Easy Homemade French Bread that you can make for dinner even when you are short on time! I am known for my french bread recipe and give it out every year as Christmas gifts to friends and neighbors. I’ve had so many people over the years ask for a tutorial on how to make french bread so I hope this post helps everyone out!
A Funny History with This Homemade French Bread
When I became a Jones 26 years ago, it quickly became clear that I needed to learn to bake french bread like my mother-in-law. Her bread is the star of her kitchen and coveted by all who taste it. During a visit about a year after getting married, I absorbed as much of her technique as I could while she instructed me. She sent me home with her recipe in my pocket and I was very anxious to make it for my husband. Over the years, I’ve mastered this bread, and that recipe card is very worn and stained.
So imagine my surprise when a few years ago, in my kitchen in Minnesota, my mother-in-law looks at that same card and asks, “Where did you get this recipe? This isn’t my french bread recipe.” Now, I would never accuse my wonderful mother-in-law of anything sinister but can anyone say…. sabotage?
This easy french bread recipe is just dang amazing and it is what I deliver to all our friends every year for Christmas. I have made a few slight changes to the original recipe over the years I’ve been baking it because I wanted a chewier interior and a better crust.
How to Make Homemade French Bread
Many believe making homemade French bread is too difficult so they settle for mediocre grocery-store versions instead. Trust yourself. You’ll amaze yourself with the results!
- Make the dough either by hand or with a stand mixer. Ingredients are very simple: water, sugar, yeast, kosher salt, oil, and bread flour.
- Knead the dough until smooth or elastic, about 8 minutes in a stand mixer or 20 minutes by hand.
- Proof the dough so it doubles in size, about 1-2 hours.
- Form the baguettes and place them in the French bread pans.
- Proof the loaves for 15-20 minutes.
- Bake the baguettes in a 375 degree oven for 20-25 minutes.
What Makes French Bread Different From Regular Bread
The main difference between French bread and regular sandwich bread is the flavor and texture. French bread is less sweet, has simpler ingredients, and comes in long baguettes. Those long loaves are crusty on the outside, with a tender center. On the other side, sandwich bread is tender and soft, both inside and out, with a much sweeter flavor.
What to Do With French Bread
There is never a lack of ways to use homemade French bread! Listed below are a few of my favorite uses of leftover loaves…on the rare occasion my family doesn’t devour all four loaves in one sitting!
- Make French toast – it will be the best French toast you’ve ever had! To make it, cut the bread at a 45-degree angle into ½-inch slices, then dip them in a mixture of eggs and milk. Cook over medium heat in a greased skillet until golden brown, then flip and cook on the other side.
- Make garlic bread – it will be the perfect side for almost any dinner! Slice the loaf horizontally in half down the length of the whole loaf. Generously butter each side and sprinkle with garlic powder and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Put the loaf back together, wrap it in aluminum foil, and bake in a 350-degree oven for 10-15 minutes.
- Make French bread pizza- for a quick and easy dinner! Slice the loaf horizontally in half down the length of the whole loaf and place them on a rimmed baking sheet. Top each half with pizza sauce, fresh Parmesan cheese, mozzarella cheese, and any toppings. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 15 minutes until hot and bubbly.
- Make grilled sandwiches or paninis – homemade French bread is hearty enough for a panini press or a loaded grilled cheese sandwich. Spread the bread with some pesto, leftover protein, cheese, and veggies for an amazing dinner when time is short.
How to Form a Homemade French Bread Baguette
Each French bread baker will have a slightly different technique but there are a few key steps to get that classic baguette shape:
- Evenly portion the dough into four pieces. Ideally, you do this with a food scale but for this homemade French bread, you can just eyeball it.
- Flatten each portion of dough until it is about ½” thick. My portions of dough start off as rough triangle shapes because I cut the round ball of dough evenly into 4 pieces. I keep that triangular shape as I flatten the dough because it helps me shape good baguettes.
- Form the baguettes by starting at the small corner of the triangular piece of dough. As you tuck the dough over on itself, firmly press down to create a tight loaf. See the photo below or the video for the visual. Think of it this way: tuck, press, tuck, press, tuck, press, etc.
- Roll the baguettes on the counter with both hands. Gently stretch the baguettes to be longer then place them in the French bread pans.
