Welcome to day 3 of vegan month of cheese. So what does french bread have to do with it? Well if you’re going to put all that effort into making cultured cheese, you’d better have some damn good bread to put it on. And this is damn good bread. Click to the printable recipe.
The perfect crusty french bread starts with the basics: yeast, water, flour and salt. Soft and fluffy on the inside, nice and crunchy on the outside, this bread requires very little effort but you will need a little patience.
Video Tutorial for Simple Homemade French Bread
I have blogged about french bread before; I even posted this recipe which I named Perfect Vegan French Bread. That recipe doesn’t take as long to make and stays moist and fresh longer because of the added Earth Balance buttery spread. It’s really delicious and great especially for dry climates. However, this Simple Homemade French Bread is more traditional. The crust is much…well, crustier. Like other traditional breads with no additives, it should be eaten in a day or two.
Once you get the hang of this recipe, you may find yourself just making it while you do other stuff. The actual “active” time to this recipe is maybe 15 minutes. The rest of the time is waiting for the bread to rise, three times! The wait is worth it though.
- 1 cup warm water
- 2 1/4 teaspoons traditional or instant yeast
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose white flour (plus more for kneading)
- Combine water with yeast and let bloom for 10 minutes.
- Add a half cup of flour and salt to the yeast mixture and whisk together until smooth.
- Add two more cups of flour and stir together until the dough comes together.
- Using clean hands, knead the dough into a ball. You may do this right in the bowl or turn it out to a floured surface. It may be stiff; just work it until it's a cohesive ball.
- Place the dough into a clean bowl, cover and let rest for 15. This lets the gluten in the flour relax, making it easier to knead.
- Turn the dough out on to a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Ideally you would knead this for 10 minutes.
- Place the dough back in the bowl, cover and let rise for in a draft-free, warm location for one hour or until the dough has doubled in size. A good place for this is in the oven with just the oven light on.
- Punch down the dough and knead again for a few minutes.
- Place the dough back in the bowl to rise for a second time. Again, let it rise for one hour or until doubled in size in a warm location.
- Remove the dough from the bowl, punch it down and divide the dough into equal pieces. You can make two large loaves or four smaller loaves.
- Shape them into long loaf shapes and place them on a baking pan lined with parchement paper.
- Cover the loaves with a damp, lint-free cloth and let rise for 45 minutes or until the loaves have doubled in size.
- Place a metal baking pan on the bottom rack in your oven. Place the second rack in the middle of the oven.
- Preheat the oven to 450 F (232 C).
- Prepare a spray bottle with water and, separately, a cup of cool or room temperature water.
- When the oven is hot, remove the cloth from the dough carefully. If the dough sticks to the cloth, drip some water on top of the cloth to help it release.
- Make slashes on the top of the loaves, either a few diagonally across the loaves or one slash down the length.
- When the oven is well-heated, place the loaves on the middle rack and quickly pour the cup of water in the baking pan below and close the oven door. Be careful as there will be steam.
- Bake for 25 minutes.
- Remove the loaves from the oven and cool them on a wire rack. The tops of the loaves should be golden brown and they should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
- Wait at least a half hour before slicing.