Easy French Bread

A simple and delicious recipe for French bread made in the Dutch Oven– crisp crust, soft crumb, and perfect to serve with dinner.

This is the easiest bread recipe ever and is great for beginners.  I still make it all th time because it’s good, not just easy. This is a great place to start if you are brand new to bread making.  It rises easily and uses very few ingredients.

We love it sliced with butter or dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

French bread in red dutch oven

Easy French Bread in a Dutch Oven

The easiest bread recipe you will ever make, but still an excellent loaf. 
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
rising time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 50 minutes
Serving Size 12 pieces

Ingredients 

  • 4 cups bread flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • teaspoons instant yeast (SAF brand recommended)
  • cups water
  • pinch cornmeal for sprinkling on the parchment

Instructions 

  • Mix. Combine all ingredients by hand, stand mixer, or bread machine. If you use instant yeast, there is absolutely no need to proof it; you can combine everything at once. The dough should clear the sides or the bowl and be slightly sticky but not too hard to handle. Add a small amount of water or flour as needed.
    bread ingredients in stand mixer.
  • Knead. Knead the dough until soft, smooth, and elastic. You should be able to stretch the dough and see slightly translucent areas. This can take up to 5-10 minutes by machine for 15-20 minutes by hand.
    dough in stand mixer being kneaded.
  • First rise. Allow dough to rise, covered, in a warm place.  It will take about 60 minutes in a setting that is about 90 degrees.  You can use an oven that has been slightly warmed and then turned off or a sunny windowsill.
    dough in mixing bowl before and after rising.
  • Shape. After the dough has risen, remove from bowl and place on floured surface. Prepare your baking sheet or Dutch oven by laying down a piece of parchment and sprinkling cornmeal on the parchment sheet.  Shape the loaf by pinching the bottom until the top is smooth. Place the loaf on top of the parchment.
    shaping dough into bal land placing in dutch oven.
  • Second Rise. Cover the dough, either with heavily greased plastic wrap or the lid of your Dutch oven.  Allow the dough to rise again.  This will take another 45-60 minutes, in a warm place.  Towards the end of the second rise, preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
    round dough in dutch oven before and after rising.
  • Slash and flour. Rub flour on top.  Slash with a very sharp knife.
    round dough being slashed and dusted with flour.
  • Bake. When sufficiently risen, bake. Bake for 35-40 minutes, with the lid on for the first 20 minutes. Remove and bake until golden brown and the internal temperature is at least 190℉. Cool on wire rack and serve warm or room temperature. .
    fully baked round french bread.

Notes

This recipe does not keep well at room temperature (will go stale the next day), but freezes very well.  Just wrap well to freeze, then defrost at room temperature a few hours and reheat briefly in a warm oven. Or just use it for toast or croutons on day 2.
If you don’t have a Dutch oven, there is a workaround!  Preheat a rimmed, metal baking sheet on a lower rack of your oven.  Before baking, pour 1 cup of water in to create steam.  This will mimick the humidity that the lidded Dutch oven creates.

You’ll need the following for this french bread:

  • bread flour (just get some! you’ll never regret having bread flour on hand!)
  • salt
  • instant yeast (SAF brand recommended)
  • water
  • cornmeal for sprinkling on the parchment
  • Dutch Oven (if you don’t have one, no problem! Preheat a baking sheet in your oven and pour a cup of water in to create steam. This mimics the high humidity created by a Dutch Oven.)
round French bread in red Dutch Oven
  • dutch oven
  • stand mixer/bread machine (optional)
  • bowl
  • parchment paper

🥫 Storage instructions

Once the french bread has cooled, you can store it in a bag or container on the counter for a day or two. If you want to store it for longer, you can place it in the fridge or freezer.

🔍 FAQs

What is the difference between French bread and regular bread?

French bread is made with a higher ratio of flour to water, which results in a crisper crust and a softer crumb. It is also often baked in a Dutch oven, which gives it a nice crisp crust.

Can I make this bread in a different type of oven?

This recipe is specifically for the Dutch Oven, but you could try making it in a regular oven by baking it at a high temperature.

