Crusty French Bread
With a crunchy crust and a soft middle, Crusty French Bread brings the European bakery vibes. It’s formed and cut into the shape of the sun, which we all want more of this shivery month.
What Makes French Bread Different
If you have been to France, you probably were astonished at how good the bread was there. My mom and I went on a girls’ trip to Paris a few years ago. We ate our body weight in bread.
It was that delicious.
Why? I mean, we’ve eaten plenty of baguettes here in the U.S. The long, thin, crunchy batons of goodness can be purchased at most grocery stores and even Costco. But bread tastes different in France.
Some possible explanations:
- French wheat flour. It is different from the flour we use in America. Their gluten and protein content are lower. That may explain why some folks with gluten sensitivities who cannot eat bread in the States have no problem eating it in Europe.
- Longer fermentation. French bakers allow a yeast and water mixture to ferment overnight before incorporating it into bread. This mixture, called poolish, brings flavor and texture to the baked loaf.
- You’re on vacation. In France.
In France, there are laws regarding bread. The French Bread Law stipulates what bread can be comprised of, as well as the weight and length of baguettes. They may only contain flour, yeast, salt, and water as ingredients. Baguettes weigh 8 to 10 oz and are usually 21 to 26 inches long.
In this recipe for French-style bread, we are breaking all the laws. But the good news is the resulting bake is a delicious consolation prize for not vacationing in France.
- I love the aroma and slight bitterness of molasses. It is such a tiny amount used so if you don’t have it and don’t want to buy a bottle, sub in brown sugar instead.
- Shape the dough into two baguettes, if you prefer. All other instructions and bake time are the same. You’re an adult, so do what you want.
- This tip is in the recipe but bears repeating. Do not use a glass or Pyrex dish for the ice cubes. It will shatter and you’ll regret everything.
Many thanks to Natasha’s Kitchen for the wreath bread recipe.
- 1 ¾ cups warm water (100F/38C)
- ½ tsp molasses
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 ⅓ cups bread flour
- 1 ¼ tsp instant dry yeast
- Stir together the warm water, molasses, and salt in a bowl or large measuring cup to loosen the molasses and dissolve the salt.
- Tip the all-purpose flour, bread flour, and yeast into a large mixing bowl. Whisk the dry ingredients together to combine. Pour in the molasses mixture and stir to incorporate everything.
- Using your hands, knead the dough for 5-ish minutes. It will be soft and slightly tacky. Add a little flour if it sticks to your fingertips.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 90-ish minutes or until doubled in size. Once it has doubled, punch down the dough and divide it into two equal pieces.
- Place two pieces of parchment on the counter and sprinkle liberally with flour. Put each piece of dough on a prepared sheet of parchment and turn to coat in the flour. Poke a hole in the center of the dough and gently stretch the dough into a large circle 10 inches across. The hole in the center should be 5 inches across. Repeat with the other piece.
- Let the dough rise again for 30 minutes.
- While the dough rises, preheat the oven to 450F/232C. Move the two racks to the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Place a large baking sheet, upside down, on the upper rack and a metal or cast iron pan on the bottom rack while the oven preheats. DO NOT USE GLASS or PYREX because it will shatter.
- Dust the dough circle with flour. Cut the dough at an angle using scissors. Make deep cuts around 1 ½ inches apart but leave the center area still attached. Rotate the parchment as you make the cuts all the way around. Pull the pointy ends outward so that the shape resembles the sun. Or a flower. Or a sunflower.
- Slide the bread and parchment paper onto the hot baking sheet in the oven. You will hear a sizzle as the bottom dough comes into contact with the hot sheet. Quickly place 4 or 5 ice cubes (about 1 cup) into the metal or cast iron pan which will generate steam.
- Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown and remove from the oven to cool on a wire rack.
- Repeat with the second circle.
Keywords: crusty French bread