Easiest French Bread Ever! (With Variations)

French-BreadThis bread recipe is from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe and is the easiest and most consistent bread recipe I’ve ever used. It uses a clever proofing method, where you don’t even take the dough off the mixer, and you use ice cubes to create steam while it’s baking.

We love toast and jam and this simple, delicious bread is perfect for that and for sandwiches. I made two loaves yesterday with a cup of whole wheat flour substituted for a cup of the white flour, and I really liked the flavor and texture.

I’ve made this with lots of different flavorings – dying to try it with rosemary and olives!

Variations:

Rosemary & Herb version:  Add 2 Tbsp of chopped Rosemary and 1 tsp Italian Seasoning mix with the flour.  Crazy good.  Especially good warm from the oven with a little slather of butter.

Sesame Seed version: Add 1/4 cup sesame seeds with the flour, and sprinkle some on top before baking. I’ve been on a sesame seed bread jag lately and it’s so good!

Dill, Garlic and Cheddar version:  Divide dough after first rise, and to half the dough, add several fronds of fresh dill weed, chopped, or 1/2 tsp dried dill weed, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 2 tsp onion flakes and 1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated. Let rise a second time, slash and bake as usual.  (I wanted one loaf plain, but you could double the additions and do two loaves at once.)   Heavenly…

INGREDIENTS

2 1/4 cups warm water
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp active dry yeast
1 Tbsp kosher Salt  (Mel uses a little less)
2 Tbsp olive oil
5 1/2 – 6 cups all-purpose flour (or 1 cup whole wheat flour and 4 1/2 -5 cups regular flour)

Mix water, sugar and yeast in a mixing bowl.

Cover the bowl and/or mixer with a clean dishtowel and let the yeast get bubbly for 5 or so minutes.

Add the salt, oil and 5 cups of flour. Mix with a dough hook, or spoon for 6 or 7 minutes, adding flour as needed- 1/2 up to 1 cup flour, until dough is forming a nice solid mass. It will hang onto the dough hook and “slap” the sides a bit when it’s ready. If the dough it sticking to the bottom of the bowl, add more flour a little at a time. If kneading by hand, knead for several minutes until it’s smooth and elastic.

Leave the dough in the bowl and the dough hook in the dough. Cover the stand mixer and bowl with the kitchen towel again and leave it to rise for an hour.  Remove from bowl and knead on a floured surface.  I actually just use my silpat mat in the baking sheet with a little flour.

Note: if you’re adding herbs or anything else, keep the dough in the  mixer and add them.  Let the dough hook knead the additions in for a minute or so.  You can also remove half the dough and only flavor one of the loaves if you want.

Split dough in half, and nudge each half out into a sort of rectangle.  Roll it along the long end and pinch the ends and bottom so the dough holds together. Lay the loaves side by side, seam side down on a baking tray lined with parchment paper or a silicon mat.  

Cover again with the kitchen towel and leave to rise for an hour.  Slash the loaves with a very sharp knife at an angle 2″ apart.  Cover again while you preheat the oven.

Heat oven to 375. Put the bread in to bake, and toss 3-4 ice cubes on the bottom of the oven and quickly close the oven door to create a burst of steam.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, rotating pan half way through. It should rise up and get nice and brown. Check it for doneness by turning the loaf over and knocking on it. If the loaf sound hollow, it’s baked.

Let cool before slicing. Slather with butter and call it a day.

3 thoughts on “Easiest French Bread Ever! (With Variations)

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