👩🏻‍🍳 Expert tips

  • When making french bread, it is important to use a high-quality flour. This will help to create a crisp crust and soft crumb
  • Dutch ovens are perfect for baking french bread, as they provide consistent heat and create a nice crust.
  • Make sure to score the bread before baking, so that it will expand properly in the oven.
  • The key is to make sure the oven is nice and hot before you put the dough in, and that you bake it for a long time to get a nice crispy crust.

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🍽 Serve it with

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Recipe Rating




67 Comments

  1. 2 stars
    This isn’t a recipe, it’s more like a general guideline for people who already know how to do it. I’d recommend finding an actual recipe that lists ingredients, directions and temperatures. Plainly.

  2. 2 stars
    Left out a lot of details,
    What’s the oven temperature?
    Preheat the Dutch oven?
    Dutch oven size?
    I would like a jump to recipe option at the top.

  3. 5 stars
    I was sent this recipe from a friend and have made it easily a dozen times. Sometimes adding nuts, oil, even a bit of sugar. everyone loves it and I even bring it as a gift when going for dinner at a friends house. Thanks for posting such a useful recipe.!

  4. 5 stars
    I use my 4.5qt enamel Dutch oven. It’s perfect every time and this bread is very good for French toast or when used for grilled cheese sandwiches!

  5. First time making bread! I wouldnt say this recipe is beginner friendly…. Initially my dough looked VERY dry, I added more water until it became a dough i could knead. It was tough for ages and despite kneading for 30 minutes it didnt seem to want to past the windowpane test. After some googling I have no idea if my yeast was active or not active…. It just says its dry yeast!!

    TLDR I have no idea what im doing but i tried XD

  6. 5 stars
    This bread turned out excellent.
    I mixed it in a stand mixer for four minutes and finished kneading on a floured counter.
    The crust is flakes crisp and chewy.
    Will definitely be making it again.

  7. How long is the bake time using an enameled dutch oven. I saw you mentioned a clay pot with cooking times. Thanks

  8. 5 stars
    I made this recipe today and it looks sooo good! I can’t wait to try it in the morning. I used my bread machine to mix and do the first rise then into my Dutch oven for the second rise and baking. I just wondered if you had any tips to get it to have more holes in the dough? Or maybe this isn’t that kind of recipe.

    1. I’m not an expert but from what I’ve read and the few recipes I’ve tried, to get the air holes in the bread (the more traditional baguette structure) you want a no-knead bread recipe with a wetter dough that you fold.

  9. 5 stars
    Thank you for this really easy recipe! I am a newbie to the bread machine and also baking bread and this was very simple, easy to follow. Thanks again!

  10. 5 stars
    I have used this recipe many times in my bread machine and it comes out wonderful every time. I do add 2 TBS of olive oil . Sometimes I add flax seeds , or 7 grain cereals to make it multigrain. But, it is a great recipe to keep and modified from time to time the way you want it. I love the fact that there is no sugar in this recipe. Thank you so much for sharing.

    1. if it over-rises it can ccollapse in the oven (or before you bake) i’d recommend putting it in the fridge and that way it will rise muuuuuch slower. you can take it out and put it on the counter an hour or so before you’re ready to bake

  11. 4 stars
    I also dissolved the yeast into warm water and it turned out great. I guess it’s just a habit I have and when I saw it wasn’t mentioned I thought I better do that. So instant yeast doesn’t need dissolving, good to know 🙂 Great bread so soft and delicious. Thank you for this easy recipe and one that doesn’t need me to wait 12-16 hours before baking like other recipes I have tried.

  12. 5 stars
    I dissolved the yeast in warm water first and this recipe turned out very good! So easy to make. Thank you!

  13. My dough didn’t rise on my first try, I started over but dissolved the yeast in warm water and then added to the dry ingredients. This worked much better. Other than that the recipe is very easy. I’m keeping this recipe with a note to dissolve the yeast.

    1. Regular yeast (it looks like little balls) should be proofed in water with a little sugar or honey before adding to the flour and other ingredients.

      Instant yeast (it looks all ground up) can be used without prior proofing. Just add the dried instant yeast in with the dry ingredients.