Freshly Baked French Bread

Last night I was craving freshly baked French bread! The great thing about French bread is it’s versatility in the kitchen. I can have it with pasta or slice it thinly and toast it for bruschetta. It’s the perfect bread for banh mi sandwiches and when cubed and drizzled with olive oil, it makes tasty croutons for Caesar salad.

For my French bread, I use a typical bread recipe…flour, yeast, sugar, salt and water. I halved the recipe since I don’t really need two huge loaves of French bread around here. I prefer to make a couple of foot long baguettes instead of one huge loaf. This provides more crust which I prefer. Here’s what half of the recipe looks like, ready to go into the oven:

French bread baguettes ready for the oven

French bread baguettes ready for the oven

And 40 minutes later, hot out of the oven:

Baguettes hot out of the oven

Baguettes hot out of the oven

Enjoy! Til’ next time…


French Bread

5 cups all-purpose flour

2 packages (.25 ounce)  active dry yeast

2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. sugar

2 cups warm water (100-110 degrees F)

yellow cornmeal

1 egg white

1 Tbsp. water

In a small bowl, combine sugar and 1 cup of the warm water. Stir to dissolve sugar and add yeast. Allow yeast mixture to “proof” until bubbly. In a large bowl, mix 2 cups flour and the salt. Stir in 1 cup of the warm water and water/yeast mixture. Mix with a using spoon until well blended.  Continue to add the remaining flour, 1 1/2 cup at a time until the dough begins to pull away from the side of the bowl.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead in enough flour to make a stiff dough that is smooth and elastic. Knead for about 8 to 10 minutes as this allows the gluten to develop. Shape into a ball and place bowl oil with olive oil. Turn over to coat the other side, cover well with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size.

Once risen, punch the dough down, and divide in half. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  Cover with the plastic wrap and let rest for 10 minutes. Roll each half into large rectangle. Starting from the long side, roll each rectangle into a long loaf. Moisten the edge with water and seal and taper the ends and tuck under the loaf.

Oil a large baking sheet. Sprinkle with a little cornmeal and shake the pan to distribute evenly. Place the loaves, seam side down, on the prepared baking sheet. Using a sharp knife, make 4 or 5 diagonal cuts about a quarter-inch deep down the length of each loaf. Lightly beat the egg white with 1 tablespoon of water and brush onto the loaves. Cover with a damp cloth and allow to rise again until nearly doubled in size.

Bake in a preheated 375 degrees F oven for 20 minutes. Brush again with egg white mixture. Bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes or until done. The bread is done if it sounds hollow when you thump it or when the internal temperature reaches 195-200 degrees F. Cool on a wire rack.


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