how to make french bread

Homemade French bread has never been easier! This simple recipe makes a light and fluffy loaf of French bread that will rival any bakery!

It's no secret that I love bread.

And this easy-to-make French bread is one of my favorite breads in the history of mankind. It's so simple and perfect for a beginning bread maker.

But it's also quite delicious for bread experts.

This French bread has easily found its way into my best bread category for years (many of you have made it and loved it too!). And it's high time it got a makeover and a recipe update, if you ask me. Plus, I have some fun new details to share about it!

Because I make this bread at least once a month (probably more than that, actually) and have been doing it for over 9 years, I've learned a couple of things I'd like to share.


Investing (ha!) in a $15 or less baker's blade (fancy name for bread cutting tool) has upped my bread making game. Especially with this Homemade French bread. I used to pick the sharpest knife in my drawer (admittedly, my knives aren't always as sharp as they should be - oops).

And then I'd slash the bread to get artisanal-looking slashes, but instead I'd deflate all the life and end up with flat bread. Sob.

About five years ago, I found a baker's blade at a local kitchen store and looked at it warily, wondering if this lightweight, unassuming tool could help me. And it did, oh it did.

It's basically a razor blade on a stick that is slightly curved to get perfect nicks and cuts. Bonus: I bought this one on Amazon {external link} and it's under $15.  

I use it for my Homemade bread bowls, my little soft pretzels, my rustic crusty bread, my sweet molasses bread... and any other bread that needs to be slashed quickly, but lovingly.

If you have a razor blade or super sharp knife (it should be extremely thin and sharp so as not to deflate the bread), that should also do the trick.


The other little variation I added to this Homemade French bread is a bread-baking tip that one of YOU suggested to me years ago in the comments. And it stuck with me - I do it all the time for almost every freeform loaf I make now.

As you place the bread in the hot oven, throw 3 or 4 ice cubes into the bottom of the oven and close the door as quickly as you can (but gently! don't slam it and drop the bread, for goodness sake). The instant steam that is released when the ice cubes hit the hot oven floor will make the outer crust slightly crispy as the bread bakes.

Quick note : check your oven manual to see if you should put ice or water on the oven floor - I've never had a problem, but everyone needs to do their own research and use their best judgment (also be sure not to throw ice cubes on the glass oven door, as it may crack).  

And don't blame me if you scream with delight and scare the kids when your bread comes out of the oven looking (and tasting!) like a real loaf of bakery French bread.

This Homemade French bread is a dream.

I often make it to give to people who need a pick-me-up or just because I like it or if I'm bringing Dinner to someone as well.

It makes an appearance when we have a family fondue night or when we opt for a French bread pizza. And it's the Bread recipe I turn to the most (along with these divine breadsticks) when I need (okay, let's be serious, when I want) an easy, no-fuss bread to serve with Dinner or use as mood therapy.

Bread can do that, you know. And it makes the best French toast. Just saying.

P.S.: if you've been having trouble getting your bread to flatten out during baking instead of holding its perfect shape, you might try these French bread pans {external link}. I have them and I LOVE them. I don't use them every time I make this bread, but I do pull them out quite often (I also use them for this rosemary bread).  


I noted it in the recipe below, but this Homemade French bread is also a friend of whole wheat flour. I make it quite often with at least half whole wheat flour. And sometimes I live on the edge and eliminate the white flour altogether, making it a 100% whole wheat bread.

I've found that adding a few tablespoons of vital wheat gluten, when you go with 100% whole wheat flour, helps to make the bread a little softer and avoid the heaviness that can result from using whole wheat flour.

FYI: I always use white whole wheat (you can find information on the different varieties of wheat here).

Enough said! If you've never made this Homemade French bread, I hope you try it soon! Your life may or may not be changed for the better.


How can I halve this recipe? I suggest that you divide all the ingredients by two. Watch the amount of flour and determine the exact amount based on the texture of the dough.

Does this bread freeze well? Yes, it freezes very well (after baking and cooling).

How can I make my bread more golden? Sometimes moving an oven rack up or down in the oven is the trick to getting good browning. In my oven, my bread browns best in the top part of the oven.

Without a stand mixer, how can I make this recipe? You can mix the ingredients in a bowl with a spatula or spoon and knead by hand.

Do I need to measure differently if I use instant or dry active yeast? I always use the same amount interchangeably, but some people use 1/4 less if they use instant yeast instead of active dry yeast.

