Erika Wassall, the Jersey Farm Scribe here with an easy French bread recipe you are sure to love. If you’ve never made bread before, it is OK. Just pick up a packet of yeast at the store and give this a try! French bread is great with ANY dinner, and especially perfect for sopping up soups or sauces. With no mixer or fancy equipment involve, this is a stress-free, easy French bread recipe that anyone can make with an impressive outcome, to say the least.
The Best French Bread Only Needs 5 Ingredients!
I’ll describe each step of this easy French bread recipe in detail and then include a summary at the end for those who work best with quick notes.
French Bread Ingredients:
- Yeast (Active Dry – one packet or 1 TBS)
- 1 cup warm water
- teaspoon sugar
- teaspoon salt
- 2 ¾ cup flour
- 1 egg white (optional)
That’s IT! I do EVERYTHING in one bowl so there isn’t even much clean up. I’m telling you… E-A-S-Y.
Get out a big bowl (glass is best) and let’s go!
How To Make French Bread Easy!
Step one: Sugar/yeast/water
Put the sugar and the yeast in the bowl.
Let hot water run until it’s warm to the touch. Measure 1 cup of warm water and pour it over the yeast and sugar. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes.
This is called proofing the yeast. It’s basically making sure the yeast is still alive. It foams up and will go from looking like this:
Step two: The sponge
Add in the salt and 1 ¾ cup of flour. Mix well.
Then let this sit for about 15 minutes. Honestly, if you’re in a rush, you can skip this waiting stage all together. BUT this waiting is what’s known as allowing the sponge to set. It makes for a more developed flavor.
Step three: Last cup of flour and knead
Fold in the last cup of flour, when it’s not reasonable anymore to use a spoon, stick your hands in there and knead. Kneading is nothing fancy, just squish and fold and squeeze the dough around.
I knead right in the bowl. I never saw any need to get the counter full of dough bits.
And yes, I always knead by hand. I find it easier, faster and more satisfying than using a stand mixer.
I usually knead for 7-9 minutes. And I won’t lie, these 7-9 min, will feel like 7-9 months. It’ll be worth it though. Honest. (Plus it will be a free, quick workout!)
Step four: Poke test!
You know it’s kneaded enough when you can poke the dough and it springs back. You’ll still be able to see where your finger was, but the dough should slowly spring back after a gentle poke like this:
Step five: Let rise
Put a bit of flour on the counter to set the dough on (just so it doesn’t stick). Clean out the bowl. Drizzle olive oil in there and wipe it around so the ENTIRE inside of the bowl is coated in oil.
Flip the dough ball around in the bowl so also gets coated in oil (this is so it won’t dry out).
Cover it. (NOT with a dishtowel. With something it won’t stick to, like plastic wrap.)
Place it somewhere warm to rise. (like the oven, turned off, but with the light on)
In 90 minutes it will double in size.
Step six: Prep & second rise:
Spray cookie sheet or pizza stone VERY WELL with oil (sometimes instead of spray, I just pour some on straight from the jar and spread it around with my fingers).
Push the dough back down, releasing the air it collected while rising.
Shape it into a loaf by folding it or squeezing it into a log shape and place it on the pan.
Quick note: The bread does not care what shape it is. Don’t stress the shape.
Some people score the top of French bread. It looks neat but I sometimes forget and the bread certainly doesn’t suffer. Scoring will make for an extra crunchy crust, and it give a bit more room to expand as it cooks so go for it if you feel so inclined.
Brushing the top of bread before you bake it is called a “wash”. For the crispy delightful crunch associated with French bread, mix an egg white with one tablespoon of water. (Mix it in the bowl you made the bread in. No need for extras dishes!) Then paint the top of the bread with this wash.
If you don’t have an egg, just use water. It’ll still be amazing.
Let the now formed bread, ready to be popped in the oven, sit for 30 minutes on the counter.
Preheat the oven to 350.
Step 7: Bake
The dough will have risen again (although not as dramatically).
Pop it in the oven.
Set timer for 25 min.
Step 8: Take it out and WAIT!!! (this is the worst step. It’s SO hard to be patient!!)
Bread is like a good steak. You need to let it sit, covered, for at least 20 minutes after it’s out of the oven.
Step 9: Slice and delight yourself with the amazing bread you just made.
It makes you feel like a cave-man style magician, doesn’t it? I take powders and water. I mix. I make bread. 🙂
Below is the quick reference-sheet version with ingredient list and VERY quick, bullet pointed instructions for those of you who work better that way.
Printable Easy French Bread Recipe
Check me out on Twitter at @NJFarmScribe and let me know if you try this easy French bread recipe, or what your favorite fresh bread is to bake!