Mess Level: Moderate
Yield: 1 Loaf
Prep Time: 3 hr
Cook Time: 20 min
- 2 Cups Water
- 4 ½ Cups AP Flour
- 1 Packet of Yeast (2 ¼ teaspoons)
- 1 Tablespoon Sugar
- 4 teaspoons Salt
- 2 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1 Egg
- Oil for greasing
- Heat 2 Cups water to 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Add 1 Tablespoon of sugar to water and stir until dissolved. Add the packet of yeast and lightly stir until most of the yeast is dissolved. Wait about 5 minutes for the yeast to activate. It will bubble when it is activated.
- Add water mixture to your mixing bowl. Add 2 cups of flour and mix it in. Add 4 teaspoons of salt and 2 Tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and mix it in. Mix in 2 more cups of flour one cup at a time.
- Scrape out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead in about ½ cup of flour or until the dough is slightly tacky, but not sticking to your work surface. Your dough should be smooth and NOT covered in flour. The dough should feel soft. The dough should be slightly springy when you push it with your finger.
- After you get your dough to the desired consistency put your dough ball in a large oiled mixing bowl and cover it with a towel.
- Let rise for 1 hour in a warm, draft-free area. Punch it down, and cover with a towel again.
- Let rise for another hour and then scrape the dough onto a CLEAN, lightly floured surface and knead a little flour in so that it is not sticky. I like to lightly dust the top of the dough and work it all in. The dough ball should be smooth and slightly tacky, but not sticky.
- Put dough ball in the middle of a lightly oiled sheet pan or pizza pan, cut 3 slits in the top about ¼ to ½ inch deep. Cover and let rise for 45 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit for a softer loaf or 425 degrees Fahrenheit for a chewier loaf.
- After the dough has risen on the sheet pan crack an egg into a small mixing bowl. Add a splash of water and whisk the egg. Brush the dough with the egg wash. Be sure to get every inch you can. The egg wash makes the bread a nice golden color and helps with the crust.
- Once the oven has finished preheating put your dough in the oven.
- If baking at 400 degrees Fahrenheit bake it for 20-25 minutes, check the loaf at 20.
- If baking at 425 degrees Fahrenheit bake for 18-20 minutes, check the loaf at 18.
- The top should be golden brown and the bottom should be crispy. The loaf will be rock hard on top when you take it out of the oven. It’s ok, this is normal.
- Immediately move the loaf from the pan to a cooling rack and wait 10-12 minutes. DO NOT cut into the loaf early. If you cut into the loaf before 10-12 minutes the crust will stay hard and the loaf may be tough.
- After the loaf is done cooling cut a slice, put a pat of butter on it and enjoy this flavorful and tangy French loaf.
Note: You can also shape the loaf like a baguette if you prefer. I’m just personally fond of a round loaf. If you shape it into a baguette you may want to check the loaf a few minutes earlier when baking.
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How do I know when I’ve added enough flour to the dough?
- Less is more!
You want it slightly tacky, not so wet that it sticks to your hands in chunks but If you’ve added too much flour your dough will be tough. Go for a happy medium, trust your instincts and know that you will get more adept and confident with practice.
Won’t the salt and vinegar kill the yeast?
- Timing is everything!
If added directly to the yeast, yes they will, but the flour acts as a buffer.
Why should I let the bread rest before cutting?
- Patience is a virtue...
The baking process isn’t complete yet; allowing the bread to rest allows the steam to stay trapped inside and yields a softer inner loaf. If you let it out by cutting it immediately you may have a tougher or gummier texture to your loaf.
Do I need a stand mixer for this recipe?
- Just roll up your sleeves!
No, we’ve had great success making this recipe in a mixing bowl using a whisk, a wooden spoon, and our hands. Use what you’ve got!
Ramblings of a Line Cook
So one time when Tony and I were a little drunk in New Orleans, we were in our kitchen, it was 10:00 pm and we were both really hungry. I had a mad craving for toast and Tony suggested the $1.99 loaf of sandwich bread. Which I shunned with the certainty that I didn’t want that dusty, excuse for toast. What can I say, us millennials have high toast standards 😉
Somehow we got the bright idea that we could bake our own bread and so Tony found a recipe and all I remember is some time later a crusty, round loaf of bread baked in our deep cast iron came out of the oven. And it was the BEST thing ever!
Cleaning up our flour-covered kitchen the next morning was not so great but that bread loaf was the beginning of it all. Tony caught the baking bug and began researching and testing out loaves of French bread.
Which obviously was really hard for me, I had to try every single loaf plain and then try it with butter. I had to make affirmative noises to his self-criticism while inhaling the warm, golden slices of bread. I had to eat a lot of bread guys…
Well, six months and a lot of flour later here we are and we have the perfect French bread recipe. Give this recipe a try; the crust is perfect, the vinegar adds a tangy depth and really is there anything better than fresh, baked bread?