We are bread people. It could be said that we are carb people, but there's something special about a fresh, hot loaf of bread. Especially a French loaf begging to be dipped in oil or slathered in butter.
For a number of years,our French or dinner bread fix came courtesy of our grocery store’s bakery. My fiancé had made loaves of bread in the past that tasted wonderful, but with both of us working full time, not planning our meals well and me having no interest in baking bread, it did not happen often. Truthfully, the thought of making bread from scratch scared me as I thought it was "too hard". Once we got smart and started really looking at what we ate and how we cooked, I decided that “too hard” was not a good enough reason to not try my hand at bread.
I researched online and flipped through cookbooks until I came upon the Betty Crocker website and found their take on French Bread. It did not look as intimidating as many of the bread recipes out there and I had all the ingredients on hand so I gave it a go. And boy am I glad I did! Not much in this world can beat a fresh, hot loaf of bread straight from the oven, especially one as tasty as this.
If the taste does not make you jump on board, the fact that it makes two loaves that freeze perfectly just might. This has given us home baked bread on many a busy day when fresh baked bread would otherwise be a dream!
I like to think of this recipe as a introductory bread. It gives you a good taste of the time involoved in bread making but is not so overwhelming and difficult that you give up before you begin. It is also a pretty forgiving recipe so even if the bread does not fold or shape perfectly, it will still taste amazing. So clear your calendar and give this bread a go. I promise you will not be sorry.
Basic French Bread
Makes 2 loaves | Prep Time: 20 mins | Rise Time: 3 hours in total | Cook Time: 25-30 mins
- 2 1/2-3 cups all purpose flour
- 1 packet or 2 1/4 teaspoon regular or quick active yeast
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 cup warm water (120-130 degrees F)
- Vegetable shorting
- Generously grease the inside of a medium sized mixing bowl with vegetable shortening
- Add 1 cup of flour, sugar, salt and yeast to a medium mixing bowl or bowl in stand mixer
- Heat water in a kettle on the stove or warm in the microwave until it is about 120 degrees. You can test with with a candy or meat thermometer or if you do not have one, I have found it is warm enough if you can touch it for a second but not much longer
- Slowly add the water and vegetable oil to the flour mixture and mix well to combine
- In 1-2 minute intervals, stop mixing and add an additional 1/2 cup flour and mix until dough has absorbed the flour, scraping the sides before adding any additional flour
- You have added enough flour when if you touch it, it is soft to the touch and not overly sticky and does not stick to the sides of the bowl or spoon
- Lightly flour a work surface or add a bit of flour to the top of the dough in the mixing bowl (to avoid messes I knead my dough in the mixing bowl it is in but please knead as you are comfortable) and knead dough for 3-5 minutes until the dough feels soft and springy to the touch. Feel free to add a tablespoon of flour at a time if the dough is sticking to you or your work surface
- Once the dough is soft and springy to the touch, gently roll into a ball and place in the greased bowl. Cover with a towel and allow to rise in a warm place for 2 hours or until doubled in size.
- About 10 minutes before the dough has completed it’s rise, take a cookie or baking sheet and generously grease the sheet with additional shortening
- Once dough has risen, punch a hole in the center to deflate and split the dough into two even halves.
- Using a lightly floured work surface gently roll or shape the dough into a 8-10 inch long rectangle, making sure to gently pull the sides as well to get an even shape.
- Roll the dough up from one end to another like you would roll a rug and place on the baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough
- Take a knife and slice 3 slashes crosswise on each loaf about 1/4 inch deep and gently brush or drip cold water on them, ensuring you dampen the whole length of each loaf
- Cover and let the loaves rise for one hour in a warm place
- While the dough is rising, fill a small oven safe dish half full of water and place in the oven on the bottom rack
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F
- Remove the cover from bread and gently brush or rub additional cold water on each loaf and place the loaves on the top rack of oven directly over the dish of water and bake for 25-30 minutes or until bread is golden and has a pleasant hollow sound when tapped.
- Remove from sheet and cool on a wire rack.
- Once cool enough to touch without burning yourself but still nice and toasty, slice and enjoy with a nice olive oil dip,to sop up delicious sauces and soups or with a nice smear of butter!
- Making this bread is a bit of a time commitment so try to do it on a day that you are planning on being around the house for a few hours. It’s not all active time, but the dough has to rise for a few hours and will need your attention pretty quickly after it has risen!