Classic French bread recipe made with or without a stand mixer using instant yeast or active dry yeast. 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!
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 the dough 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.
How to proof dough in the Instant Pot
1st proofing: Oil the stainless insert. Place dough inside, flip to coat it, and rest it seam side down. Cover pot with any glass lid or plate, select “yogurt” button and toggle the "adjust" button to the "less" setting. Don't worry about the number setting, just allow the dough to double in size (takes 30-60 min).2nd proofing: Once dough size doubles, remove it, punch it down and pull in the sides to tighten it back up, oil the insert again, and repeat proofing process (about 30 min).
How to proof dough without an Instant Pot
Place dough in a large, oiled, mixing bowl, flip to coat it, and rest seam side down. Loosely cover with draped plastic wrap 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 oiled 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 bread dough doesn't rise, consider these possibilities:
1) The yeast might be expired or, if fresh yeast, was not refrigerated.
2) Water is too warm (over 115°F) and killed the yeast or not warm enough and didn't activate the yeast.