Although I make homemade bread often, I very rarely make white bread of any kind. I don’t see the point. If you’re going to take the time to make homemade bread, a somewhat time consuming event, why not make healthier wheat bread? Also, honestly, I think white bread tastes kind of blah and so does my son (we were both raised on whole wheat).
Why make french bread
The above said, I’ve still been a bit enthralled with the idea of making sourdough bread, because white or not, you’ve got to admit a perfect loaf of sourdough is an amazing thing – also, who says I can’t try to make a wheat loaf.
However, the entire sourdough starter issue has me a little reluctant to try so I figured I’d start with an easier white bread – french. One day this month, when I knew we were going to have pasta for dinner, I whipped up a french bread loaf and it turned out pretty good.
Pick a day when you have some spare time to try this easy as pie homemade french bread recipe.
Ingredients for one loaf of organic french bread
- 1 package of yeast – if you use bulk yeast, like me, you’ll need 2 and 1/4 teaspoons of yeast.
- 1/2 plus 1/4 teaspoon salt.
- 1 cup warm water – by warm I mean about the temp of a nice and warm baby bottle – not hot but not chilly at all. I usually just microwave a cup of water for one minute and that works.
- About 3 cups of organic white flour.
- A little organic cornmeal or semolina for the bottom of the bread pan. Note – organic semolina can be tough to find, but some places do carry it. If you’re not using it for pasta, and you’re only using a little, you may want to go with conventional from a decent company, like Bob’s Red Mill.
- 1 slightly beaten organic egg white mixed with 1 tablespoon water – for the top of the bread. Put this in the fridge until you need it.
Make your organic french bread dough
- In a large bowl mix 1 cup of flour with the yeast and salt.
- Add the warm water to the flour mix and stir well for about 3 minutes with an electric mixer or 5 minute by hand.
- Grab a hefty wooden spoon and mix in as much of the remaining flour as you can. I had a little flour left at the point where I couldn’t mix.
- Turn your dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead in the rest of the flour by hand. Keep kneading for about 8 to 10 minutes or until your dough is stiff, but smooth and elastic too.
The rising process
- Oil a bowl with a bit of organic olive oil. Form your dough into a ball and place it in the bowl, turning it over to coat all sides with the oil.
- Cover your bowl with a cloth and let it sit in a non-drafty area for about an hour or until it’s doubled in size.
- When it’s done rising, punch the dough down. Let it sit and rest for 10 minutes.
- Place chlorine-free parchment baking paper onto a baking pan and lightly sprinkle with cornmeal or semolina. No parchment? Just lightly oil your pan before sprinkling on the cornmeal or semolina. My pans are hyper old, so I always use parchment.
Making the french bread loaf shape
- Roll your dough into a 15 x 10 inch rectangle. I have a EcoSmart 12 by 16 inch cutting board that works perfectly for this, because I just roll the dough a little smaller than the board.
- Starting on the long side of your dough, roll it up jelly roll style tightly. You’ll have a nice long loaf now.
- Be sure to seal the seam well – using a bit of water to seal. Then pull the ends of the bread a bit to create a tapered look, making sure to seal the ends too.
- Place the loaf, seam-side down on your baking pan.
- Grab your egg white and water mixture and lightly brush some onto the top and sides of the loaf. Place the egg mix back in the fridge.
- Cover the loaf and let it rise in a non-drafty area for 45 minutes to an hour – until doubled in size.
- Grab a super sharp bread knife and slice little diagonal cuts into the top of your bread.
Baking & cooling your bread
- Bake your bread in a 375 degrees oven for 20 minutes.
- Take your loaf out of the oven. Brush the top a second time with the egg mixture and place it back in the oven for about 15 more minutes. My oven runs super hot. No matter what I do it usually burns the bottom of baked goods unless I take precautions, so during this second baking stint, I placed a baking pan under the pan on a lower rack.
- Your bread is done if you tap it with a wooden spoon and it makes a hollow sound. Once it hits this stage, it’s done. Take the bread out of the oven and cool it on a rack.
If you like crispier baguettes…
- After the punching step, divide your dough into two portions and let it rest 10 minutes.
- Do everything else exactly the same, but roll each portion of dough into a 15 by 5 inch rectangle before rolling and sealing.
- During the baking process, nothing changes except baking time. Thinner baguettes bake faster so reduce your second baking time to 10 minutes.
- This will give you longer, crunchier baguettes vs. a loaf.
Other french bread tips
- Really, you can shape this dough anyway you like. Make little french bread rolls, make a big round loaf, make small bread bowls for homemade soup or even make bread sticks. Just remember, the smaller the bread shape you make, the less baking time you need.
- You can brush the top of the bread with melted butter and sprinkle on garlic and Parmesan if you like – or other herbs. We cut ours into slices and put butter and garlic on then broiled for a minute.
- We used the leftovers to make little PB&J sandwiches for lunches.
- You do need to plan on using this up quickly. I put ours in the fridge, because I hate leaving bread out to mold, but I should have because either way, this bread seems to get stale quickly. I’d plan on no more bread than you can eat in three days. Two if you’re looking for optimal flavor.
- The taste of this bread was very “french” and the making part was a snap, but I think I’d like it better with some wheat flour mixed in. Next time I’ll be subbing in a cup of wheat and maybe sprinkling some flax seed on top.
Hopefully I’ll be brave enough to give sourdough a whirl sometime soon.
All images ©Jennifer Chait