cook: soft and chewy french bread with garlic spread


the best homemade french bread recipe + step by step photo directions on how to make

A few years ago on Christmas Eve I had just tucked my kiddos into bed when my doorbell rang. When I opened the door my good friend Cathy was standing there with a warm loaf of french bread and a little packet of what turned out to be the most unbelievably delicious garlic herb spread. She said she thought my husband and I might need a little snack as we were finishing up our last minute Christmas wrapping. And did we ever! We sat upstairs ripping hunks off the bread and slathering it with the butter spread as we we finished all the last minute Christmas Eve tasks (do you not have any of these? You must be more organized than I am.) This was, by far, the best neighbor Christmas gift ever!

Months later I finally got the recipe from her and I’ve been making it repeatedly ever since. I don’t know if I’ll ever be organized enough to bake bread for my friends on Christmas Eve, but I love to give away one of these loaves every time I make it. Each batch makes 4 loaves and it’s super easy to double to make 8 loaves. One batch of the sinfully delicious garlic herb spread splits perfectly into 8 of these cute portion cups you can buy at the grocery store:

Which means with a little bit of work one afternoon, you can bake up 8 gorgeous loaves of bread and deliver them with garlic spread while they’re nice and warm to anyone you want to cheer up. Or anyone you’d really like a favor from :)

Enough rhapsodizing? On to the recipe? Alright, here you go. (I’ve written out the recipes first, then followed with some pictures and more detailed instructions.)

French Bread

1 1/2 T instant yeast

1/2 C very warm water

1 1/2 T sugar

2 C water

1 1/2 T oil

2 1/4 t salt

6 C flour

Combine the yeast, 1/2 C warm water, and sugar, and let proof for ten minutes. (I should admit I’ve skipped this step and thrown everything into the mixer at once, and it’s worked fine.) Then add remaining 2 C water, oil, salt, and 3 C of flour. Mix until flour is incorporated, then add remaining 3 C flour gradually. Knead about five minutes, then turn out onto generously floured surface. Every ten minutes for the next hour knead two or three times. Form into 4 loaves. Brush with beaten egg white. Slash 3 diagonal lines into tops. Raise until double or 30 minutes. Bake at 425 for 10 minutes, then at 375 for 20 minutes.

Boursen Cheese Spread (aka Garlic Herb Spread)

1/2 C butter

8 oz package cream cheese

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 t oregano

1/2 t basil

1/8 t each dill, marjoram, thyme, and pepper OR 1/2 t poultry seasoning

Let butter and cream cheese come to room temperature, then stir all to combine.

And here are my additional comments:

It can be hard to know just how much flour to add when you’re making bread. I use the scoop and level method to measure my flour, and 6 C always ends up being just right for me. Some bread recipes tell you to keep adding flour until the sides of your bowl come clean – don’t do that for this recipe! This bread is incredibly tender, which means the dough is going to be softer and stickier. You’ll see in the picture below that much of the dough is hanging onto my dough hook, but some is still stuck to the sides and bottom of the bowl.

You can tell you’ve added enough flour and you’ve kneaded the dough long enough when you can pinch off a small bit and easily roll it into a little ball in the palm of your hand. It will still be a little sticky to the touch, but not so sticky you can’t roll it into a ball.

Because it’s a soft dough, I find a rounded plastic scraper handy in pulling it out of the bowl…

…and onto a well floured surface. It doesn’t look finished kneading yet…

…but once you give it a quick roll in the flour you’ll be able to shape it into a nice ball.

Now comes the part that gives the crust a nice, characteristically french bread chewiness. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes, then come back and knead it two or three times. Just punch it down and fold it over a few times, then gather it back into a ball. Come back every ten minutes for an hour (so if you pulled the dough out of your mixer at 3:30, your last quick knead will be at 4:20 and the dough will be ready to shape at 4:30). It sounds like a lot of work, but if you’re going to be home anyway it only takes about 30 seconds to walk into the kitchen, knead three times, and walk back out. AND it’s not crucial that the kneading takes place at exact ten minute intervals, and it’s not crucial that you do it for exactly an hour. Just make sure you come back at least four times in the next hour to punch and fold it a few times.

