Monday, March 29, 2010

Chewy, crusty french boule

Yessss. A crusty french bread you can make at home. I've been trying for a couple months to find the perfect french bread recipe, and just when I thought I'd give up joythebaker came to my rescue again. And perfect it is! This is quite honestly the best thing that has come out of my oven, EVER. And much better than anything I've bought from the bakery.

And it is so simple, and fool-proof, I feel silly for wasting countless hours trying any other method/recipes. My sister, whom had never baked bread before today, used this recipe and it turned out perfect.

If you're a first time bread baker, or been doing it for years, please try this out. You'll think you're in Paris. The result is a chewy amazing crust and a melt-in-your-mouth crumb. And if you're like my husband and I, one loaf will last about 5 minutes.

Here's how to do it. (Edited to add: No kitchenaid? See the mixer-free version at the bottom.)

You'll need:
a stand mixer
4 cups bread flour
2 tsp yeast
2 tsp salt

You'll need 4 cups bread flour. Reserve 1/4 c for countertop and kneading and dump the remaining 3 3/4 c into the stand mixer.

Put 2 teaspoons salt on one side of the bowl, and 2 teaspoons of yeast on the other side.

Pour 1 1/2 cups warm water into the middle and mix on a slow speed with the paddle attachment until the dough just comes together.

When the dough forms a mass, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for 2 minutes. Dough should clear the sides but may stick to the bottom a bit.

If you feel like the dough is too sticky or too dry, feel free to add a touch more water or flour by the tablespoonful. (I haven't had to do this)
After 2 minutes, let the dough rest for five minutes.

After the five minute rest, mix the dough again for 3 minutes. Place the dough on the counter and, using the 1/4 cup of bread flour we reserved in the beginning, hand knead the dough. You may not need to incorporate the entire 1/4 cup. If the dough feels firm and solid enough, just knead for a few minutes and prepare it to rest. You should have a satiny, smooth compact ball.
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, and turn the dough over to coat the entire dough lightly in oil. Cover with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and place in a warm spot to rest for 1 1/2 hours. The dough should double in size. Remove from the bowl, punch down and reform into a ball. Return to the bowl, cover and allow to rest for another 30 minutes.

After the second short rest, place the dough on a lightly floured surface and cut into 2 pieces. Form each piece into a smooth, round ball, tucking any haggard edges on the underside of the dough. Leave to rest, covered with a damp cloth, on the lightly floured surface for 45 minutes to a hour.
During the last 20 minutes of the resting period, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Place a baking rack in the lower third of the oven and leave either a baking stone or an upside down baking sheet in the oven to heat as well.

Just before the boules are set to go in the oven, slash the top of the loaves with 2 to 4 slashes, using a sharp knife. This will allow the bread to expand in the oven. Remove the super hot baking sheet from the oven. Carefully transfer the dough onto the baking sheets and return to the oven.

Here’s some fun! Just after you put the bread in the oven, take 1/4 cup of water, open the oven door, quickly poor the water onto the hot oven floor and immediately close the oven door. We’re creating steam here people… it’s exciting. Wait 2 minutes and repeat the process.

Bake loaves for 20-25 minutes. They’ll be golden and gorgeous. Remove from the oven and insert a thermometer. The temperature should be between 190 to 210 degrees F.

Here’s the hard part: let the bread cool completely before slicing.

If you don't have a kitchenaid/stand mixer instead of mixing, then resting then mixing again.. do this:

Put your dry ingredients (minus yeast) in a bowl. Make a well in the center and pour your luke warm water into it. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and wait a minute or so. Then start to mix in the flour with the water until you get it together into a doughy gloop. Then knead the dough in the bowl until it gets the nice smooth consistency that you see in the pictures and it isn't sticking to the bowl – you may need to add a smidge of flour to get it to this consistency.. the whole process should take about 7 minutes or so..

then continue with the rising instructions as it says.

*I haven't tried this method out myself but it should work. The kitchenaid just makes it easier. If you do try this method, please let me know how it works for you and what you did.


  1. looks pretty perfect. my breads are hit and miss. some day i'll master it.



