Four ingredients and no experience required for most amazing and beautiful bread you’ve ever made. You’ll be delighted by how truly easy it is to make this heavenly chewy, crispy crust, no-knead French bread.
Watch how easy it is to make these baguettes from my French Bread Dough!
Ok, let’s get down to business because the sooner you read this the sooner you can be making this bread! First, there are three things you need to know to make the best French Bread. (Printable Recipe is below!)
The three things you must know to make the best bread
- High quality flour is so worth it
- A long slow, rise is the magic ingredient
- High heat baking is they key
Good ingredients are your best friend!
If there is ever a time to splurge on a great flour, and french loaf is the time! There are only four ingredients in this bread, no extra flavors to hide behind!
For these loaves I used Bob’s Red Mill Artisan Bread Flour. It has a higher gluten content than all purpose flour, and it’s my current favorite flour for french breads. Any bread flour will work, too.
If you only have access to all purpose flour, you can still make a tasty bread with this recipe, so don’t let that stop you. BUT, the sooner you can get your hands on the some good quality bread flour, do it!
3 cups bread flour
1 ⅝ cups water
¼ tsp. dry active yeast
½ tsp. salt
I recommend working from a real life paper recipe, it’s much more enjoyable than trying to scroll and mix at the same time. I can send you this cute little printable I made, just pop in your email address and it will automatically go right to your inbox for printing!
To mix your dough…
Mixing your dough is easy as can be. Just combine all the ingredients in a big mixing bowl and roughly mix together with a wooden spoon. Then cover it and let is sit overnight. It takes three minutes, AND done!
Slow rise overnight (12-18 hours)
Yep! I make this bread dough in the evening, and bake it the following afternoon. This recipe only has 1/4 teaspoon of yeast, and it needs time to do it’s work! The yeast will slowly but surely turn your plain old dough into a bubbly, goopy, glorious mass for french bread magic.
If you need same day french bread, it’s possible. Bob’s Red Mill has a recipe for no-knead bread that is very similar to mine, although it has twice as much yeast and half as long of a rise time. You would be able to make the dough first thing in the morning, let it rise all day, then bake and serve it warm for dinner. Not bad!
Of course, the longer the rise, the better the texture and flavor, but you should try it both ways and compare your results.
Form your loaves
- If you are making baguettes (long skinny loaves) divide your dough into two pieces. For a larger classic French loaf, leave the dough in one piece.
- Gently stretch your dough to the right length. Don’t press, roll or knead it! Save those bubbles!
- Bring the edges of the dough up and pinch them on the top of the dough lengthwise. If you are making a round loaf, just form the dough into a circle and pinch up all the sides in the middle.
- I usually do two rounds of pinching until the loaves are mostly uniform. (See video tutorial to watch how I do it!)
- Transfer to a lined baking sheet and flip the loaves over so the smooth side is up!
- “Tuck in” the edges so that the loaves are nicely rounded and tight on top. (Again, watch the video for a demonstration of my technique)
Time for baking
I have a regular old ugly, not special, not-convection oven, and I crank that baby up to 550℉ for baguettes, and 500℉ for bigger loaves. That blast of heat is just what your dough needs to form it’s wonderful crust, and lock in all those yeast bubbles.
Your dough should rest and relaxt for 20-30 minutes while your oven preheats. I always slash the top of my dough BEFORE I let it rest. Again, there’s some debate on what’s best so try it both ways and decide for yourself. I use a serrated knife. (Demo in video.)
I also throw a few ice cubes in the bottom of the oven right before I pop the bread pan in. In the bread world, there is some controversy about if one should use water or ice or nothing, or what method is most authentic and all that. Honestly, I throw in ice because it’s easy and safe, and I can do it quickly and not let my oven cool down.
The ice will melt and create a steam in the closed oven, which will keep the crust of your bread from baking to quickly. This will give your loaves a little extra time to expand before the crust gets crispy. It really make a difference in how your loaves pop up!
The size of your loaf will determine your bake time. These little loaves were in for exactly 22 minutes. Try not to open the oven and lose that precious heat, and never pull them out to soon. I’d rather have my loaves be on the cusp of burning than be underdone in the middle. EEK!
The crust, a symphony of crackle! The inside, chewy bubble goodness. The flavor..rustic heaven.
I make many different kinds of bread that I love, but there is a pleasure unequaled in my bread baking experience, and that is the sound and feeling of tearing apart a perfect French loaf. It’s either that, or when my children pretend to faint because they love this bread so much.