Simplest French Bread

French bread is hands-down my favorite bread of all time. It’s simple and to the point deliciousness. It doesn’t have to be pretty. In fact, I think it’s more interesting the odder it looks.

French bread is also a great beginner bread. You only need the basics: water, flour, and yeast. Now, to make more interesting french bread, you need to add some salt and sugar to that mix, but it’s not really necessary.

I’ve experimented with lots of french bread recipes. Some say that you HAVE to use an egg wash to get that delicious crust, while others throw ice cubes in the oven while the bread is baking. Some say no oil, others say just a teaspoon.

My version is very simple and is (of course) my favorite.

400g bread flour
240g warm water
16g yeast
20g sugar
12g salt

The only oil I use is on the pan to keep the bread from sticking.

Here are the instructions:

  1. First, mix the water and yeast together and let sit for five to ten minutes or until bubbly. While waiting, mix the flour, sugar, and salt together.
  2. Combine the all the ingredients and knead until your dough is smooth and elastic. Let rise in a warm place until doubled.
  3. Separate the dough into three or four pieces, depending on how big you want each loaf to be. Flatten out the dough and roll into tight baguettes. I personally like to score my dough, but that’s a personal preference thing. Place the dough on a baking sheet or baguette pan. Let it rise again until doubled.
  4. Fill a baking pan with boiling water and place it in your oven (will add humidity).
  5. Bake your bread at 400 for 30 minutes or so. For a crispier crust, try spritzing the loaves with water mid-baking.
  6. Once finished, immediately remove baked bread from the pan and place on a cooling rack.

Enjoy!

My First Attempt at a Bread Recipe: Sunflower Seed Wheat Bread

Sunflower Wheat BreadI’ve been making bread for about three years now. I should really say that that I’ve been making real bread for about a year and floury hunks of rock for about two, but that’s an entirely different story.

So, a few weeks back, I decided that my bread making could really improve. I had just bought a stand mixer and figured investing in a machine meant I should probably kick my bread making attempts up a notch. I’d been doing this long enough that I shouldn’t have flying crusts or collapsed loafs anymore, right?

After a lot of reading and many visits to the website TheFreshLoaf.com, I realized there was this amazing thing called baker’s percentages. It has completely changed the way I make bread. Recipes that used to elude me now work because I know exactly how to modify them instead of trying to guess what I added too much or too little of. With this knowledge, I could also attempt to do something I had NEVER EVER EVER wanted to try before: making my own bread recipe.

With much fear, I tried something small. My husband said he wanted a wheat bread with a grain. Okay, that sounds easy. I decided on a sunflower seed wheat bread. My recipe went as follows (if you don’t have a scale, just look at the bags of flour you buy and see how many grams are in a cup):

184g milk, about 115°
12g yeast

Mix together and let sit while you put everything else together. If your yeast doesn’t bubble (ie proof) after five minutes or so, something is wrong and you should try again.

100g white bread flour (King Arthur Flour is very good)
200g wheat flour
2 t wheat gluten
6 g salt
30g olive oil
21g honey
30g sunflower seeds

Add all these ingredients to a bowl. If you’re doing it by hand, reserve 1/4 of the wheat flour or so for hand kneading. Add the proofed yeast and mix until a sticky dough forms. Flour your kneading surface and knead until you can make a bread windowpane. One thing to keep in mind is that wheat takes a pretty long time to knead by hand. I’d really recommend using a stand mixer to knead it or just use all white flour, especially if this is your first time making bread. Wheat is evil. I could make beautiful white bread within a few weeks, but wheat eluded me for years.

So, now that it’s kneaded, put the dough in a bowl or some other container and cover it with cling wrap, a lid, or a damp towel. Let it sit for about an hour or so until it’s doubled. Then, take it out of the container and roll it out until it’s about the size of a piece of paper. Roll it up like you would a map and pinch the seams together. Put your bread log into a greased bread pan to double again.

I baked it at 375 for 35 minutes and it worked really well. I crisco’d my pans cause I’ve been having a tough time getting bread out of them recently, so I have no idea how much it will stick with plain oil and flour.

After baking it, I decided I could have used a bit more sweetener for eating it plain, but it makes a darn tasty sandwich. For the wheat gluten, all I do is add 1 t per 100g wheat flour. I put it in BEFORE measuring the wheat and take that out of my wheat flour total. So I guess I don’t really have 200g wheat. 😉

Enjoy! If you would like to learn how to make bread, just email me and I’ll be more than happy to give you more info or tell you a few things that really helped ME right when I started.