When you’ve hit an hour, divide the dough into four even pieces. Push each piece into a rough rectangle shape, then roll it up and pinch it so it stays together. Place it pinched side down on a greased or lined cookie sheet. Then beat one egg white with a dash of water and brush the egg mixture over the loaf (or just use your hands to spread it over the loaf like I do if you don’t have a pastry brush). Get it all covered – anything not covered with the egg mixture will end up pale and sickly looking.

You’ll let it rise for about half an hour, (preheat the oven during this rise), then bake for 10 minutes at 425 degrees, then turn the oven down to 375 and bake for 20 more minutes. The picture above shows what the loaves look like when shaped, then after the 30 minute rise, then after baking time.

Your house is going to smell like heaven at this point.

Hopefully, while the bread was rising you also mixed up your garlic herb spread…

…so the devouring can begin immediately.

Note: If you decide to double the recipe, you can bake two sheets of loaves at once, but you may need to increase your bake time, and you’ll definitely want to switch which loaf is on the top rack at least once during baking time. Enjoy!

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Comments

  1. 2

    caprice says

    so if I rub an egg/water mixture all over my body will it keep my legs from looking white and sickly on my cruise? just wondering… I’m taking lasagna to a friend tomorrow and this will be perfect to go with, thanks!

  2. 3

    autumn says

    I think that if you bake your legs for half an hour after you rub them with the egg whites they probably won’t like pale and sickly anymore! lol. I’m so jealous about the cruise!

  3. 4

    Barbara says

    I’ve never made bread but this is a recipe I think I can start with. I clicked over from Pinterest because of a jumper refashion that I loved. Enjoyed your blog. I’ll be back to visit.

    • 7

      autumn says

      Hi Kara! I’ve made this recipe before with half and half wheat and white and it only slightly changes the texture – they are still soft, but not quite as heavenly :) I find it changes the taste more than the texture, but if you’re used to a whole wheat taste you might not even notice it. If you try it out come back and tell us what you think!

  4. 8

    Amy says

    Do you think you could skip the egg wash and brush with melted margerine instead? Or just skip it and maybe it wouldn’t look as pretty but still taste good? We have an egg/milk allergy and this is otherwise an allergy friendly recipe for us!

    • 9

      autumn says

      Yes, I’m sure you could skip the egg wash – they’ll just be lighter in color and perhaps a little softer on top, but I don’t think they’ll taste any different. I’ve also read that heavy cream works great as an egg wash substitute, you know if you happen to keep that on hand :)

  5. 10

    Tanya says

    Made this bread tonight and took over to friends for dinner while still hot, it was so delicious that 2 1/2 loves are gone already!!!!
    Thanks for the great recipe!

  6. 14

    Nativa says

    That was sooo good and easy! I didn’t have the ingredients on hand for the spread but I plan on purchasing them for next time! Thank you for sharing! my 3 year old nearly ate an entire loaf. If I can make it with whole wheat and it still tastes good I won’t be purchasing bread anymore! Maybe whole wheat pastry flour will do the trick.

    • 15

      autumn says

      Tell me if you try it with whole wheat flour – I’ve never tried that before and I’d love to know how it works. I’m glad you guys liked the bread so much – I can eat almost an entire loaf myself!

    • 17

      autumn says

      Yes, Lisa, you can make just about any bread recipe by hand. Just use a wooden spoon to mix the all the ingredients together, (but start with 3 C of flour as described in the recipe). Add in the remaining 3 cups of flour gradually – you might get to the point that you can’t keep stirring with the spoon before you’ve added it all it, which is just fine. Just dump it out onto a floured surface and knead by hand, continuing to gradually add in flour as needed. It takes longer to knead by hand than with a stand mixer, but you certainly can do it!

    • 19

      autumn says

      I’m sure you could use a bread machine to make the dough, but you’ll still want to let it rise on the counter so you can give it a few extra turns every 10 minutes for an hour. That’s what helps build the classic “french bread” structure (soft inside, crusty outside). Good luck!

