A French bread recipe made with flour, water, yeast, and salt in a stand mixer or by hand. A soft, chewy inside and crispy crust make this the BEST bread recipe for sandwiches, toast, crostini, grilled cheese…everything! Perfect homemade bread for beginners!
This French bread recipe is quite simple and uses only four ingredients…flour, water, salt, and yeast. Learn how to master an easy bread recipe like this and the sky’s the limit! The best part, if you screw it up, and you might at first, you’ll likely still turn out a passable product!
That’s why I’m super excited to share this modestly sized homemade bread recipe with you. It’s a ridiculously low-cost recipe you can practice to your heart’s content, then make bigger batches, and use it for everything!
Fun fact about TKG
Back in my college days, I was a bread baker in a natural foods grocery store. Someone who knew me well thought I would enjoy baking bread and offered me a job. Gosh, did she call that one right!! I got to be creative, develop technical baking skills, and dance the early mornings away in a commercial kitchen while turning out around 80 loaves of artisan bread every day…and I got paid for it! Clearly, a win-win!
How to make French bread in a stand mixer
- Combine yeast and (105°) water in a stand mixer bowl and allow yeast to bloom. When it floats to the surface (5 min), add flour and salt. NOTE: If using Instant Yeast, skip the yeast-blooming step and combine all four ingredients in the stand mixer bowl.
- Mix the ingredients using the dough hook on the lowest speed to initially pull the ingredients together. You want a cohesive ball to form that clings to the dough hook (and not cling to the bowl) while it kneads (3-5 minutes) creating a dough becomes elastic and smooth. You’ll need to sprinkle flour in as needed to achieve this during the mixing process.
- Remove dough from the stand mixer and hand-knead for a few minutes to build elasticity, again, sprinkling flour as needed to not stick. Then, shape dough into a firm ball to prepare for proofing, tucking sides under and into a seam.
* Grab the easy bread recipe below.
Which KitchenAid stand mixer is right for you?
Check out The Kitchen Girl’s
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How to make French bread without a stand mixer [hand-knead]
- Combine yeast and (105°) water in a 4-quart mixing bowl and allow yeast to bloom. When it floats to the surface (about 5 min), add flour and salt. NOTE: If using Instant Yeast, skip the yeast-blooming step and combine all four ingredients in the mixing bowl.
- Mix the ingredients together with a wooden spoon (or any stirring utensil) to form a shaggy dough.
- Transfer the dough to a floured surface and hand-knead until a cohesive, elastic dough forms (3-5 minutes). Sprinkle the reserved flour in small amounts as needed to prevent the dough sticking to the table or your hands during this process.
- Shape dough into a firm ball to prepare for proofing, tucking sides under and into a seam.
* Grab the easy bread recipe below.
How to know if bread dough has been kneaded enough
If the dough ‘tears’ apart when you try to pull a piece of it off it with a few fingers (kind of like when you’re pulling off a piece of cotton candy), it needs more kneading. Properly kneaded dough will have a very noticeable elasticity during this ‘pull test’.
Can you knead bread too much?
Yes, it is possible to over-knead dough and you don’t want to do this. You’ll know it’s been kneaded too much when it becomes too stiff to comfortably knead and the dough’s outer surface starts to tear (kind of like when you sit down in tight pants and they rip). If this happens, cover the dough and let it rest for 5 or 10 minutes, then pick up where you left off…and go buy some new pants. 😂
How to proof dough without a dough proofer
- Place the ball of dough in a lightly oiled bowl, flip to coat, and rest it seam-side down.
- Cover bowl with a flour-coated towel or loose plastic wrap and allow it to rest at room temperature (about 75°) until it doubles in size.
- Once doubled, punch it down to deflate the air, reshape into a ball, and repeat steps 1 & 2.
How to proof dough in the Instant Pot
To proof French bread dough in an Instant Pot, you need a model with the yogurt setting, which holds the dough at about 100°F. This is the perfect environment to proof dough at a consistent temperature for proper gluten development. Here’s how to do it:
- Lightly oil the stainless insert of the Instant Pot.
