French bread is just so incredible in all of its simplicity. With just four ingredients, it’s a breeze to throw together, and a pleasure to eat.
Despite its simplicity, I’ve tried this recipe in a number of different ways, mostly toying with the types of flour used. I would absolutely LOVE to make all of my bread with King Arthur Bread Flour, but that unfortunately gets pretty expensive (although a 25 lb bag does only cost $25… that $1 per each 1.5 lb loaf I make…). Either way, I’ve been buying the cheap all-purpose flour from Costco, which is probably a bad life decision. It comes bleached and enriched, neither of which is desirable. It also has a fairly low protein percentage, which doesn’t make for the best bread.
So, I’ve made this bread with 100% Ap flour from Costco, and the results were less than outstanding. It did not hold its shape while rising and just spread out to the sides. The crumb was a bit more dry, not nearly as creamy, and altogether kind of blah. Even adding some Vital Wheat Gluten didn’t help much. I next tried a half-and-half mixture with 50% Costco AP and 50% KAF Bread, and the results were much better, although not perfect. So, I broke down and used a precious pound of my KAF bread flour and, my gosh, I was blown away. The bread had a beautiful yellow hue, rose to perfection in the oven, had in incredible crust, and 100% made my day.
AJ & I agreed – it was the best french bread to ever come out of my oven. And now it is all he requests. So much for saving my special flour…
This bread is so versatile. You can throw things like spices and herbs into the dough to transform it into a savory loaf, perfect with some roasted potatoes. Or you can top the plain bread with some olive oil and garlic for the best garlic bread you’ve ever had (that Albertson’s stuff? You’d never buy it again!). Or go traditional, and make yourself a PB&J. Pretty soon you’ll be in heaven.
Prep Time: 3.5 hours
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Keywords: bake bread vegan sugar-free
Ingredients (1.5 lb loaf)
- 15 oz bread flour (I used KAF)
- 9 3/4 oz warm water
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp yeast
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and stir to make a shaggy dough. Turn out onto a counter and knead for10 minutes, until a nice smooth dough forms. It should pass the windowpane test. Alternatively, knead in a mixer on speed 2 for 7-8 minutes.
Let rise in an oiled bowl for 60-90 minutes, until doubled in size.
Turn the dough out onto the counter again. Oil or wet your hands to keep them from sticking. Form the dough into a ball by pulling the sides down under to the bottom of the dough. Place the seam side down and let rest 5 minutes.
Shape the ball into a torpedo shape (aka a batard) by gently pushing two of the sides inward and under. It should gradually get longer. Set the dough on a piece of parchment to rise.
Lightly spray the dough with spray oil and cover with plastic wrap. Let proof for another 60 minutes, until very puffy and about doubled in size.
While the dough is proofing, preheat the oven to 425F. Place a steam pan in the oven to warm up as well. Let the oven heat for at least 20 minutes!
When you are ready to bake, score (slash) the dough with a sharp knife and QUICK movements. The slower you go, the more it will tear.
Slide the dough into the oven, pour 2 cups of water into the steam pan (carefully!), and shut the door. Bake about 30 minutes, until it is a deep golden brown and registers 205F on an instant thermometer.
Let cool 2 hours, and enjoy!