  7. 20

    SoozeM says

    Mmm it looks really good! If I was feeling really lazy and wanted to cheat could I leave the dough in the stand mixer and just turn it on for a few seconds every 10 minutes instead of doing it by hand? Not much bench space + kids + dough = disaster ;)

    • 21

      autumn says

      I don’t see why you couldn’t! Give it a try and let us know how it works. And BTW my daughter will totally eat bread dough that I’ve left out to rise – gross!

  8. 22

    Nichole says

    Hi. So made this bread and my dough did not rise. I was wondering what could have caused it to not rise because I followed the instructions and my dough looked just like in the picture and yet, it still didn’t rise.. Although the dough didn’t rise, the bread still came out delicious! If you could please get back to me on what you think could have happened, that would be great! Thank you.

    • 23

      autumn says

      Hmmm – if it didn’t rise there must have been a problem with the yeast. I usually don’t “proof” my yeast first, just because it’s extra work (that’s the step when you let the yeast dissolve in warm water, usually with a bit of sugar, for 10 minutes to see if it starts to get bubbly) BUT you’ll probably want to do that next time you try this to make sure you’re yeast is still good. If it doesn’t start getting puffy as it dissolves, you need new yeast. The other reason could be that you used very hot water instead of warm water – very hot water will kill the yeast and then it won’t rise. My mom used to always tells me the water should be quite warm to the touch, but not so hot it’s uncomfortable to touch. Sorry it didn’t quite work out, although I’m glad it still tasted good. I made this once and forgot the salt and it was AWFUL! All that work for nothing. Anyway, better luck next time, right? :)

  9. 24

    Graham Smith says

    So, I believe i’m a decent cook but far from a baker. This recipe was easy though and worked out wonderfully. The bread was great ( a little lumpy though, no mixer); light, fluffy and great taste. I really appreciate quality recipes like this one, which includes the photos and step by step instructions. Really made it easier for me and fun to make with my son. Thank you for the time you took to make this.

  10. 28

    Dawn says

    Sometimes yeast will not proof if the water is too hot, you kill the yeast. I also made this by hand and it worked great!

  11. 30

    Donna says

    Hi … I’m just wondering if you could please clarify your measurement abbreviations … Is T a teaspoon or tablespoon? And is C a cup (and if so, is it a 250ml size cup).
    Thanks.

    • 31

      autumn says

      Hi Donna! T is a tablespoon (lowercase t is a teaspoon) and C is a cup, which is the standard US 8 fluid oz cup (and I believe that is indeed 250ml). Thanks!

  12. 32

    Colleen says

    I made this bread last week and it was a HUGE hit with my family. I gave two loaves to my in-laws; my father-in-law ate an entire loaf in one sitting! I am making it again today- I only had regular yeast on hand. I subbed 2 TBSP of regular dry active yeast and followed the directions as you outlined. It seems to have produced the same results!

    After doing a little research, I think using the amount of yeast in the original recipe would probably work with regular yeast because the recipe calls for proofing the yeast. I’m curious to know if you’ve tried regular yeast and if so, how you altered the recipe and how was the final product. Thanks!

    • 33

      autumn says

      Colleen – I think you’re right that you can use regular yeast – I’m pretty sure I’ve used regular dry active yeast and instant yeast interchangeably and had the same result. I’m so glad your family loved it!

  13. 34

    says

    I’m making this for the second time in a week! I took half of the first batch to my Aunt and Uncle and their kids, the loaves were gone in about an hour. The butter spread is so amazing! I’m so glad I didn’t skip it! I used chive onion cream cheese and it added good flavor! We also spread it over the bread and then toasted it under the broiler for a few, it was so amazing!!

    • 35

      autumn says

      Hannah you’re making me hungry! I best it’s amazing broiled with the spread, and adding chive onion cream cheese sounds like a stroke of genius.

  14. 38

    Meghan says

    I just made this for the first time, and I have to say, this bread was the easiest to make ever! Then the last step went wrong. My loaves expanded out and not up, So they are sort of flat looking, and got a little bubbly/bumpy. Any ideas? I have yet to taste them, though besides the mentioned deformities they look pretty good!