- Place dough inside, flip to coat the surface, then rest the dough seam side down.
- Cover the Instant Pot with any 9″ glass lid or dinner plate, select “yogurt” setting, and allow to double in size (30-60 min). The Instant Pot pressure cooker lid is not recommended because if the dough rises too much, it can stick to it.
- Punch down the dough and repeat the previous steps to proof a second time.
Top 5 reasons bread dough doesn’t rise:
- The yeast may be expired or compromised.
- Water is too warm (over 110°F) and killed the yeast.
- The dough didn’t rise long enough.
- The proofing environment is compromised.
- The dough was over-proofed (as in, it rose too long and deflated).
Grab my easy Instant Pot recipes
How to shape dough for French bread
You can shape the dough however you like! After the second proofing, you’ll simply punch down and deflate the dough to remove the air. Reshape the dough into a free-form loaf or baguette by rounding up and shaping the dough into form. Place it on an oiled or parchment-covered baking sheet or fit it into a loaf pan or baguette pan. You’ll want to proof it one last time in the loaf form.
Why score bread dough before baking?
When bread bakes, the air inside needs to escape and will do so using the path of least resistance, which can cause the bread to split open in undesirable places. Scoring the bread gives you more control over where the air escapes (preferably the top), which helps maintain your intended appearance.
How to score bread dough
Once the dough is formed into a free-form or loaf, score the surface by making 1/8″ deep slashes across the top using a bread lame or razor blade. You could use a sharp knife but this might give you less control over the depth and sharp detail of the design.
What temperature is bread when it’s done?
This homemade French bread should arrive at 190-200° on an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of the bread. Insert it through the bottom of the bread to avoid poking unnecessary holes in the top.
If you don’t have a thermometer, a browned crust will be a pretty solid indicator. Also, it will make a “hollowed” sound near the surface when you tap the bread with your fingernails.
Pro-tip for crispy crust
This bread recipe uses a constant 450° temperature for baking, so you naturally get a nice crispy, browned crust straight out of the oven. If you want it even darker and crispier, at the end of the baking cycle, simply turn off the oven and allow the bread to sit in the oven undisturbed for 5 minutes. This allows the crust to brown further without the bread becoming overbaked. Then turn the loaf out onto a cooling rack.
FYI: storing the bread in a plastic bag will soften the crust by the next day. Storing it in a paper bag will keep it relatively crispy, but it won’t keep the inside soft like it will if stored in a plastic bag.
Make your own crostini and save money
Turn homemade bread into crostini…it’s so easy! Check out my super easy crostini recipe and save ALL the money (because that stuff gets expensive in the grocery store!). Use crostini to scoop dips, eat with soup, or top them with ingredients to make finger foods for parties.
Tools needed to make homemade bread
Bare minimum bread tools
- mixing bowl (to mix bread dough by hand and/or proof dough)
- wooden spoon or any utensil or bare hands (to blend ingredients)
- baking sheet, loaf pan, or baguette pan (your choice)
- bread lame or razor blade (to score the dough)
- oven mitts (for safe handling of hot bread/bakeware)
Tools not required for homemade bread (but nice to have)
What to serve with French bread
- Lasagna Soup For Instant Pot Or Stove
- No-soak Black Eyed Peas Recipe For Instant Pot Or Stove
- Sweet Potato Chili With Black Beans And Quinoa
- Chickpea Kale Soup [Instant Pot Or Stove]
- Italian Sausage Soup With Orzo
- Instant Pot Vegan White Bean Kale Soup
- Easy Baked Chicken Leg Drumsticks
- Instant Pot Chicken Alfredo
French Bread Recipe
- 1 1/3 cup Warm Water about 105°
- 2 tsp Active Dry Yeast or 1 package Instant Yeast
- 3/4 tsp Sea Salt
- 3 1/3 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
- Olive Oil or Cooking Spray to grease baking pan
- Combine ACTIVE DRY YEAST and WARM WATER (105°) in a 4-quart mixing bowl or stand mixer. Give it a quick stir, then let it rest until yeast surfaces and appears foamy (about 5 min). Note: INSTANT YEAST does not require this step, but you still need 105° water to activate it.Add SALT and 3 cups of the FLOUR. You'll add the other 1/3 cup FLOUR during mixing.