  2. Looks delish! I have been wanting to make homemade bread for a while so I think I might give this recipe a try.

  3. love coming to your blog and just looking at your beautiful images and beautiful cooking.... i'm inspired to take up cooking and baking too!

  4. MMMmmmm... Your other sister is going to have to give that a try. Tonight perhaps.

  5. This looks amazing! I've made french bread in the past but only with so-so results. I can't wait to try this!

  6. I started using this very recipe a few weeks ago! soo easy and yummy....I agree, the best...
    great with homemade butter and honey :D
    I'm making more this weekend.

  7. What about those who don't have a mixer? The technique, please?

  8. Thanks for the recipe! I just made some and it when great. It even look like the photo! ;D

  9. Making bread has been something on my brain for a long time...I can't wait to make your recipe! Thanks Lacey Lady!

  10. I'm in the middle of making this now. I've been dying to ever since I read the post. I can't wait. The only piece of information I wish you had in your recipe is an estimate of how long the process takes, start to finish. If you want warm bread with dinner at 6:30. What time do you start making it. I'm thrilled at how little work it has been so far. Oh, and do you ever weigh your flour? I've started doing that because I've realized how different flours are. I am using King Arthur unbleached bread flour. Or is weighing flour only important when making cakes and things like that? Is the amount in bread willy nilly because of humidity and flour used in the kneading process?

  11. Oops. Comma after 6:30; not a period. (I love grammar but hate it when I make a mistake.)

  12. Magnolia,

    15 minutes measuring/resting/mixing.
    2 hours, 45 minutes rising
    20-25 baking

    And i haven't used this recipe with weighing out the flour. But you definitely could with the same results.

    just be sure to add more flour if the dough is too sticky to hand knead for a few minutes.. Until it is a smooth, satiny ball.

  13. Mmm . . . it was delicious! And my non-bread-eater 6 year old ate 3 pieces. It didn't look nearly as pretty as yours, but it was my first time.

  14. I used the non-kitchenaid instructions and my bread turned out PERFECT. It's not my first time making bread, but by far the best crusty bread I've ever made. Tastes better than most bakeries! Thanks for the recipe!!

  15. I made this today! Just had dinner and the bread is gone! This bread is so delicious and so easy to make - this was the first time I made homemade bread. The best part is when we pulled the bread apart and the steam went up in the air! AWWWW! Heaven! Thanks for sharing your recipe! :-)

  16. Would using regular flour work as well as bread flour? Thanks!

  17. I've been trying to find a good recipe for that yummy, fluffy store bought french bread. This is as close as I've gotten so far, and I love the simplicity! I used regular flour, and didn't have to worry about nonstick spray on the pan or anything.


    Also, another good method for getting steam is by sticking an old pan in the bottom shelf of the oven as it heats up, and pouring the water straight into it (instead of on the oven floor). Or you can be lazy like me and just lightly dab water onto the dough right before putting it in and after five minutes.

  18. oh. my. gosh.
    i made this today, and i'm already planning on making it tomorrow. it is SOOOO good!!!

    things i love:
    1. not any more complicated than normal bread
    2. the wonderful crunchy beautiful crust
    3. the incredible perfect!
    4. the slight tang
    5. i don't have to think about this a few days in advance! i don't hardly do ANYTHING in advance.
    6. it looks like i slaved over it...i'll let people think i work harder than i do.
    7. perfect dinner: this and a glass of red wine.

    things i don't like...
    1. um....nothing.

  19. I've been scouring blogs to find a good recipe to try my hand at french bread. I have an affinity for having freshly baked bread in the house at all times. :) I'm only wondering - with the creating of the steam, should I be concerned about the electric heating element on the bottom of my oven?

  20. I want have to know more and more, on your blog just interesting and useful information.

  21. Hi,
    I read your sites impress because i like making bread,I following u Thanks.

  22. Thank you for this recipe! I just spent the last few hours making this bread and now my house smells of France. =)

    I might add that I used the kitchenaid-less version, and it turned out very well.
    I will be making this bread very often now!

    Thanks again,


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