An easy and versatile homemade rustic French bread, this recipe is great for beginner bakers and anyone else who wants a fuss-free loaf of bread the whole family will love.
Why you’ll love this bread recipe
This is one of the easiest, most versatile loaves of bread you can make at home. A combination of a crackly crust and an interior with a soft, fine crumb make it popular with kids and adults alike.
This loaf makes the best artisan sandwiches, like Italian panini or a fancy-looking grilled ham and cheese. It’s also perfect to serve alongside soup or a salad for a simple and frugal dinner.
You’ll be amazed by what you can make with the most basic of ingredients.
Let’s get started on this French bread!
- 4 cups all purpose flour or bread flour (bread flour gives you a slightly chewier result and will require a bit more water in the recipe
- 1 1/2- 1 3/4 cups water
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt (just plain table salt)
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast (I use and recommend SAF instant brand)
- Cornmeal for dusting the bottom of your pan
Note: If you want to use active dry yeast, that is perfectly fine! Simply increase the amount to 2 1/2 teaspoons, and you rise times may be slightly longer.
- A bread maker will knead the dough and complete the first rise. It’s how to start 90% of the bread I make. All you need is a basic model, like this one, since you’ll be completing the final steps by hand.
- Parchment paper that comes in lay-flat sheets is easier to deal with for this recipe, and every other.
Making this loaf step by step
Making the dough + the first rise
To begin, simply put all your ingredients in a large bowl and mix them up. When you work with instant yeast, there is absolutely no reason to worry about proofing your yeast, the order of your ingredients, or anything else of that nature. Just throw them in the bowl and mix.
You can also use a bread machine to knead the dough for you. Put everything in the bucket, select the DOUGH cycle, and let it begin.
No matter what method you use to knead your dough, it’s likely you’ll have to make a few adjustments to the flour or water in this recipe. The flour will absorb a different amount of water depending on many factors: the brand you use, how you measure, the humidity in your house, etc.
So after your ingredients begin to mix, take a look at your dough. Is it dry and crumbly? If so, add more water, a teaspoon at a time, until the dough is soft and forms a ball.
Is it sticky? If so, add more flour, a teaspoon at a time, until the dough clears the bowl.
Keep kneading until the dough is soft, smooth, and stretchy. You want it to be beginning to form a window; which simply means that when you stretch a golf-ball-sized piece of dough, translucent areas appear in the dough. If it tears immediately instead, keep kneading!
This will take about ten minutes in a stand mixer on low, at least fifteen minutes if kneading by hand. If using your bread machine to knead; just let it complete the cycle and come back to shape the loaf once the machine beeps.
Once you are done, gently shape the dough into a ball and place into a clean, lightly oiled bowl. Cover with either plastic wrap or a damp tea towel and let the dough rise in a warm place.
(Not sure where to put it? Try a turned off oven that’s been slightly warmed or has a bowl of warm water inside.)
You’ll know the dough is done rising when its very puffy and has doubled in size. A French bread recipe will tend to rise quickly because there is no fat in it, so keep an eye on your bread!
Shaping, the final rise, and baking
While it’s rising, prepare a baking sheet by sprinkling it with cornmeal.
Remove the bread dough from the bowl and gently shape it into an oval. Place it on the parchment paper and rub the top with flour. Go ahead and flour it very generously; it gives it a more artisan look!
Slash the top of the dough a few times with a sharp knife.
Cover with plastic wrap again, and make sure it’s been generously sprayed with cooking spray so it doesn’t stick against the bread as it rises. Let rise again for about 40 minutes until very puffy.
Start preheating the oven to 400 degrees with an empty metal baking sheet on a lower rack. When the oven has come to temperature, pour a cup of water on the sheet to create steam. This helps us get a crisp crust on our French bread without having to use a Dutch oven. (If you have a cast-iron skillet; this can work well too instead of a baking sheet, it just takes longer to preheat.)
Place the bread inside to bake. This recipe takes between 40-45 minutes. When the bread is done, it will be golden brown and smell delicious!
Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. For the neatest slices, let the bread come to room temperature before slicing. Since French bread doesn’t have any fat, it does go stale relatively fast, but if kept tightly wrapped it will keep a few days.
To store bread longer term, let it cool completely and freeze the whole loaf.
Looking for more easy bread recipes?
You’re in the right place.
- Looking for a rustic white sandwich loaf instead? Find that here.
- Dutch Oven French Bread has a softer crust and makes a round loaf.
- Soft Italian Bread is even softer and has more ingredients, but still very easy to make.
- And if you like simple and prefer sourdough over yeast bread, try my sourdough recipe kneaded in your bread machine.
Print the recipe here
Rustic French Bread
- 4 cups all purpose flour or bread flour bread flour will require the higher amount of water
- 1½-1¾ cups water
- 1 teaspoon water
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast
- cornmeal for bottom of the pan
- Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl, starting with the less amount of water, and mix until well combined. This can be done by hand, in a stand mixer using the dough hook, or in a bread machine on the dough cycle.
- Knead to form a soft, smooth, elastic dough. If the dough seems too dry, add more water a teaspoon at a time. If it is sticking to thee bowl, add flour a teaspoon at a time. You are looking for a dough that forms a ball and clears the sides of the bowl or bread machine bucket. Knead for 7-12 minutes, or even moree if kneading by hand, until the dough is stretchy enough that translucent areas appear when stretching it thin.
- Gently shape the dough into a ball and place into a clean, lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a damp tea towel and place in a slightly warm place to rise. (90 degreees is ideal: a slightly warmed and turned off oven will work well.) Allow it to rise until very puffy and doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- Remove the dough and gently shape into an oval loaf. There is no need to flatten it out beforehand; just shape it. Place onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and sprinkled with cornmeal. Rub the top gently with flour and slash with a sharp knife. Cover the loaf with plastic wrap that has been generously sprayed with cooking spray. Return it to a warm place to rise again, until very puffy and doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees towards the end of the rising time, taking care to remove the rising bread beforehand. Place an empty, rimmed metal baking sheet on a lower rack of the oven and allow it to preheat. Before baking, pour a cup of water on the hot baking sheet to create steam. Place the loaf inside and bake for 40 minutes, until golden brown.
- Cool on wire rack for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Stays fresh up to two days, tightly wrapped at room temperature.