Mix the dough (by hand or stand mixer)
- BY HAND: Mix the ingredients together with a wooden spoon (or any stirring utensil) to form a shaggy dough. Transfer dough to a steady surface and hand-knead until a cohesive, elastic dough forms (3-5 minutes). Sprinkle the reserved flour in small amounts as needed to build structure and prevent the dough sticking to the table or your hands during this process.
- STAND MIXER: Attach dough hook and use lowest speed to mix and knead ingredients into a cohesive mound until smooth, elastic dough forms (3-5 min). You’ll need to sprinkle in reserved flour to prevent the dough sticking to the bowl sides.
Prepare for proofing:
- Turn dough onto lightly floured surface, knead the dough to remove all air bubbles and work to develop a smooth, elastic texture. If the surface begins to tear, stop kneading and simply tuck the dough under itself to form a seam and shape into a firm ball.
Proof the dough (with OR without an Instant Pot)
- WITH AN INSTANT POT: Oil the stainless insert. Place dough inside, flip to coat it, and rest it seam side down. Cover pot with glass lid, select “yogurt” setting, and allow dough to double in size (30-60 min). It may only take 30 min or it could take 60.Once it has doubled, punch down the dough, tighten it up again, and proof a second time until doubled in size (about 30 min).
- WITHOUT AN INSTANT POT: Place dough in oiled mixing bowl, flip to coat it, then rest seam side down. Loosely cover with plastic or a flour-coated towel. Allow to rise in a warm environment (minimum 75°F) until doubled (60-90 min).Punch dough down to deflate the air. Form again into firm ball, return to mixing bowl, cover, and rise another 30 minutes.
Shape dough and bake
- Preheat oven to 450°.
- Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead to remove air bubbles. Tuck and shape into a free-form loaf, round, or baguette. Place on oiled baking sheet or oiled loaf pan. (Optional) Brush oil on dough surface or mist water and dust with flour.
- Score the dough 1/8” deep with a razor blade; cover loaf with a piece of plastic, wax paper, or a flour coated towel. Allow to rise in a warm place until doubled (15-30 min).
- Bake at 450° for 25 minutes until golden brown. Use oven mitts to remove, transfer loaf onto cooling rack, and allow to cool before serving.FOR A CRISPER CRUST: Turn the oven off and leave the bread in for 5 minutes (for a crispier surface), or remove bread immediately.
If your dough doesn’t rise, consider these possibilities:
- baking sheet, loaf pan, or baguette pan.
Flour, water, yeast, and salt.
No. It simply needs to sit in warm water (about 105°) for about 5 minutes to activate.
This is a matter of preference and availability. You can achieve similar results with either method, but hand mixing can be more physically demanding.
If the dough ‘tears’ apart when you try to pull a piece of it off it with a few fingers, it needs more kneading.
It’s over kneaded when it becomes too stiff to easily knead and/or the surface of the dough starts to tear.
Oil the stainless steel liner, set the dough inside and flip it around to coat, cover with a glass lid or plate, and set Instant Pot to the “yogurt” setting. Allow enough time for the dough to double in size (30-60min). Repeat this process for the 2nd proofing.
Put the dough in an oiled bowl, cover, and hold it at room temperature (about 75°) until it doubles in size.
Scoring the dough allows air to escape in a more predictable method during the baking process.
When the bread finishes baking, leave it in the oven for 5 more minutes. This helps crisp the surface without overbaking the loaf.