French Bread

This authentic French Bread recipe brings the taste of Paris right into your kitchen, or at least the Costco in Paris. This recipe combines simple ingredients like water, sugar, yeast, salt, oil, and bread flour to create a loaf that's crusty on the outside and soft on the inside. Whether you're a seasoned baker or a beginner, this recipe will guide you through the steps to create a loaf of French bread that's perfect for sandwiches, toast, or to accompany your favorite meal.

Ingredients

  • 2-1/4 cups lukewarm water
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon yeast
  • 3/4 tablespoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 5-6 cups bread flour

Instructions

Start by combining water, sugar, yeast, salt, oil, and 2 cups of flour in the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Whisk these ingredients together for about 30 seconds to form a slurry. Then, fit the dough hook into the mixer and gradually add in the remaining flour. The amount of flour you need may vary depending on your flour measuring technique and the humidity in your area. The dough should clear the sides of the bowl and form a soft ball that doesn’t leave a lot of dough residue on your fingers. Knead the dough for 2-3 minutes until it’s smooth. If the dough starts to cling to the sides of the bowl, add a tablespoon of flour at a time until a sturdy but soft ball of dough forms.

For the primary fermentation stage, leave the dough in the mixer, cover it with a damp towel, and let it rest for 10 minutes. Stir it down by turning on the mixer for about 10 seconds. Repeat this “rest and stir down” cycle five more times for a total of one hour. This process helps to develop and stretch the gluten strands while getting rid of excess carbon dioxide that can break down these strands.

For the final fermentation stage, turn the dough onto a lightly greased surface and divide it in half. Pat each section into a thick rectangle, about the length of your baking sheet. Roll the dough up starting from the long edge, pressing out any air bubbles or seams with the heel of your hand, and pinch the edge to seal. Arrange the loaves seam side down on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover them with greased plastic wrap. Let the loaves rise until they’re noticeably puffy and nearly doubled in size, about 60-90 minutes, depending on the warmth of your room.

Preheat the oven to 375°F and make sure an oven rack is in the center position. With a very sharp knife or baker’s lame, cut several gashes at an angle on the top of each loaf. Place the baking sheet in the hot oven and immediately toss 3-4 ice cubes on the bottom of the oven. Close the oven door quickly. Bake the loaves for 25-30 minutes until they’re golden and baked through. Remove them from the oven and place them on a cooling rack.

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