Easy French Bread

One of my favorite kid books ever is the book Fortunately by Remi Charlip. Published in 1964, the words and pictures tell a story of young Ned, a boy invited to a surprise birthday party, who runs into a series of mishaps as he makes his way there. The pattern of the book goes like this:
“Fortunately, a friend loaned him an airplane [to get to the party].”
“Unfortunately, the motor exploded.”
“Fortunately, there was a parachute.”
“Unfortunately, the parachute had a hole in it.”
And so on.

starter

The illustrations are simple and silly and very 1964ish, and what I love about this book is that so many of my days seem to reflect this pattern…especially last Monday.

Fortunately: A Monday Story (a true story)
Unfortunately, I woke up very sleepy (I blame you, baby).
Fortunately, it was a relatively easy day at work with very sleepy kids.
Unfortunately, I had several things to do after work that had to happen in a short amount of time.
Fortunately, our administrator let us out a half hour early from our staff meeting.
Unfortunately, I still wasn’t sure I could get all of my errands done, even with the extra time.
Fortunately, I’m a grocery store superstar and flew through my list.
Unfortunately, in my haste to load the bags in the trunk, I put my purse…and keys…in the trunk as well, and efficiently slammed it shut, effectively locking myself out.
Fortunately, cell phones exist, and some kind strangers allowed me to use theirs to call Eric.

french bread dough
Unfortunately, we only have one car, and it was going to take him at least 30 minutes to walk to the train station, take the train, and walk to the grocery store to rescue me with our second key.
Fortunately, Target was right next door to the grocery store, and I was hoping to go there anyways this week and compare baby soap scents.
Unfortunately, I was overheating, since it was super nice out and I was wearing compression tights (I blame you, baby).
Fortunately, Target has a bathroom, and I was able to take the tights off.
Unfortunately, several people in Target looked questioningly at me, perhaps wondering if I’d wet my pants as I walked through the store holding a balled up pair of flesh-colored stockings….and then looked at me like I was crazy, repeatedly sniffing baby soaps with no purse or clear intention of buying any of them.

knead

Fortunately, Eric is gracious and picked me up promptly.
Unfortunately, I still had to make brownies for our new neighbors and do our birth class homework before class that night.
Fortunately, Eric said he’d read the chapter we were supposed to aloud while I baked.
Unfortunately, in my attempts at multi-taskedness, I COMPLETELY botched the brownie recipe (that I’ve made probably 50 times) by not halving the evaporated milk.
Fortunately, I have just enough chocolate chips left to make some (slightly more boring) cookies.
Unfortunately, this meant we had almost no time for dinner.
But fortunately, bread makes for many a fast meal, and fortunately I have this great bread recipe, and fortunately, we had some frozen that we were able to use as the “main” course to our giant-salad-on-the-go dinner and fortunately, I get to share this amazing bread recipe with you.
The end.

french bread dough Seriously, it was a cartoonishly ridiculous day of fails, and I was so glad we had some of this bread in the freezer to save us as we ran out the door, trailing bread crumbs and spinach leaves behind us.
This bread is the picture of ease on a day when everything else is going wrong. It’s so simple and low maintenance and makes two gigantic loaves, perfect for eating one fresh and and freezing the other for rushed nights like our Monday. The recipe comes from the More with Less cookbook, which holds some of the easiest meals I make. Usually, this cookbook is all about the whole grains, but there’s something so delightful about plain, white French bread, that we just keep coming back to this recipe. It’s perfect as a dinner side dish, for thick-sliced grilled cheese, French toast, and that perfect piece of bread with jam in the morning.Try this recipe out soon and serve it to your friends and family, who will ooh and aah over your homemade French bread efforts, even though this is truly the easiest bread recipe of all. Fortunately, no one has to know but you.
french bread

Easy French Bread

Easy French Bread

(recipe from the More with Less cookbook).

(yields 2 loaves)

This French bread recipe is so simple to put together, and it yields a lot of bread. This bread freezes really well, sliced or whole, wrapped in plastic and placed in a freezer-safe bag. I didn't really adapt the recipe at all, since bread is tricky like that, but you could add poppy or sesame seeds to the top, if desired, just before baking. Enjoy with heaps of butter and jam, or use for grilled cheese or French toast.

Ingredients

2 packages (1/4 oz.) active dry yeast (or 4 1/2 tsp.)

1/2 c. warm water (110*-115*)

1/2 tsp. sugar

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2 c. boiling water (additional)

2 tbsp. sugar (additional)

2 tbsp. fat (I usually use vegetable oil or butter)

2 tsp. salt

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7 1/2 - 8 c. flour

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1 egg, beaten

2 tbsp. milk

Instructions

Dissolve the yeast and 1/2 tsp. sugar in the 1/2 c. warm water.

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Bring the additional 2 c. water to a boil. Once it's at a rolling boil, add the fat, salt, and 2 tbsp. sugar and stir to combine.

