French bread is a favorite dinner bread. Its famous crust is made by baking the loaves at 400 F for the first 5 minutes and then misting the loaves with water. The oven temperature is then dropped to 350 F and the bread bakes for another 25 minutes. The result is a bread everyone will love.
- Preheat oven to 400 F.
- In a large bowl, combine water, yeast, sugar, and salt. Stir until dissolved. Mix in flour, a little at a time, until a soft dough is formed. Turn dough out onto a floured board and knead it for about 8 minutes. Put dough in greased bowl and flip dough over so that the dough top is also lightly greased. Cover with clean kitchen towel and let rise in warm, draft-free place for about 1 hour or until double in size.
- Punch down dough. Give the dough a quick 2-minute knead. Divide dough into 2 equal halves. Shape each half into a long loaf. Place loaves onto a lightly greased baking sheet. Make about 5 diagonal slits, 3/4 inch deep, into the top of each loaf. Cover loaves and let rise for 45 minutes or until double in size.
- Brush loaves with egg white and sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds. Bake at 400 F for 5 minutes. Remove loaves from oven and use a mister to spray the tops of loaves with cold water. Turn oven down to 350 F and bake loaves for another 25 minutes or until done. Remove loaves from baking sheet and let cool on a rack.
Bread Baking Tips
- Keep yeast stored in an airtight container and in the refrigerator. Heat, moisture, and air kills the yeast and prevents bread dough from rising
- Store flour properly to keep it from spoiling.
- Bread flour has a higher amount of gluten than all-purpose flour. This means that bread made with bread flour will rise higher than bread made with all-purpose flour. You can make your own bread flour by adding 1-1/2 teaspoons gluten to each cup of all-purpose flour you use in your bread recipe.
- Add a cup of raisins or dried cranberries to the bread dough for extra sweetness.
- Brush loaves with egg white before baking to produce a shiny crust.
- Brush loaves with milk before baking to produce a dark, shiny crust.