Easy French Bread

This is the easiest bread recipe ever, and is great for beginners.  I still make it all the time because it’s good, not just easy.  My seven year old did almost every step of this loaf except put it in the oven and take it out.

I baked this in an Emile Henry clay cocotte pot that my mom gave me after she bought it for baking bread and then went on a low carb diet. You don’t need the clay baker, although I love it dearly and use it for more than just bread.  This recipe will be just fine baked freeform on a baking sheet, but it will not rise quite as high in the oven.

This is the same dough recipe I use for french sandwich rolls, just a different method.

It’s good sliced with butter or dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It also slices nicely for sandwiches or toast if you allow it to cool completely.

You will need:

-4 cups of bread flour, King Arthur is best

-2 t. salt

-2 1/2 t. instant yeast (I like this kind, which I store in a quart jar in the freezer)

-1 1/2 cups water

-Cornmeal for sprinkling

Directions:

  1.  Combine all ingredients to form a smooth, soft dough, and knead.  If you do this in a bread machine on the dough cycle, life will be good.  Otherwise, a stand mixer with a dough hook will work, and will take about 7-9 minutes on a low setting.
  2. Allow dough to rise, covered, in a warm place.  It will take about 60 minutes in a setting that is about 90 degrees.  You can use an oven that has been slightly warmed and then turned off or sunny windowsill. (The bread machine takes care of this for you too.)
  3. After the dough has risen, remove from bowl and place on floured surface.  Shape the loaf by pinching the bottom until the top is smooth.
  4. Prepare your baking sheet or clay baker  by laying down a piece of parchment  and sprinkling cornmeal on the parchment sheet.  Place the round loaf on top of the parchment and rub flour on top.  Slash with a very sharp knife.
  5. Cover the dough, either with heavily greased plastic wrap or the lid of your baker.  Allow the dough to rise again.  This will take another 45-60 minutes, in a warm place.  Towards the end of the second rise, preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  6. When sufficiently risen, bake.  If using a baking sheet, it will take about 30 minutes. The clay baker will take a bit longer.  I bake for 20 minutes with the lid on, then another 20. with the lid off. The internal temp should be 200.
  7. Cool on wire rack and serve while still warm.

This recipe does not keep well at room temperature (will go stale the next day), but freezes very well.  Just wrap well to freeze, then defrost at room temperature a few hours and reheat briefly in a warm oven. Or just use it for toast or croutons on day 2.

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