French Bread






  1. In a large bowl dissolve yeast in 1¼ cups warm water.
  2. Add 1½ cups flour; stir for 1 minute. Batter will have the consistency of soft pudding.
  3. This is your sponge.
  4. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Let it rest in a warm place, free from drafts, overnight. The longer the sponge ferments, the better the flavor of the bread.
  5. Transfer the sponge to a heavy duty mixer bowl.
  6. Wash out the bowl that had the sponge in it and dust it with flour; set it aside.
  7. Add salt and 2 cups of flour to the work bowl with the sponge in it.
  8. Using an electric mixer or the paddle attachment for a stand mixer, beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.
  9. Remove mixer or paddle attachments from bowl.
  10. Insert a dough hook into the stand mixer. Stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a dough that is smooth and elastic.
  11. Place dough in the floured bowl and dust dough with flour.
  12. Cover with a damp towel.
  13. Let dough rise in a warm place, free from drafts, until tripled in bulk; about 1½ hours.
  14. Grease a cookie sheet and set aside. If you are using a wood paddle and pizza stone for baking, dust the paddle with flour and set aside.
  15. Punch down dough.
  16. Turn dough out onto a floured surface.
  17. Knead for 30 seconds.
  18. Cover the dough and let rest for 10 minutes.
  19. Shape dough into a smooth log for an oblong shaped loaf. For a round loaf, shape dough into a ball. For long baguettes, divide dough in half and shape accordingly.
  20. Place dough on prepared baking sheet or bread paddle.
  21. Cover with a dry towel. Let rise until double in bulk; about 1 hour.
  22. Place one oven rack in lowest position in the oven.
  23. Place a second oven rack one or two positions up from the lowest rack.
  24. If using pizza stone place on second rack.
  25. Leave enough space between the racks for a shallow roasting pan.
  26. Place a shallow roasting pan on first oven rack.
  27. Pour 2 cups of boiling water into the shallow roasting pan.
  28. Preheat oven to 425°.
  29. Slash top of oblong loaf with 5 diagonal slashes. If you are baking a round loaf, slash with 3 horizontal slashes and 3 vertical slashes, making a tic-tac-toe design.
  30. Brush the loaf with cold water.
  31. Place the loaf in the oven either directly on pizza stone or on prepared baking sheet.
  32. Bake for 15 minutes.
  33. Mix together 1 egg white and 1 tablespoon water to make a glaze. Click here for step-by-step instructions on how to separate eggs.
  34. Remove the loaf from the oven and brush with the egg white glaze.
  35. Bake for 10 minutes.
  36. Remove from oven and brush again with egg white glaze.
  37. Remove the shallow baking dish from oven.
  38. Bake loaf 10 to 15 minutes longer, for a total of 35 to 40 minutes total baking time, or until bread sounds hollow when tapped on bottom.
  39. Remove from oven and cool on a rack.
  40. Cool for 30 minutes, slice and serve.


This bread goes really well with spaghetti and meatballs.

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Recipe from Breads, by Sharon Tyler Herbst. Tuscan: HPBooks (1983).