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Let the boiling water mixture cool to lukewarm, and then add the yeast mixture to it.

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Mix together the water mixture, yeast mixture, and the flour with a wooden spoon. Once it's combined, knead (on a lightly floured surface) for 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Place dough in a greased bowl (I spray and wipe mine with cooking spray first), and turn the dough, so it's coated. Cover with a (floured) towel or (greased) plastic wrap and let rise until doubled.

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Punch down and let rest 15 minutes.

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Divide dough in half. On a floured surface, roll out each half to about a 12"x15" rectangle. Roll up the rectangle, starting with the 15" edge.

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Place the two dough rolls on a greased cookie sheet and make 4 or 5 slashes diagonally across the top of each. Let rise until doubled (I covered mine with a floured towel).

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Once doubled, mix together the egg and milk and brush on the loaves.

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Bake at 400* for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.

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65 thoughts on “Easy French Bread

  1. Oh how I love the relating of your day — so wonderfully story-ific — Isn’t it amazing how retelling a crazy day with style and shazazz makes it almost worth the trauma and ridiculousness of it all?! (-: (Remember that as motherhood unfolds!!!!)

  2. Thanks for the awesome repice! I needed some quick bread with dinner and this tunred out perfect. Not only did they look adorable, they tasted delish too!

      • I’ve never made bread in my life! I was nervous to make …it but this recipe is so easy and tastes so good..I’ve been making one loaf as the recipe says and I have stuffed the second roll with cold cuts and cheese! I rolled out then layed the meat and cheese down the middle then made slices horizontally and crisscrossed them over filling and tucked in the ends and baked as recipe calls…. so delicious my kids ate the whole loaf in 10 minutes!!! Thank u!!! Im now a bread maker!!!!

  3. I love this recipe! I’ve already made it once and today I got creative with it…I added garlic-herb butter to it before I rolled it up. It can’t rise fast enough right now, I’m so excited to bake it and smell all the wonderful goodness…and then rip it to pieces as soon as it comes out of the oven! :) Thanks for sharing your fun recipes and stories Liz.

    • Oooh! That sounds delicious…I can just imagine that buttery goodness oozing out of fresh, warm bread! Glad you like the recipe and stories!!

  4. I made this bread last night for dinner last night and it was fantastic. My one year old loved it (and she seemed to love it even more this afternoon when I used it to make a sunbutter and jelly sandwich for her lunch). I never knew making bread could be so easy!

    • Okay…it’s been quite a while since I’ve made this, so these are educated estimates. I want to say the first rise time was like between 1-2 hours…depending on how warm the spot is that the dough is sitting. And the second rise was much shorter….like 30-45 minutes (again depending on the warmth factor). I usually turn my oven on to 275* and let my bread dough rise on the top of the stove.

  5. Just used another recipe to make french bread and it didn’t turn out very well. I decided to google another recipe and came across yours! Going to give it another try tomorrow. Thanks!

    • Yep – start with seven and a half…you may need a bit more (up to eight an a half) to make the dough easier to handle / for sprinkling your kneading surface. But yes – start with seven and a half in the bowl when you start to mix it.

    • Hmmm….I’ve had that happen when the dough felt sticky, and I kept adding flour…maybe you added too much flour? Did the bread turn out at all even though the kneading was rough?

      • The bread turned out alright. It didn’t rise a whole lot and it was a little dense but it tasted good :o) I think you’re right and there was soo much flour. I did use the 7 1/2 cups next time I think I’ll use 6 1/2 – 7.

        • Yeah, if it was dense, chances are a little too much flour. Good idea to start slow w/ the flour and use more as needed! Bread is so trick – hope it works out better next time.

  6. Thank You Liz…. yeast has waged a war against me..since I first tried at &..now 48, almost and SUCCESS!!!! Thank you Sweet Lady xoxoxo Kristan Root

  7. Hi Liz,

    These look great and easy to make. Never made bread before buy hey, there is always a first time for everything. Just would to know what you did to prepare them for the freezer. Any special packing
    required

    Marilyn

    • Hi Marilyn! All I did before freezing the second loaf is cut it into like 5″ chunks, wrapped each chunk in plastic wrap, and then placed the wrapped chunks in freezer bags. That way I could just use one chunk (about 5 slices) at a time.

      • Sounds wonderful. My son is allergic to eggs and he loves bread so I am always on the look out for bread recipes sans eggs. Silly question, when you froze the bread was it cooked or was it just the uncooked dough? ;)

        • No guarantees, but I bet you could try to just brush this bread with milk (no eggs) to get that coloring…I’m thinking that would work and then your son could enjoy this along with you!
          And not a silly question! I froze it cooked…I cool it, then usually cut it into chunks of 4-5 slices – enough for us to enjoy without thawing a whole loaf.
          Based on other bread recipes I’ve made, I’d wager that you could let this do the first rise and rest, roll it into the loaf shape and then freeze it (wrapped tightly in plastic wrap).
          Then, you could thaw it, and let it do the second rise when ready to bake. I’ve had good success doing this with other bread recipes. If you try it, let me know how it works out!

