My Attempt at Making French Bread

This past weekend I was doing some more of my cabin-cooking and I started reading a couple classic books about baking that got me into experimenting with making bread.

I set aside my cast iron dutch oven and opted to use a plain old cookie sheet to try make a long loaf of French bread. Well, a French-style bread!

While the bread turned out beautifully, it certainly was not as light and airy as the typical loaf of French bread.

french bread

The ingredients are simple – flour, water, yeast, salt, and honey (or sugar).

french bread

I started with the water – warm water. Warm enough to dissolve the honey but not hit enough to kill the yeast. I dissolved the honey into the warm water.

french bread

Then added the salt.

french bread

Followed by the yeast. Adding a tablespoon of yeast is different than I usually do, but I was keen to follow the classic recipe in my old-timey baking book (title of which I forgot!)

french bread

Once the honey, salt and yeast have been added I put the bowl on the vent of my stove to let the yeast begin to “work”.

Within 10 minutes it will begin to bubble and foam like the witches cauldron in Macbeth.

french bread

Then I added flour. One cup and I stirred it in with my wooden spoon.

Second cup – stir it in.

french bread

Third cup I needed to knead in with my hands. I now had a very sticky ball of bread dough.

french bread

Then I began to knead the dough. To keep it from sticking to my hands I added flour. A pinch at a time.

french bread

Until I had a ball of dough that stuck to itself and not to my hands.

And then I formed the dough into a loaf, cut little flashes across the top, sprinkled some coarse flavoured salt on top and then let it sit and rise for about half an hour.

Into the oven for 25 minutes at 400°.

I had a gorgeous loaf of bread.

french bread

It was a different approach than I typically take but it worked!

The ingredient list is simple:

  • 1 1/2 cups of warm water
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of yeast
  • 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 cups of white flour

The instructions:

  1. In a large glass bowl combine and dissolve the honey in warm water (warm enough to dissolve the honey, not hot enough to kill the yeast). Then add and stir in the salt.
  2. Add the yeast to the mixture in the bowl.
  3. Let the yeast mixture sit for 5 – 10 minutes – bubbles should start to appear on the surface of the mixture as the yeast starts working.
  4. Add some flour. I added a cup at a time and stirred it in with a wooden spoon,
  5. Once three cups of flour have been added, begin to knead the dough. Keep kneading and adding flour until the dough sticks to itself.
  6. Once the dough is able to form a shape, shape it into a loaf shape – whatever shape you want!
  7. I cut shallow slashes across the top of the loaf and added a few grains of coarse salt to the top before baking.
  8. Cover the loaf with a towel and let it sit for 20 minutes.
  9. Bake in an oven pre-heated to 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes – until the top has a lovely baked brown colour.
  10. Let it rest after baking – simply to make it easier to slice.