Easy French Bread Recipe (Boule)
Here’s a relatively easy recipe for classic French bread. With the made dough, you can shape it into 2 boules or about 3 batards. It does take awhile to rise so pick a day when you know you’ll be at home for at least 5 hours+. It’s also best if the ambient room temp is around 78F. It’s getting slightly warm in NY now and I made these french bread boules in about 6.5 hours at a temp of around 67F. Once you taste the fresh crunchy crust however, you’ll realize that it’s all worth the wait.
Classic French Bread Recipe
5 cups of bread flour (or unbleached all purpose)
2 cups of cool water (room temp)
.6 ounce of fresh yeast (or I use one packet of Red Star QUICK·RISE™ Yeast)
2.5 teaspoons of salt
Pour flour onto a clean surface and create a mound and make it into a volcano. Pour a bit of the water, then slowly draw the flour into the water. Repeat till water is fully mixed with the flour. Now grease hands with a bit of olive oil and then knead for about 5 minutes to throughly mix the flour and water. Let rest for 15 minutes (autolyse).
Flatten dough with hands and then sprinkle half the yeast, knead, flatten and sprinkle the rest of the yeast. Flatten and add the salt, then knead again for about 10 minutes till dough is smooth. Roll the dough into a tight ball. Cover with a towel and let rest for 1.5 to 2 hours, maybe 3 hours until it doubles in volume. It all depends on the room temp.
Shape the Bread (Boule)
Slice dough in half and flatten. To shape, tuck the dough on itslef to stretch the outer skin. Rotate the bottom of the ball on the work surface to further tighten the ball. Finally use the tips of your fingers and tuck the bottom edges of the dough ball and pinch to seal the bottom. Place on a prepared floured baking sheet.
Cover with a lighlty floured towel and allow to rest till dough doubles in volume. (2-3 hours, maybe 4)
Baking The Bread
Place a shallow pan on the very bottom of your oven. Fill up a container with 2 cups of cool water. Heat oven to 425F. Now you have to work quickly. ( I kind of fucked up by moving too slow and my bread deflated a bit and as a result you can see the skin on the bread is a bit wrinkled. )
1) Pour the water into the pan and close the oven door to trap the steam.
2) Quickly slash the tops of the boules making a X shape.
3) Open and place the baking sheet with the bread into the oven and quickly close the door.
Bake for 20 to 25 mins or until the internal temp is 200F. Allow to cool for 20 mins before enjoying. For long term storage, allow to cool a few hours ,then seal in a ziplock bag and freeze.