- Cut slits across the tops of each baguette with a very sharp knife or razor blade.
Anyone who has a history of bread-making knows that experience is what will give you the perfect loaf of bread. After making many batches, you learn what your dough should feel like and how to work with it, so keep at it and you will get better with each batch!
Homemade French Bread FAQs & Troubleshooting
Can all-purpose flour be used instead of bread flour?
The main question I get asked all the time about making homemade French bread is if the bread flour is important. Um….YOU BETCHA! That higher gluten content is what gives you a better crust as well as a chewier texture so just grab that bread flour next time instead of all-purpose and enjoy the end results.
Can Homemade French Bread be made on regular baking sheets?
If you don’t have french bread pans, you can form them on baking sheets, but the result isn’t quite the same. Your loaves will turn out a bit flat and without the air holes on the bottom of a baking sheet, they won’t get as good of a crust. There are many baguette pans on the market that make a wider loaf that remind me more of an Italian loaf, so I suggest the thinner baguette size for a true French bread.
My French Bread didn’t come out crusty
If your homemade French bread turned out soft, there are usually a few sources of that problem. First, be sure you are using quality bread flour. Second, don’t rush the kneading process. Allow that gluten to develop in the dough. Next, be sure your bread is going into a hot oven. A preheated oven creates that perfect crust on homemade French bread!
Also, if you end up with baguettes that aren’t as crusty as you want, you can always take them out of the pan and put them in the oven directly on the racks for 5-8 minutes. Sometimes they just need more time. This is also a great way to reheat any leftover loaves the next day.
How to know when French Bread is done baking
It is all about the color, the crust, and the sound. You’ll know when your homemade French bread is done baking by first looking at the color. You want the loaves a gorgeous golden brown. Anything too light and your loaves will not have that amazing crust. Once you have the right color, tap on the bottom of a loaf. It should be crisp and sound hollow inside once the bread is completely baked.
My bread turned out dry and crumbly
Oftentimes, when this happens to homemade bread, it is because of measurements that aren’t precise enough. First, be sure you are using liquid measures for the water. Next, check that you are measuring your flour correctly. If you are just scoping it up with a measuring cup, you are using too much flour! I made a short Instagram video you can watch to learn how to properly measure your flour.
Easy French Bread Recipe Video
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- 3 cups warm water
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 5 teaspoons yeast or 2 packages
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 3 1/2 rounded teaspoons kosher salt
- 8 cups bread flour
- Mix: Using your stand mixer with a dough hook, mix the water, sugar, yeast, and 2 cups of flour into the bowl. Allow to sit until yeast activates and begins to bubble. Add oil and salt.
- Add: Slowly mix in remaining flour. You want the dough to just barely pull off the sides of your bowl once the flour is fully incorporated. It should still be a soft dough. That might mean using less flour.
- Knead dough until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.
- Rise: Remove the dough hook and form the dough into a ball inside the bowl. Cover and allow to rise until double, about one hour.
- Place the dough gently onto a lightly floured surface.
- Divide into four equal pieces. Flatten each piece into a generally triangular shape, about 1/2″ thick.
- Roll: Starting on the small point, roll and seal your way across the triangle until you have a small log. Roll the log on the counter to stretch your baguette to the proper length, keeping the thickness uniform across the loaf. Place dough into a greased french bread pan, slit the top with a sharp knife and brush with an egg wash if desired. Allow to rise about 15-20 minutes.
- Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. The bread is completely baked at this point and can be cooled on racks. When it is time to serve, I prefer to place the loaves on the oven racks and bake them for an additional 5-7 minutes. This heats the bread and creates that great crust while keeping the interior soft and chewy. In my opinion, this last step makes all the difference.
For an even better texture and flavor, let the dough complete its first rise in the fridge. It will take a few hours but the end result will be even better.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 30 minutes
- Category: Bread
- Method: Baked
- Cuisine: French
- Serving Size: 1/4 baguette
- Calories: 218
- Sugar: 1 g
- Sodium: 437 mg
- Fat: 3 g
- Saturated Fat: 0 g
- Unsaturated Fat: 2 g
- Trans Fat: 0 g
- Carbohydrates: 41 g
- Fiber: 1 g
- Protein: 7 g
- Cholesterol: 0 mg
Keywords: homemade french bread, easy french bread recipe