put the water into the shallow baking tray when for the steam bath when you first put the tray in. When the oven starts preheating you put the tray and water at the same time into the oven.
Rayne on July 02, 2014:
This looks awesome, I'm definitely trying this out today. I also noticed you made your site mobile. Thank you so much :D
Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on March 17, 2014:
This sounds amazing, and yet so simple. Thanks for sharing a great hub. Voted up.
Victoria Van Ness from Fountain, CO on March 17, 2014:
I was just thinking about making some French bread last night but it seemed like way too much work! This is great! :)
dearabbysmom from Indiana on March 17, 2014:
It's getting cold again here in Indiana, so once again I'm thinking soup. Can't wait to add a fresh loaf of this bread to soup for dinner, thank you for sharing.
Kayla on August 04, 2013:
I plan on making this today! I've had it in my fridge for 2 1/2 days so i'm very excited! My only question is, when you say put the pan of water in the bottom of the oven, do you mean at the very bottom by the heat coil or on a rack? Thanks so much!
Zach (author) from Colorado on December 10, 2011:
Diana - Thanks for the feedback. It is a great recipe, that is real easy to put together. Enjoy
Diana Mendes on December 10, 2011:
Great recipe. Will try it out. Thanks for sharing.
Zach (author) from Colorado on December 06, 2011:
Cheers to that!
Jason Menayan from San Francisco on December 06, 2011:
Thanks for the information. Moist and chewy is definitely preferable to hard and tough!
Zach (author) from Colorado on December 06, 2011:
Silva Hayes - I'm glad you liked the article. Hopefully you'll be able to use it as a staple recipe from now on. I appreciate your feedback.
Livelonger - Thank you for your always positive feedback. You're absolutely right about the steam. Although I'm unsure of the exact processes taking place, I do know that the steam keeps the inside of the bread moist and the outside golden brown. The crust should be hard, but also chewy as you mentioned. Without the steam, your loaves will most likely be like rocks.
You're also right about cold fermentation. I can't begin to tell you how much better the bread tastes if you have the time to cold ferment. I've done many loaves with sugar and higher temps, but they never reach the quality of flavor achieved with CF.
Jason Menayan from San Francisco on December 05, 2011:
Love the pictures, and love french bread. I've read a bit about cold fermentation yielding a more flavorful loaf than accelerating it with higher temperatures and added sugar. The steam is required to get a chewy, golden crust, right?
Silva Hayes from Spicewood, Texas on December 03, 2011:
This recipe sounds wonderful and I will be making this bread this week! Thanks. Voted Up, useful, and interesting.