I have always loved bread. As a kid I would eat plain bread and butter as a snack because it was just that good, but when I grew up and when to pastry school, I discovered something so much better: real bread. Im talking fresh baked, 4 ingredients bread. Not that artificial, chemical laden crap they sell in stores.
Making bread from scratch can seem like a daunting task, but rest assured, it’s really not! If you’ve never made bread at home before, try it! It is so easy, all it takes is a little bit of patience, but man is it worth it. This recipe is adapted from the great Julia Child, so you know it’s good!
Classic French Bread
3 1/3 cups bread flour (you can use all purpose, but bread flour is the way to go!)
2 1/4 teaspoon (1 packet) instant active dry yeast
2 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups warm water (110-120 degrees)
In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the flour, yeast and salt. Attach the paddle and, on low speed, add the water. Mix until a tacky dough forms, then switch to the dough hook attachment. Mix the dough on medium speed (to kneed it) until a window forms, about 5 minutes. You may need to add more flour if the dough is too sticky (I ended up adding a little over 1/4 cup extra); you want the dough to be smooth and slightly sticky.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and let rest for a couple of minutes while you wash and dry the mixing bowl. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a clean towel and let the dough rise at room temp until it has doubled in size, 2-3 hours.
Using a bowl scraper or spatula, scrape the dough away from the sides of the bowl to deflate it. Cover and let rest again until doubled in size, about 1 1/2-2 hours.
When dough is ready, preheat oven to 400 degrees and place a hotel pan or baking dish on the lower rack of the oven and a baking stone on the middle rack.
Turn the dough onto a floured surface and cut into desired amount of pieces, I made two larger loaves. Shape loaves as desired and place, seam side down, onto floured parchment paper. Let dough rest until not quite doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
Slash the top of the dough with a knife so the gases produced while baking can escape. Place the bread on the baking stone with the parchment paper. Add water to the hotel pan to create steam (the steam is what makes the top of the bread crunchy). Half way through baking, remove the parchment paper from under the bread.