My New Year’s Resolution in 2015 was to overcome my fear of yeast. I love to bake, but had avoided this one-celled nemesis my entire life. This basic recipe for French Bread was so simple to make, it quickly became one of my favorites, and even led me to experiment with sweet rolls from scratch, Easter breads, and pizza dough. I’ll get to those treats on another day, but for now, let me share the recipe that started it all: French Bread.
1 heaping Tbs. active dry yeast (or 2 packets)
(Tip: Do not get the kind for bread makers.)
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups hot water
(Tip: 110-120 degrees Fahrenheit unless your packets say otherwise. I use a cooking thermometer to get it right. Too hot and the yeast will be burned alive. Too cold and they will refuse to do their work.)
5 1/2 – 6 cups flour
(Tip: I prefer King Arthur unbleached bread flour, but you can use whatever you like.)
2 tsp. salt
Mix yeast, sugar, and hot water in your electric stand mixer bowl. Let sit for at least 5 minutes, until bubbly. Add 2 cups of flour and 2 tsp. salt. Using the dough hook, mix until well blended. Slowly add 3 and 1/2 cups – 4 cups flour until good dough consistency. (Not too sticky.) Knead for 3-4 minutes on low setting of mixer.
Add a little oil to a clean bowl and rub it around with your hands. Transfer dough into the oiled bowl and roll it over to cover with oil.
Cover bowl with a clean dish towel and leave in a warm place until doubled in size. This is typically an hour.
Punch it down.
Split the dough into two equal halves.
Place one half on a floured surface and roll out into a rectangle.
Roll from wider side to form a loaf. Lay on ungreased baking sheet, seam side down. Tuck ends underneath. Repeat with second half of dough.
Using a sharp knife, make 3-4 diagonal slits across top of each loaf. Cover with the towel and leave in warm spot for another 30 minutes. Start preheating your oven to 350.
Bake at 350 degrees for 25-35 minutes or until golden brown on top. Remove from oven. At this point you could butter the tops and sides if you prefer a softer crust. Cool completely before wrapping and storing. Best to eat while warm. Keeps for a day or two if you refrigerate.
If you have a home baked bread recipe you love, please share it in the comments below!