This is my easy soft fluffy french bread recipe, it makes one loaf but is easily doubled for a crowd. It’s crusty and golden on the outside and so soft and chewy inside.
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Originally published September 17, 2017.
Classic French Bread Recipe
Everyone needs a classic homemade french bread recipe. There’s nothing like fresh from the oven warm bread to have with dinner. Or lunch. Or breakfast! One of my favorite things to make with leftover french bread is Lemon Blueberry Bread Pudding. And eat it for breakfast.
I worked at a bakery for three years, and it was easily my favorite job. It was there I learned to knead two loaves at the same time, roll out dinner rolls with two hands, and appreciate the smell of baking bread. And of course, learn how to make french bread.
How to make soft french bread
- Proof yeast. Mix together warm water (90-110 F), sugar, and yeast and let sit for 5 minutes or until foamy.
- Mix and let dough rise. In a stand mixer (or large bowl if making by hand) measure in salt, oil, flour and add the yeast mixture last. Mix 3-5 minutes in mixer or knead 5-7 minutes by hand until dough is smooth. Place in greased bowl, cover with dish towel and let rise 45 min or until doubled in size.
- Shape and let rise again. Roll dough out with a rolling pin and then roll lengthwise using the “sleeping bag” method, shown below. Place on baking sheet and rise 45-60 min, until almost doubled in size.
- Bake. Preheat oven to 375 F. Slice top of loaf 5-7 times with sharp knife about .25 inch deep. This helps the loaf expand while baking. Bake for 20-25 min, and don’t forget to brush a beaten egg on the loaf the last few minutes for that divine golden crispy crust!
Tips for soft fluffy french bread:
- Make time for two rises! Rising time is key for soft, fluffy bread. Double in size is the rule of thumb for most bread recipes.
- Stiffer dough for a taller loaf. If the dough is too sticky and wet, it spreads flat as it rises.
- Roll the dough into a loaf shape using a “sleeping bag” rolling method. This tightens up the outside of the loaf nicely, so the edges don’t spread too much during the second rise.
- Use a beaten egg brushed on the outside of the loaf for a crusty, golden brown outside. No need to use the whole egg, just make sure the tops and sides of the loaf are brushed.
You can speed up the rising process by turning the oven on for a minute or two, and then turning it off and placing the dough inside to rise in the warm (but NOT hot) oven. Although this speeds the rising process, the most flavorful bread comes from dough that ferments (or rises) longer. If you watch The Great British Baking Show and have heard of Paul Hollywood, a professional baker, you know he says this multiple times.
To get a taller loaf, make sure that the dough is not too elastic. This is a stiffer dough, not sticky at all. Kneading time of 5-7 minutes and a little extra flour helps to get the right consistency. The technique I use I learned working at the bakery. Roll the dough out flat with a rolling pin, then roll tightly lengthwise, kind of like a bedroll or a sleeping bag. Gentle pressure only, pulling the dough too tight will rip it and damage the gluten strands.
The reason I like this recipe so much is that it makes a reasonably large loaf of french bread, and it’s easily doubled to make two loaves if I’m making it for company. I usually make two loaves anyway, because I could eat slice after slice. IT’S THAT GOOD.
How to make french bread without a stand mixer:
Simply follow the recipe using a medium sized mixing bowl and knead by hand for 5-7 minutes until the dough is smooth. This recipe is for thick dough, you’ll need your bread muscles for sure! 💪🏻
What to serve with french bread
Freezer Instructions for french bread
If you have any leftovers or if you doubled the recipe and have 2 loaves, you can wrap loaves (completely cooled) in saran wrap or tinfoil, place in a ziploc bag and freeze for up to 3 months.
Soft Fluffy French Bread
- 1 cup warm water approx 90-110 degrees F.
- 2 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 1 Tablespoon white granulated sugar or honey
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 Tablespoon oil
- 2½ to 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1 egg, beaten for top of bread
- In bowl of stand mixer (or large bowl if mixing by hand), combine warm water, yeast, and sugar. Let sit 5-7 minutes or until foamy.
- Mix in salt, oil, and 2 cups flour on low speed until combined. Add half cup flour at a time until dough pulls away from sides of bowl and is only slightly sticky. Mix on low to medium speed for 3-5 minutes, or hand knead 5-7 min.
- Place dough in greased bowl and let rise for 45 minutes at room temperature, it should be almost double in size. Roll out into a 9X13 inch rectangle and then roll tightly up into a long roll, about 2-3 inches high and 13 inches long.
- Preheat oven to 375 F. Prepare a baking sheet with silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
- Place the roll of dough on baking sheet and slice slits in top of bread 2-3 inches apart, and about ¼ inch deep. Let rise one hour, or until about doubled in size.
- Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes, top should be golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. Brush egg onto top of loaf and bake for another 2-3 minutes. This gives the outside of the loaf a nice shine and a little crunch.