    • 39

      autumn says

      Meghan, I’m not sure what caused the problem but my best guess would be that you didnt knead quite long enough. Kneading develops gluten, which is what helps the bread hold it’s structure as it rises, so if the loaves did expand but went out instead of up that might mean the gluten structure wasn’t strong enough. Let me know if you try again!

  15. 40

    ceci says

    I made some over the weekend for the first time, We had friends and family over and it was amazing. Thank you, so much for sharing it’s heavenly as you state. I paired it with the butter, lots & lots of complements. And, the aroma in the house as it baked, made every one even more excited. Dinner could have just been the bread & butter…………….. Thank you!!!!!!!!!!

    • 41

      autumn says

      Isn’t it fun when everyone LOVES something you baked? And I would totally eat fresh baked bread and butter for dinner every night if I could et away with it :)

  16. 42

    Kara says

    Love this recipe! I was trying to prepare sunday dinner, clean up and help my kids plant seeds (they all want their own mini vegetable garden) while trying this recipe for the first time- I messed up and put too much water in. After panicking I just eyeballed and guessed adding ingredients to make up for the excess water and it still came out amazing. I will never buy store bought french bread again AND my family thinks I’m a culinary genius- THANK YOU! :)

    • 43

      autumn says

      Oh I’m so glad it worked out! I know what it’s like trying to cook and do a thousand other things at once – I did that once with this bread and left out the salt and it tasted terrible :( so I’m glad yours worked out.

  17. 46

    Yvonne says

    If you don’t bake the entire batch, can you freeze or refrigerate the left over dough? If so, in an airtight container?

    • 47

      autumn says

      Hi Yvonne! I haven’t frozen this dough, but I regularly freeze dough for my other bread recipes, so I imagine it would work. I would make it through to the shaping, then put it on a greased cookie sheet and freeze until firm, then place the dough “log” into a ziplock freezer bag. Then you’ll have to experiment with how long it takes to defrost and rise – I’d take it out of the freezer and put it back on a greased cookie sheet and maybe cover with a barely-damp cloth and let it defrost/rise on the counter. It will likely take 4-5 hours or so. Then add egg wash and bake. If you give it a try, come back and let us know how it works! Oh, and one other thing – I find that if I leave bread dough in the freezer for too long (like longer than a month) it doesn’t rise as well anymore, so don’t wait too long before cooking the frozen dough!

  18. 48

    olga says

    I don’t know if I posted comment before regrading this recipe or not, but I just want to share that this have become our family favorite bread recipe. Very easy to make, and taste awesome. Matterofact I barely buy bread now. Thank you! Haven’t made the butter yet though, but I’m going to try that as well.

  19. 50

    jesi says

    This recipe was super easy to make. I love to cook and to bake but for some odd reason I’ve always been intimidated by bread recipes. Thank you for helping overcome this hurdle :) next time I make my baked potato soup I’m going to USA this recipe to make bread bowls

Trackbacks

  1. […] So I had a hankering for bread, and no car to go to the grocery store. Luckily I had all the ingredients and found an awesome recipe for some French bread. This recipe was not nearly as time consuming as it sounds. Making the dough is really quick, some yeast, flour, water, sugar and salt was all it took. After I mixed all the ingredients, I kneaded the dough for about five minutes. Kneading is tricky because you don’t want to over knead it. I then let the dough chill and rise for an hour. The recipe only calls for letting it chill for 30 minutes, but I left it in for twice as long. I skipped the kneading it every ten minutes for an hour, and just kneaded it for five minutes before forming it into loaves. After letting the bread bake, it was time to test my creation. The bread looked beautiful. It was a light golden brown, and the crust was nice and crispy while the middle was soft. Taste wise, it was fantastic. The bread was delicious. However, it was still a little heavy. Next time I try this out, I will let the dough chill for a lot longer, and knead it every ten minutes for an hour like the recipe calls for. Recipe for French Bread […]

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