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How to Make French Bread

Nothing compares to a loaf of freshly baked bread. Learn how to make French bread at home with a just few pantry staples and a tried-and-true technique.
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There’s nothing better than filling your home with the comforting aroma of freshly baked bread. Follow along as we show you how to make delicious French bread—with that perfect crispy texture—in our step-by-step guide.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 package regular active dry yeast (2 ¼ teaspoons)
  • 1 cup very warm water (120°F to 130°F)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/3 to 1 2/3 cups all-purpose or bread flour
  • Shortening or cooking spray
  • Large bowl
  • Wire whisk or electric mixer
  • Plastic wrap
  • Cookie sheet
  • Straight-edged knife
  • 8-or 9-inch square pan
  • Serrated knife

How to: 

1. In large bowl, mix 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour and yeast. Add warm water. Beat with wire whisk or electric mixer on low speed 1 minute, scraping bowl frequently, until batter is very smooth. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let stand about 1 hour or until bubbly.

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2. Stir in salt and enough flour, ½ cup at a time, until a soft dough forms. Place dough on lightly floured surface. Knead 5 to 10 minutes or until dough is smooth and springy. Grease large bowl with shortening. Place dough in bowl, turning dough to grease all sides. Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in warm place 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes or until dough has doubled in size. Dough is ready if indentation remains when touched.

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3. Grease uninsulated cookie sheet with shortening or cooking spray. Place dough on lightly floured surface, forming into an oval-shaped mound. Sprinkle top of dough with flour. With a straight-edged knife, press straight down on dough lengthwise to divide into 2 equal parts. Gently shape each part into narrow loaf, about 16 inches long, stretching top of loaf slightly to make it smooth. Place loaves, smooth side up, about 4 inches apart on cookie sheet. Cover loaves loosely, but airtight, with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 4 hours but no longer than 24 hours.

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4. Uncover loaves; spray with cool water; let rise about 1 hour. Place 8-or 9-inch square pan on bottom rack of oven; add hot water to pan until about ½ inch from top. Heat oven to 450°F.With serrated knife, carefully cut ¼-inch-deep slashes diagonally across loaves at 2-inch intervals. Spray loaves with cool water. Place loaves in oven and spray again.

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5. Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until loaves are deep golden brown with crisp crust and sound hollow when tapped. Remove from cookie sheet to cooling rack; cool.

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