Almost 5 years ago I post a homemade french bread recipe, and it’s been one of the most popular posts on my blog ever since. So many people are excited about the fact that you can make incredible french bread at home that tastes way better than the loaves you buy at the store. It’s easy, it’s cheap, and I always serve it with a garlic butter (boursin) spread that absolutely takes it over the top.
I decided it was time to update that old post with new photos, a new printable recipe card, and a new step-by-step video so even more of you can try your hand at making amazing homemade french bread.
I first tried this bread when my friend Cathy delivered a hot loaf to me one Christmas Eve. Seriously, she won the best neighbor gift award that year. Since then I’ve made these loaves a kajillion times, both to deliver and to keep. This recipe makes 2 large or 4 medium loaves, so I usually keep a few to eat and give a few away each time I make them. I’ve even doubled the recipe to make 8 medium loaves at a time so I can deliver to lots of neighbors at once!
Here’s the video that walks you step by step through how to make homemade french bread:
And here are some photos/text instructions (all this is covered in the video above):
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 cups is often plenty, but occasionally I need to add up to 1/2 cup additional flour. You don’t need to dough to completely pull away from the sides/bottom of the mixing bowl. This bread is incredibly tender, which means the dough is soft and a bit sticky. 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 want to let it knead for at least five minutes, then turn it out onto a well floured surface. It will look a little gnarly at first:
…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. Then slash through each loaf three times.
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.
You’ll want to let it cool for about 10 minutes before slicing so you don’t squish it. Then spread it with the herbed garlic butter and enjoy!