There’s nothing like the aroma of freshly baked bread, and with this recipe, your home will smell amazing in no time. Whether you’re pairing this bread with a delicious homemade soup or one of these salad suppers, French bread is the perfect complement to any meal—and it makes a great snack any time of day!
How to Get a Crispy Crust
One of the best parts of French bread is the crispy crust on the outside and the soft, fluffy insides. A trick to help you achieve this bakery-style loaf happens to be right in your freezer. When you put the bread into the oven, toss 3-4 ice cubes in the bottom of the oven and close the door quickly. The resulting steam will help ensure the crust is nice and crispy.
How to Make the Cuts
An iconic part of a French loaf is the scores on the top, which you make right before you bake. Not only do the cuts look nice, but they also help control how the bread expands. The best tool for the job is a baker’s lame, which will help you make artisan cuts. If you don’t have a lame, you could fashion one out of a stirring stick and double edge razor blade, or use a sharp, thin knife. Be sure the knife is very thin, otherwise it could deflate the bread.
How to Make French Bread
- 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
- 2 cups warm water (110° to 115°)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 4-1/2 to 5 cups bread flour
- 1 teaspoon cornmeal
Step 1: Make the dough
In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in warm water. Add salt, sugar and 2 cups of flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough.
Step 2: Knead the dough
Turn the dough onto a floured surface. Knead it until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place the dough in a greased bowl, turning once to grease the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about an hour. Here’s how to tell if your bread has risen enough.
Step 3: Form the loaves
Uncover the dough and punch it down. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide it in half. Shape into 12-in.-long loaves.
Step 4: Let it rise
Place the dough seam side down on a greased baking sheet. Cover and let it rise until doubled, about 30 minutes.
Step 5: Prep the loaves
Preheat the oven to 450°. Sprinkle the loaves with cornmeal, which helps prevent the bread from sticking to the pan and provides a little texture to the finished product. With a sharp knife or baker’s lame, make four shallow slashes across the top of each loaf.
Step 6: Bake the bread
Bake 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Brush the loaves with melted butter if you’d like.
To store the bread, wrap loosely and keep at room temperature for 2-3 days. If the crust is getting tough, warm it up in the oven for a few minutes to freshen it.