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This easy French bread recipe uses only 4 ingredients and makes the best homemade oven-baked loaf. Learn how to make crispy bakery French bread right out of the oven that becomes soft and chewy as it cools.
What is French bread?
This homemade French bread is made with flour, water, yeast, and salt. It can be mixed by hand or a stand mixer and shaped into your favorite form. Once baked, the crust is golden and crispy. As it cools, it becomes a super soft French loaf for anything.
Why you'll love this recipe
- Easy for any bread-baking level - This simple bread recipe is tried and trusted among bread beginners and skilled bakers.
- You need only four ingredients - Flour, water, yeast, and salt- to make French bread dough. Of course, you also need a tiny amount of oil to prevent the dough from sticking during the proofing phase.
- Two yeast options - This recipe includes instant or active dry yeast instructions.
- Two mixing methods - You can hand-knead the dough or use an electric mixer – both methods are included.
- Economical - The ingredients for this homemade French bread are a fraction of the cost of store-bought bread.
- Enjoyment - Making bread at home is fun and relaxing, especially when your whole house smells like a bakery.
How to make French bread
Here's a brief overview. Visit the printable recipe card below for detailed instructions.
- Combine water and yeast and bloom yeast if needed.
- Add flour and salt.
- Mix and knead the dough.
- 1st proofing - This means allowing the dough to double in size. You can even proof dough in the Instant Pot to accelerate this process.
- Deflate and reshape to prep for 2nd proofing.
- 2nd proofing - This is optional but recommended for gluten development.
- Deflate and shape dough into a baguette, oval, round, or loaf.
- Final proofing - This means allowing the final form to expand before baking.
- Bake the French loaf.
- Cool and store.
Stand mixer bread vs hand kneaded bread
This soft French bread recipe can be easily kneaded by hand or with a stand mixer. Depending on the batch size I want to make, I bounce between both mixing methods. So, I included instructions for both methods in the recipe below.
How to knead French bread in the stand mixer
I use my 5-quart KitchenAid stand mixer for this bread recipe, which yields about 2 pounds of dough. This size is perfect for my 5-quart mixer with the dough hook attachment because it mixes and kneads without any delay. The mixer struggles with smaller batches because the attachment can't reach the ingredients to gather and knead the dough effectively.
To mix dough in a stand mixer, secure the dough hook attachment. Use the lowest speed to mix and knead ingredients into a cohesive, smooth, elastic dough (about 3-5 minutes). Sprinkle reserved flour into the bowl as needed during the mixing process to prevent the dough from sticking to the sides of the bowl. You may also need to stop the mixer and pull the dough back into cohesion with a spatula or your hands.
How to knead French bread by hand
Hand-kneading - Knowing how to knead dough without an electric mixer is good. I usually hand-knead this French bread recipe when I make a half batch (1-pound dough yield) because my hands can incorporate and knead smaller batches more efficiently than the mixer.
To hand knead: Stir ingredients together (using a utensil or your hands) in a large mixing bowl until a shaggy dough forms. Transfer dough to a steady surface and hand-knead until a cohesive, elastic dough forms (about 3-5 minutes). Sprinkle the reserved flour in small amounts to prevent the dough from sticking to the table or your hands during the entire process.
You can proof homemade French bread using different methods. Proofing bread in the Instant Pot is my favorite! It creates the ideal environment to proof at a constant temperature of 90 degrees Fahrenheit. It's so convenient because your dough doubles in size in only 45 minutes, even in a chilly or drafty environment.
French bread shapes
Shaping French bread is half the fun! You can shape a baguette, sandwich loaf, oval, or round. A baguette or loaf pan isn't required, but they help maintain shape and height, which is great for bread beginners, especially if your dough texture is loose.
Here are some 'before and after' examples of my French bread shapes.
French sandwich loaf in a loaf pan
Free-form oval sandwich loaf on a mini baking sheet
Tools and equipment
These are the bare minimum bread tools needed for this recipe. I've included links to these and additional tools in the recipe card below.
- Mixing bowls - Use these to knead dough by hand and/or proof dough.
- Stand mixer - (Optional) You can also knead French bread by hand.
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Quick-read thermometer - (optional) Gauge water temperature and baked bread temperature.
