Updated: Sep 26, 2020
I've spent years trying to find the perfect french bread recipe only to be disappointed with bread that was too tough, too soft, too chewy, not crispy, or tasted bland. With all the recipes I made, I noticed most of them had good traits that I could use to create the perfect french bread. I took all of the good points and created my own recipe and guess what happened? I made the PERFECT french bread! You can make the perfect french bread, too!
Crusty French Bread
2-1/4 cup warm water (about 95°)
2 TBSP turbinado sugar (you can use regular sugar if you want)
2-1/4 TBSP Active Dry Yeast (1 square pouch)
1 TBSP salt
2 TBSP olive oil (EVOO or light OO)
6 cups bread/pizza flour
10 ice cubes
In a stand alone mixer, add water, sugar and yeast. Let sit for 5 minute to allow the yeast to proof. When the mixture looks foamy, add salt, olive oil and slowly add one cup at a time of the flour. After all flour is added, let mixer knead the dough until it forms a ball and all sides are cleaned and incorporated into the dough.
When all dough is well blended, remove dough and coat with olive oil. Place ball back into the bowl, remove dough hook and cover bowl with plastic wrap or a towel and let rise for an hour.
Remove dough from the bowl after it is about double in size and split into two pieces. Take each piece, one at a time, and roll out into 13"x9" rectangle on a well-floured surface. Roll up lengthwise and tuck in ends to seal, repeat with the second half of the dough.
Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper and cornmeal. OR (my fave--place into a double french loaf pan). Use a bread lame, razor blade, or very sharp knife, cut 4-5 diagonal slats across the top of each loaf. Cover and let rise an hour.
When dough is rising, preheat oven to 375° and make sure rack is centered as much as possible.
After dough has risen, open oven, and place bread on center rack. Pour 10 ice cubes onto the bottom of your oven and immediately close the oven door. Start timer now. Set timer for 25 minutes, or until bread is golden and sounds hollow when you knock on it. Bread will be crusty on the surface and soft on the inside. Want less crustiness? Don't add the ice cubes to the bottom of your oven.
This dough freezes great! If you plan on baking this another time, place the loaf(ves) into a freezer gallon ziplock and freeze the dough. after you form loaves and before the second rise. When you thaw it, take it out, place it on pan as if you were going to bake it and cover to thaw and rise (check bread in about 3 hours. After it rises to about double, bake per instructions)
Don't heat the water too hot or the yeast will die.
Mix the salt with the folur so it doesn't hit the yeast directly. it will also kill the yeast.
Ovens vary. The cooking time listed may differ. True doneness is in golden color and hollow sound upon knocking.