tl;dr: This is probably the easiest, chewiest French bread I’ll ever learn how to make!
This recipe makes two round-shaped boules breads. It’s the easiest way I’ve found to make a bread that’s close to French-style bread as possible. Your bread will come out with a nice brown crust, and a chewy texture with bubbles all the way through the crumb! The original author of the recipe also suggests shaping this dough into baguettes or even batards – breads shaped like baguettes, with a thicker center.
This recipe is a customized version of on Elinor Klivans’ “Crusty Artisanal Bread” recipe from Fast Breads. I substituted an ingredient for shopping convenience, edited the workflow for clarity and added Help! sections for anybody having trouble with the recipe.
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 ¼ cup bread flour
- 1 tbsp kosher salt
- 2 ¼ tsp active dry yeast
- 2 cups room temperature water
Making the dough
- Combine all dry ingredients in a stand mixer using the leaf attachment. If you don’t have a stand mixer, just grab a big bowl and mix all dry ingredients thoroughly!
- Add 1 ¾ cups water and mix on low for 4 minutes, or mix by hand with a wooden spoon for 5 minutes. The dough will be soft, sticky, and won’t be coming off the sides.
- Cover with a clean towel and leave to rest for 15 minutes.
- Switch to the dough hook, add the last quarter cup of water and mix for 6 minutes – or transfer to a floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes. Add just enough flour to your hands and your surface that it doesn’t stick! If you’re using a stand mixer, sprinkle a teaspoon of all-purpose flour into the mix if the dough doesn’t start pulling off the sides of the bowl around the 4 minutes mark. Keep adding flour until it does – depending on temperature and humidity in your kitchen, you might need a couple teaspoons of flour…or none at all!
- Sprinkle a large bowl with flour and transfer the dough to the bowl.
- Cover with plastic wrap.
- Leave to rest in the fridge overnight (that’s when I like it best!) or up to two days.
- Punch the dough down and transfer from the bowl to a floured surface.
- Split the dough in half.
- Shape each half of your dough into an 8” circle and fold 4 “corners” of the circle into the center of the circle.
- Fold another 4 “corners” of the circle in the center, and seal the center in with your thumb to finish forming into a boule.
- Line an 8” bowl with a clean towel.
- Sprinkle flour on the towel and transfer your boule to the bowl, center seal up.
- Repeat for the other boule.
- Cover each boule lightly with flour and cover both bowls with a clean towel.
- Leave to rest for 45 minutes.
While your boules are resting, let’s start prepping for baking!
- At the 35 minutes rest mark, preheat your oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit.
- At the 45 minutes mark, tip the boules seam side down on a baking sheet or baking pan lined with baking paper or sprinkled with flour.
- Make a couple of criss-cross cuts about ⅛” deep into the top of the boules, sprinkle lightly with flour and cover with a clean towel to rest for 15 minutes. They won’t rise much but will spread some!
- At the 10 minutes rest mark, put a pie pan in the oven on the lowest rack.
- At the 15 minutes mark, put the boules in the oven on the middle rack and spray or sprinkle two tablespoons of water into the pie pan to build up steam in the oven. It will help your bread develop a nice brown crust!
- Bake until the bread is brown and crusty, 25 to 30 minutes. The breads will rise by about 2”.
- Once the bread is baked, transfer to a cooling rack to cool.
The boules keep up to 3 days in a paper bag. If you’re not going to eat your bread right away, you can freeze it wrapped in cling film and placed in a sealable bag. Reheat after thawing the frozen bread at 275 degrees Fahrenheit in the oven.
Help! My crumb is too dense😟
That happened to me while I was testing this recipe! First thing to do: check your oven’s actual temperature! The temp on the dial is not always the temp in the oven. For example, in order to get 475 degrees Farenheit out of my stove, I have to crank it up to 500 degrees Farenheit. Check with an oven thermometer and adjust accordingly: the right temperature will give your bread a great final rise in the oven and seal that chewy, aerated crumb.
After that, your biggest suspect is your ingredients. Check that you put in the correct amounts of ingredients, and check that your yeast is active as well.
Help! My bread is giving me acid reflux 🤮
Been there! That’s happened to me when the bread has spent too much time in the fridge – generally around the 2-days mark. I usually bake the bread after about 24 hours in the fridge: no acid reflux, no salty aftertaste, just chewy goodness!
Help! I can’t keep track of the timing leading up to the bake ⏲️
Then don’t worry about it! Try this instead: tip the boules on the baking sheet and get your oven to heat up. As the dough finishes its 15 minutes rest, put the pan in and wait 5 minutes. Put your breads in the oven, sprinkle or spray water into the pie pan to build up steam and start your bake! As long as your kitchen doesn’t suddenly, drastically change in temperature, you should be fine.