A simple and delicious loaf of crispy French bread may take a little time to prep, but the taste of freshly baked bread is always worth the wait!
Have you been turned off from making your own bread at home because it seems difficult? This crispy loaf isn’t difficult at all. I like baking bread when I know I don’t have to leave the house for a few hours–(not because it takes that long to knead) but because bread baking requires a little more resting time.
One quick question! Have you ever smelled anything quite like freshly baked bread? Me either. I’m pretty sure it’s one of life’s greatest pleasures. The waiting part, however? Oh goodness. That’s one of the worst parts.
I’m pretty sure that even as a child I was incredibly impatient. Waiting for it to be two days before Easter so that we could dye Easter eggs or waiting for summer vacation to start after a long school year always seemed to take FOREVER.
As an adult, I’m now seeing that not a ton of things feel like they are forever away…except for maybe Friday afternoon. It doesn’t matter if it’s Monday or it’s Thursday, Friday afternoon may as well be ten years away.
This is also how I sometimes feel about baking homemade bread. The joy of making it is real, but the waiting for it to proof is certainly not a joyous occasion for me. If you have company over or a bunch of weekend errands to take care of, this would be the perfect time to make homemade bread.
Mix up your ingredients early in the day and set the dough aside in a covered bowl under a tea towel in a mildly warm environment for the several hours it takes to proof.
Run to the bank, start a load or two of laundry, mow the lawn, play with the dog and do your daily workout. These errands will certainly make the time seem like it is passing by faster. Bonus points if you do your workout–you can have more homemade bread! (Cue carb overloading.)
Bread making is really a simple process, but all the waiting and rising is what usually turns people off from it. Making sure you have water warm enough to activate your yeast is quite possibly one of the most difficult steps. If you don’t have a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, then kneading dough by hand may be your hardest step, unless you find kneading dough therapeutic.
I always make sure to mix the yeast with warm water before mixing in the flour. This allows the yeast to activate. You’ll know if your yeast is active if it makes bubbles when mixed in with the water. Store your yeast in the refrigerator to keep it fresher for longer. I prefer the jar to the packets, but that’s just me.
Once the dough has done its rising, cutting and shaping the dough is not unlike molding silly putty or play-doh (but for grown ups), and it actually has the potential to become something tasty.
If a recipe calls for it, brushing the loaf with an egg wash or butter is as simple as painting, except you don’t even need to be precise about where you brush it on. Simply put, bread baking is like arts and crafts for our inner messy souls. What could be better than that?
A HOT FRESH LOAF STRAIGHT OUT OF THE OVEN. Sorry for yelling, but it makes me happy. Kind of like that Weight Watchers commercial where Oprah pronounces her love for bread. At least we have that in common.
Have you ever attempted homemade bread? How did it go? Let me know in the comments!
Homemade Crispy French Bread
- 6 cups all purpose flour
- 2 packages active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 2 cups warm water 120-130F
- 1 egg white slightly beaten
- 1 tablespoon water
- In a large mixing bowl, combine 2 cups of flour, yeast, and salt. Beat with an electric stand mixer on low speed for 30 seconds, scraping the sides of bowl constantly. Beat on high speed for 3 minutes. Slowly add in the remaining flour.
- Fit stand mixer with dough hook and knead for 6 minutes on a medium low speed. Alternatively, knead by hand for 8-10 minutes on a lightly floured surface until the dough is smooth and elastic. Shape dough into a ball and place in a lightly greased bowl, turning to grease the surface of dough. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size (about 1 hour).
- Punch dough down. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide in half. Cover and let rise for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, lightly grease a baking sheet.
- Roll each dough half into a 15×10-inch rectangle. Tightly roll up, starting from a long side, seal well. If desired, pinch and slightly pull to taper loaves. Place loaves seam side down on prepared baking sheet. In a small bowl, beat egg whites and water. Brush egg white mixture over loaf tops. Let rise until nearly doubled in size (35-45 minutes).
- Preheat oven to 375F. Using a sharp knife, make 3 or 4 1/4″ deep diagonal cuts across each loaf top. Bake for 20 minutes. Brush again with egg white mixture. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes more until bread sounds hollow when tapped. Immediately remove from baking sheets and transfer to a wire rack.
This recipe was adapted from one of my favorite cookbooks, the Better Homes and Gardens 16th Edition Cookbook.