Can I divide the dough to make smaller loaves? Yes, just adjust the baking time.



  • yield:   24   SLICES (2 LOAVES)
  •   prep time:   3   HRS   15   MINS
  • cook time:   25   MINS
  • total time:   3   HRS   40   MINS


  • 2 ¼   cups   warm water
  • 2   tablespoons   Sugar
  • 1   tablespoon   instant or active dry yeast
  • ¾   tablespoon   salt (see note)
  • 2   tablespoons   olive oil, canola oil, vegetable oil or avocado oil
  • 5 ½ – 6   cups   (781 – 852   g)   all-purpose flour or bread flour (see note)


  • In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the water, Sugar and yeast. If using active dry yeast, allow the mixture to bubble and foam before continuing (this may take 3-5 minutes). If using instant yeast, continue with the recipe (no need to let the yeast activate).
  • Add salt, oil and 3 cups of flour and mix. Gradually add another 2 1/2 to 3 cups of flour. The dough should clear the sides of the bowl and form a soft ball that doesn't leave much dough residue on your fingers. Knead for 2 to 3 minutes until the dough is smooth. If the dough starts to stick to the sides of the bowl (or the center column if you're using a Bosch or other mixer with a center), add 1/4 cup of flour at a time until a solid but soft ball of dough forms.
  • Rising method 1: Leave the dough in the mixer, cover it with a lid or towel and let it rest for 10 minutes. Stir it by turning on the mixer for about 10 seconds. Repeat the "rest and stir" cycle five more times.
  • Rising Method 2: Instead of letting the dough rest for 10 minutes and then stirring it, transfer it to a lightly greased bowl and cover it with a greased towel or plastic wrap. Let the dough rise until doubled in size, about an hour, depending on the heat in your kitchen.
  • Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased surface and divide it in half. Pat each section into a thick rectangle, about 9X13 inches (doesn't have to be exact). Roll the dough starting at the longest edge, pressing out any air bubbles or seams with the heel of your hand, and pinch the edge to seal it. Place the dough, seam side down, on a large parchment-lined baking sheet (I use separate baking sheets for each loaf). You can make several slashes on the top of the loaf now or wait until it has risen (to avoid the risk of the loaf deflating, especially if you don't have a razor or very sharp knife, make the slashes now - see the photos above in the post for a visual).
  • Cover with greased plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and let the loaves rise until visibly puffed and almost doubled in size, about an hour.
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and make sure the oven rack is in the middle position. If you haven't already done so, using a very sharp knife or baker's blade, cut several angled slashes in the top of each loaf (see the photos above in the article for an overview).
  • Optional: Place the baking sheet in the hot oven and immediately throw 3-4 ice cubes on the bottom of the oven (this makes a delicious classic French bread crust crunch). Quickly close the oven door.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes until the crust is golden and cooked through. Remove from oven and brush with melted butter (optional, but delicious). Repeat with the second loaf (or if you have a convection oven, the loaves can bake at the same time, just rotate the baking sheets halfway through).


  • Ice: check your oven manual for details or precautions for placing ice or water on the oven floor. I've never had a problem, but everyone needs to do their own research and use their best judgment (also be sure not to throw ice on the glass oven door, as it may crack).  
  • Flour: as with all yeast doughs, I never use the amount of flour listed in the recipe as a hard and fast rule (unless a weight measurement is listed, in which case I get out my kitchen scale). Since humidity, temperature, altitude, and a host of other factors can impact how much flour you need for your yeast doughs, I always judge when to stop adding flour based on the texture and appearance of the dough rather than how much flour I've added versus the recipe. This yeast tutorial can help identify how a perfectly floured dough should look.
  • Whole wheat flour: I often use finely ground white whole wheat flour, half or three quarters, with good results. Sometimes I go crazy and use 100% whole wheat flour (always finely ground white wheat), but the bread is a little denser with 100% whole wheat flour. If you use some or all of the whole wheat flour, add a few minutes to the kneading time to help develop the gluten (adding a few tablespoons of gluten flour can also help the whole wheat bread become light and fluffy).
  • The original recipe called for a tablespoon of salt; over the years, I've decreased this amount slightly, but you can use the full amount. If you don't have an electric mixer, you can make this dough by hand, in a large bowl, with a wooden spoon, the old-fashioned way!


You may also like

Disqus Conversations