- Dough whisk - Or any stirring utensil to combine ingredients
- Baking sheet
- Parchment paper - This helps prevent the bread from sticking to the bakeware.
- Bread lame - This scores the dough. A plain razor blade can also be used.
- Oven mitts - Use these for safe handling of hot bread and bakeware.
Looking for the best stand mixer for bread? Check out my feature comparison article and VIDEO: KitchenAid Artisan vs Professional 600 models.
Can you freeze French bread?
Yes! Allow the loaf to cool completely and freeze in an airtight bag or freezer-safe container for up to 30 days. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight or at room temperature for a few hours.
Recommended bread recipes
- How to Make Crostini
- Homemade Croutons
- Cranberry Walnut Bread
- Pull Apart Bread
- Best Bread Stuffing
- How to Dry Out Bread
How to serve French bread
There's nothing better than dinner served with fresh, homemade French bread. Grab any one of these mouthwatering entrees made for Instant Pot or stove!
- Lasagna Soup
- Instant Pot Chicken Alfredo
- Chickpea Kale Soup
- Split Pea Soup
- Instant Pot Spaghetti and Meat Sauce
- Sausage Soup
- Minestrone Soup
- White Bean Kale Soup
Easy French Bread Recipe
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Yields about 1 ½ pounds dough (780 g)
- 1 ⅓ cup Warm Water (315 g) see instructions for temperature
- 1 (¼-ounce packet) Quick Rise Instant Yeast or 2 ¼ tsp Active Dry Yeast
- 1 ½ teaspoon Sea Salt *see recipe footnote
- 3 ½ cups Unbleached All Purpose Flour (480 g) set aside ½ cup to assist mixing
- Whisk together WARM WATER and *YEAST in a large mixing bowl (or in a stand mixer bowl fitted with the dough hook attachment).* Active dry yeast requires a water temperature of 100 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Once combined, set aside for about 5 minutes until the yeast blooms to the surface before moving on to the next step.* Quick Rise Instant Yeast needs a water temperature of 120 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit but doesn't need to bloom. Proceed to step 2.
- Add FLOUR and SALT to the water and yeast mixture. Stir ingredients with any utensil (or stand mixer at the lowest speed) until a shaggy dough forms.
- Use your hands (or stand mixer) to knead the dough about 5 minutes until it becomes stretchy and pliable. Sprinkle small amounts of the reserved flour to prevent the dough from sticking to your hands or mixing bowl.
- Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and shape into a tight, round form, tucking the sides under to form a seam on the bottom.
- To proof the dough, place it in a covered mixing bowl seam side down. Rest the bowl in a warm spot for about 45 minutes or until it doubles in size.Note: You can proof dough in the Instant Pot if you have one with a 'yogurt' setting. So cool!
- Deflate the dough (aka punch it down) to remove air bubbles.
- You can move on to the next step, or...(optional) Perform 2nd poof/rise by repeating the previous proofing step to further develop texture and flavor. Note: This adds another 45 minutes to the time.
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Let's shape these loaves! Here's how:Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Press to deflate air pockets and divide the dough into 2 or 3 equal sections.Press each piece into a loose rectangle shape.Fold and press the dough into itself until it becomes tight while forming it into the final shape (baguette, loaf, or round).Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet or loaf pan and cover to prevent air exposure.
- Perform final proof/rise by resting the bread forms for about 30 minutes in a warm spot.
- Score the dough by making ¼-inch slits across each loaf with a razor blade or bread lame.
- Bake 20-25 minutes, rotating halfway through, as needed for even browning.Fully baked French bread will be crisp and golden brown. If tested with a quick-read thermometer, it should be between 190 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.Note: The crisp surface will completely soften once it cools.
- Transfer loaves onto a cooling rack and rest 5 minutes.Remove loaves from pans and rest on the cooling rack until completely cooled (to retain moisture).Store cooled bread in a plastic bag or airtight container up to 2 days at room temperature or 5 days in the refrigerator.
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- digital scale - weigh ingredients and bread dough
- Instant Pot - for proofing dough
- plate or lid that covers the Instant Pot during dough proofing
- dough whisk - combines dough ingredients before kneading
- bowl scraper - helps remove sticky dough from mixing bowl
- sandwich loaf pan or baguette pan - helps shape and add height to loaves
- bread knife - serrated edges will cut straight lines