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French Bread

Posted by Denise on July 12, 2011

fresh French bread

    Fresh out of the oven, this loaf of French Bread did not last very long!


The smell of freshly baked bread wafting through our house (or anywhere else for that matter!) is one of my favorite scents. Unfortunately, it happens all too infrequently lately. I have a habit of convincing myself that I don’t have time to make homemade bread, but then when I do make bread I am always happily reminded that it really isn’t very much work after all. And the results are so worth it. So let’s get to today’s recipe.

This French bread is very easy to make, but it bakes into two incredibly good loaves of crusty bread with a soft, tender interior perfect for spreading a creamy layer of butter or sopping up that last bit of spaghetti sauce from your plate. And boy, do they taste great. So good that Glenn, who is the king of saying “no” to carbs, had three thick slices last night. And said that it was totally worth it!

I mixed the ingredients together in my stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. After mixing the ingredients well, I took the dough out and tested it for stickiness. It was slightly sticky, so I added flour to it as I kneaded the dough on a lightly floured surface for just a couple of minutes. After popping it into a lightly greased bowl and covering it with a clean cloth to keep the dough from drying out, we placed it in a draft-free part of the kitchen counter and left the house to run errands. As it normally happens, the errands took longer than we thought they would. When we got home I checked out the dough and it was perfectly fine. I punched it down (gently because it had behaved itself while we were gone J ) divided it into two pieces and stretched each piece to fit into a French bread baker sprinkled with a little cornmeal to keep the bread from sticking.  I could have just as easily formed the dough into loaves on a baking sheet such as a cookie sheet, sprinkled with cornmeal.

Make sure you brush the raw loaves with the egg white and water mixture once before you bake the loaves, then again twenty minutes into baking since this helps give the loaves the lovely golden brown crust. Just don’t make the same mistake my Mom made on her first attempt. Mom is allowing me to share this story for the enjoyment of everyone and as a lesson for novice bread bakers.

When Mom and Dad were first married, Mom decided to surprise Dad with a beautiful loaf of homemade bread with their supper. The recipe, similar to this one, called for basting the loaf with a wash of water or milk to give it a pretty crust and texture. Mom lovingly gave it a baste as she put it into the oven, and another one as the recipe directed. Thinking that if a little is good, a little more would be better, Mom continued to baste the loaf until it was a gorgeous golden brown.

When Dad got home from work that night, a delicious supper complete with the golden bread was waiting for him. After dishing out the main meal, Dad grabbed the knife to cut the pretty loaf into slices…and the knife didn’t put a dent into it. Not discouraged at all, they pulled out a sharp, serious knife and tried it again. Nothing. Nothing was putting a dent into this loaf of bread. After dinner, Dad took a hack saw to the beautiful loaf of bread and finally was able to cut a slice off. Inside, the crust was so thick that only a small area the size of a quarter in the center was soft bread. So, please, follow the instructions and only baste the bread as directed and you’ll be fine!

Many thanks to Mom for sharing her experience so others can avoid embarrassment and disappointment!




French Bread

Makes 2 loaves



french bread ingredients 

Ingredients for making French Bread 




Note: To make the French bread look fancier, the dough can be braided together to form a fancier presentation.



½          Cup warm water, approximately 105-112 degrees Fahrenheit

1             Tablespoon white sugar

1             Packet dry yeast (can be rapid rise or other instant yeast)

5-6        Cups white all purpose flour

1             Tablespoon shortening

1             Tablespoon salt

2             Cups warm water

1             Egg white mixed into about ¼ cup of water





1.   Spray Pam cooking spray or otherwise grease a bowl large enough to contain the dough when it doubles in size.


2.   Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Dissolve yeast and sugar in the ½ cup warm water.


  french bread yeast

  This is what yeast looks like when you turn your back for a few minutes....


3.   Mix the yeast mixture with all of the rest of the ingredients. The dough should be quite stiff. If it is still sticky, add some more flour a little at a time and knead the flour into the dough until it is not sticky. Shape into a single ball.


  kneading french bread



4.   Place the dough into the greased bowl and turn over to get grease on both sides of dough ball. Cover with a clean towel or cloth and put the bowl in a draft-free location. I like to put it in the oven (do not turn the oven on). Let the dough rise until it is doubled in size. This can take 30 to 60 minutes. Do not worry if it is a little longer, it will be fine.


  before dough rises

                                                         Before dough rises



                     dough has doubled

  After dough has doubled



5.   Take the bowl with the dough out of the oven. Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Punch the dough down by pushing your fist into the middle of the dough. Divide into two equal sections.


  punching dough down



6.   Shape each dough section into a French bread loaf shape, long and slightly tapered on each end. Lightly dust pan with cornmeal and place the loaves on the pan. Cover with a towel again and allow to rise again, approximately 20-30 minutes or more depending on temperature in kitchen.  When dough has risen again, lightly slash 3 diagonal slashed across each loaf.


prepping French bread baker

  Prepping French bread baker with cornmeal



shaping french bread in baker

                                Shape dough into loafs in baker or on cookie sheet



french bread has doubled in bread baker

  French Bread has doubled in baker



french bread in baker with slashed tops

Slashing tops of French Bread loaves. Yes, they deflate slightly, but they bounce right back when baked.



7.   Brush top and sides of loaves with egg white and water mixture. Put loaves into oven and bake for 20 minutes. Carefully brush the egg white and water mixture over loaves again and put back into the oven for another 20 minutes. If the loaves appear to be browning unevenly, rotate the pan to allow it to bake more evenly. Loaves are done when nicely browned and they sound hollow when rapped with a spoon or your knuckles (don’t burn yourself!). 


baked french bread

                                See, the bread bounced back from slashing the tops



8.   Let cool for a few minutes, then cut on diagonals using a serrated bread knife.


 cut french bread


cut french bread 




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