French Bread: Crusty and Delicious!

Kate Donahue | Food Babbles

A simple bread with humble beginnings, containing only 4 ingredients. This crusty French bread is a broad canvas to be enjoyed all by itself with nothing more than a swipe of creamy butter or sliced, toasted and topped with vibrant bruschetta.

Crusty French Bread Picture

Bread is a big part of my life, not only making it, but eating it as well. I'm talking serious carb-o-holic here! Oh, and I'm not picky either. I'm an equal opportunist when it comes to all types of breads. You're likely to find it making an appearance at nearly all our meals in some form.

Sometimes it's something herbed, seeded and filled with any number of interesting tidbits. Other times our bread is something more simple and classic, like French bread.

French bread is simple, right from its humble beginnings in flour, yeast, salt and water. French bread needs nothing more to become the perfect traditional loaf we all know.

French Bread Photo

This crusty loaf is the epitome of a clean slate - a broad canvas to be enjoyed all by itself, with nothing more than a swipe of creamy butter or toasted with a smear of jam.

Or it can be sliced and covered with melted cheeses, garlic and parsley, or topped with a vibrant bruschetta. French bread is a loaf full of possibilities.

My favorite part of almost any loaf of bread is the crust, and French bread is no exception. But there are a few things that help that crust become a thing of perfection.

The first step to achieving thin, crunchy, beautiful crust on these baguettes is to rise them on a flour-impregnated canvas, called a couche. You won't wash your couche, but simply brush it off after each use, over time creating a surface permeated by flour and yeast. This is what helps to form a perfect crust, time after time. If you don't have a couche, you can certainly use a floured linen towel with similar results.

The second element to get that nice crispy exterior is steam. You can easily create this key element a few different ways. After you put your loaves in the oven you can quickly mist your bread and inside of your oven with water. This will create a bit of steam for your loaves to bake in.

However, I find it to be more effective to have a broiling pan set on the lower rack of the oven. Once you place your loaves into the oven, mist your loaves with the misting bottle, and then quickly pour one cup of hot water into the broiling pan below. Steam will rise from the pan below, enveloping the loaves to create that perfect crust you're striving for.

The last element that will surely play a factor in the crust is your baking vessel. A baking stone is ideal for baking any kind of bread, but be sure to keep your steaming pan of water several inches away from your stone to prevent it from cracking. If you don't have a baking stone, a perforated French bread pan works wonderfully too. This pan will allow air and steam to freely circulate around your baguettes as they bake, and the curved sides help the bread keep its form while baking.

With these keys to success, you are only a few steps away from having fresh homemade French bread in your kitchen. And you’ll be well on your way to becoming a carboholic like yours truly.

Now, the only thing left is to figure out what you'll be having alongside your French bread for dinner tonight?

    16 Servings

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons salt

Directions

  1. Fit a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Add the yeast, 2 cups flour and salt to the bowl and whisk to thoroughly combine. Fit the bowl into the stand mixer and turn the mixer on low speed. Drizzle warm water (1.5 cups, 105-115°F) into the bowl of the stand mixer. Mix the ingredients until everything comes together and forms a shaggy dough.
  2. Switch from the paddle attachment to the dough hook. Starting on low and increasing to medium speed, add the remaining 1 1/2 cups of flour slowly. After the flour has been added, knead the dough on medium to medium-high speed for 5 minutes. The dough should be soft, smooth and slightly sticky.
  3. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes. Transfer the dough ball to a large bowl lightly sprayed with nonstick cooking spray, turning the dough once to lightly coat. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise at warm room temperature (70-75°F) until tripled in size, about 3 hours.
  4. Deflate the dough then allow it to rise, covered at warm room temperature again until nearly tripled in size once more, about 1 1/2 - 2 hours.
  5. Rub your rising surface with flour (couche or linen towel). Set aside.
  6. Split to dough ball into two equal pieces and let rest for 5 minutes. Shape both pieces of dough into long loaves, pinching to seal the seam and each end. Place the shaped loaves on your floured rising surface. Cover the loaves loosely with plastic wrap and allow them to rise one final time until tripled in size, 1 1/2 - 2 hours.
  7. Preheat oven to 450°F. If using a baking stone, place the stone in the oven while the oven is heating up. Also place an empty broiling pan in the lower third of the oven.
  8. Transfer the risen loaves onto a peel and slash the top of the loaves with a very sharp knife. Transfer the loaves to the heated baking stone or into a perforated baking pan. Mist the top of the loaves with water and place in the oven. Add 1 cup of hot water to the empty broiler pan and quickly close the oven door. Mist the loaves twice more, at 10 minute intervals.
  9. Bake the loaves for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Notes

2 1/4 teaspoons of Instant Yeast is equal to one package in most cases.


French bread photo

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Rating: 3.5 / 5.0 (13 Votes)
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Kate donahue

About Kate

Kate babbles about all things food on her own blog, Food Babbles, and about feeding her girls the best way. Here on Food Fanatic, she wows us with her commitment to homemade, fresh baking, week after week.

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Kelly bakes

I had no idea about the couche! Then again, my experience in bread baking is limited to the no-knead variety and a brief foray into sandwich loaves, which was only mildly successful. I would like to make time for bread baking. One of the reasons I haven't given the kneading variety a second chance is because, for a really long time, I was rushing through life and well, bread takes time. Maybe it's time to slow things down and bake some bread, eh?

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I don't see a measurement for the amount of water used. I would love to try this recipe. W LOVE home made French Bread. How much water did you add?

Emily caruso
jellytoastblog.com

Kate, this bread looks amazing! I have been doing a bit of bread baking, but haven't attempted a french loaf. I will need to try this. Beautiful!

Abakers house

What a lovely loaf of bread! I recently bought a baking stone and wondered if the perforated pans were better for a loaf like this? I'll have to try it out. Great recipe, Kate!

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