Easy soft french bread recipe made with flour, water, yeast, and salt in a stand mixer or by hand with step by step instructions. It's crispy right out of the oven. As it cools, it becomes a soft French bread you can use for anything!
Combine *WARM WATER and YEAST in mixing bowl or stand mixer bowl fitted with the dough hook attachment.* Active Dry Yeast needs 100°F - 110°F water temperature. Combine and allow 5 minute rest until the yeast surfaces.* Quick Rise Instant Yeast needs 120°F - 130°F water temperature. Combine and proceed to step 2.
Add FLOUR and SALT (reserve ½ cup flour to assist mixing). Stir ingredients together with a utensil (or stand mixer on lowest speed) until a shaggy dough forms.
Mix and knead dough with your hands (or stand mixer on low speed) about 5 minutes until it becomes stretchy and pliable. During mixing, sprinkle tiny amounts of the reserved flour into the bowl to prevent sticking.
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.
Perform 1st proof/rise by placing dough in an oil-coated mixing bowl (or Instant Pot), seam side down. Cover with a towel or draped plastic wrap and allow to double in size.
Deflate the dough (aka punch it down) to remove air bubbles. You can move on to the next step, or...Perform 2nd proof/rise by shaping the dough into a tight round and repeat step 5. (The 2nd proof/rise is optional, but recommended to further develop texture and flavor)
Preheat oven to 450°F and let's shape these loaves...Transfer the dough onto lightly floured surface. Press to deflate air pockets and divide dough into 2 or 3 equal sections.Press each piece into a loose rectangle shape.Fold and press dough into itself until it becomes tight while forming it into the final shape (baguette, loaf, or round).Transfer to a prepared baking sheet or loaf pan. Brush surface with olive oil and cover to prevent air exposure.
Perform final proof/rise by resting forms in a warm spot until nearly doubled in size.Score the dough by making ¼” slits across each loaf with a sharp tool.
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°F - 200°F.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.
These tools are nonessential, but they can make your job easier when making bread
Instant yeast note: The packages are usually labeled as quick rise, rapid rise, and fast rising. They are all the same product.Note about salt: Use sea salt, kosher salt, or non-iodized salt for this recipe because iodized table salt can affect yeast fermentation and flavor.