  8. This is mislabeled. It is not French bread.

    There is no fat in French bread! The difference between French bread and Italian bread is that the latter has fat as an ingredient.

    There are no eggs in traditional French bread.

    This is anice bread, but nothing to do with French and I’m German with no cause to serve. Just call it a ‘bread’

    Why are you boiling the water? You then cool it before adding to other ingredients. What function did this serve? I ommitted it

    • Thanks for the tip! I was not aware that there were such stringent guidelines for what makes a true French bread…I was just going off of the cookbook I got the recipe from, which called this a French bread. Either way, I’m glad you tried it and enjoyed it.
      P.S. As for why to boil the water, in my experience, the salt & sugar dissolve better in hot water, even though you then cool it before adding it to the yeast.

  9. I have this dough on its first rise right now and I think it came together really well! It’s a very easy dough to handle. I made the dough in my kitchen aid mixer, and found that starting with 6 .5 cups of flour, and then slowly adding in the last cup until the dough just came together was the way to go. I can see how adding too much flour too quickly can make it dense. My only other comment is that the boiled water mixture took a LONG time to get lukewarm, and that it might be better to do that step first and wait until it reaches the right temperature before mixing together the 1/2 c. water and the yeast. I felt like my yeast was sitting a bit too long. I usually don’t like to leave it to proof more than 5 minutes. Thanks for the recipe… looking forward to having this for supper tonight :)

    • Great tips, Tracy! I don’t have a kitchen aid mixer, so I’m always glad when any commenter leaves good instructions for using one! Glad it’s turning out!

      • My husband and boys said this is the best bread I’ve ever made! It was FANTASTIC. 2 loaves were gone in 2 days! Currently have another batch rising. Thanks so much for posting this recipe. Happy New Year :)

  10. I am trying out your bread recipe for a extra-credit science project to prove yeast performs cellular respiration. So far, everything seems to be going smoothly. Is it okay to wrap it in a floured paper towel instead of a regular towel? I hope the bread come out right! Thanks for this amazingly simple recipe and interesting, humorous story to read!

    • Wow! I think that’s a first…one of our recipes being used for science :)
      I think you could definitely use a floured paper towel to cover the bread. Just use a couple of layers to make it thicker and less porous than your average single-layer paper towel. You could use plastic wrap greased with cooking spray or butter. Hope that helps, and good luck with your extra credit!

  11. The bread was fantastic!!!! I brought it to school and everyone pounced on it and the two loaves were gobbled up in minutes! Thanks for this easy, go-to recipe!

  12. I’m new at making bread and have tried a number of recipes. Ruined a few too. I have to say this is my favorite (and my family’s) in terms of taste and texture. So easy and comes out perfectly! Thanks!

  13. Thank you for reminding me it was in the More with Less Cookbook! I saw that and was like, “I have that cookbook!” LOL! It is on its last rising now and I am SUPER excited to try it in the Bakd French Toast! I was glowing saying how excited I am that it will be the ULTIMATE Baked French Toast with my homemade french bread, and the FRESH Eggs from the newly adopted laying hens♥

  14. I think this is brilliant!
    My attemps have been sucessful and delicious!
    Thank you!
    I have found the one recipe I will be making for time to come.
    Just a comment though..
    I measure out 7 cups of flour and an extra in case i need it, but there is always flour that is not “accepted” into the dough after kneading it, so i cut the flour to around 6 1/2 cups!

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  16. I suck at life… I used all 7.5 cups of flour and added the 2.5 cups of water. It was no where near enough to mix with the flour… Little help? Less flour? More water?

    • Hmmm….hard to say without seeing what your dough looked like. My recommendation would be to start with more like 6.5-7 cups of flour. Don’t be afraid, either of adding a couple tablespoons of warm water at a time to the dough to try to even out the balance. Bread is tricky like that – I’d see keep playing with adding more water until it feels right (one of my signs is that the dough starts to get pulled off the side of the bowl as you stir it into a ball-like shape). And you do not suck at life. Have you read about my bread-baking past? :)

  17. This is an awesome recipe. I made it today and split to the dough to make dinner rolls, sandwich rolls and two smaller loaves of bread. Perfect! Thanks for posting. This will become a regular in my weekly homemade bread rotation.

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  19. Liz,
    This was my 1st attemt at baking bread, intimidated by yeast otherwise. Must say it turned out fab! And the aroma of freshly baking bread is heady….. Am addicted to bread baking now

    • Chris – that makes me so happy! I’m so glad the bread turned out well and that you are into bread baking now! Keep at it – it gets so much easier the more you do it and the more you get used to the feel of dough!

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