French Bread

Delicious as this is, its consistency is quite different from a baguette one would find in a bakery in France. This recipe produces a bread somewhere between a French and Italian consistency. With just a little practice you'll be able to mix this together in five minutes or less. From start to baked loaves can be accomplished in less that one and a half hours.


cups WaterWarm to the touch
1 tbsp YeastOr, one little package
1 tsp White SugarSomewhat rounded
2 tsp SaltSomewhat rounded
cups Flour, All Purpose, Unbleached
1 tbsp CornmealApproximate


1 Measure the warm water into a glass measure. Add the yeast and let is soften in the water while measuring the dry ingredients.
2 In a good-sized mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Mix them together with a spoon or wire whisk. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients by pushing them away from the center with the spoon.
3 Pour into the well you have just made the water/yeast mixture.
4 Mix these together just so they come together and make a neither too stiff nor too soft dough. You may need just a bit more water, a tablespoon or so. Try to gauge the stiffness of the dough by having it just stiff enough so that it comes away from the bowl as you're "pulling" it with a wooden spoon. That's the best way I can describe it. I don't really "mix" this dough, but rather use the spoon to, sort of, pull the dough together, using the spoon to go around the bowl and continue pulling the flour into the developing dough.
5 Now, just cover the bowl with plastic wrap; no need to knead. Let the dough rise so that it just about doubles in bulk, about an hour. If I'm in a real hurry, I just let it rise until I can see the dough lightening some, maybe a slight bubble is apparent.
6 Prepare a cookie sheet by sprinkling generously with cornmeal.
7 Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
8 Put some flour on a pastry board of some kind. Remove the plastic wrap from the bowl. With your hands gently pull the dough away from the sides of the bowl and let the dough fall onto the floured board. Divide the dough in two pieces. Place one piece back in the mixing bowl.
9 On the floured surface, dip the dough into the flour so that the dough has enough flour adhering to allow for handling. Stretch the dough gently with your fingers into a quasi-rectangle. Fold the rectangle in thirds, just like you might fold a letter. Then, from short end-to-short end, use your fingers and hands to roll the dough, kind of pulling on the ends to stretch the dough out some. Fold the ends under some to make a baguette shape, or as you like. In fact, shape this dough any way you like. I'm just telling how I shape a French loaf.
10 Shape the second half. I sometimes cut the "baguette" into rolls, four medium size or five quite small.
11 Place the shaped bread or rolls on the baking sheets. Let them rise until they're not quite doubled, usually fifteen minutes or so.
12 Slip into the oven eight or ten ice cubes. I place these on the bottom of my oven. This provides some steam to help with making a good crust.
13 Bake the loaves about fifteen or twenty minutes or until the get as crusty as you like. The rolls take a little less baking.
14 This bread needs to be eaten the day of baking. Otherwise, wrap the bread in aluminum foil and freeze. When you're ready to use it, take it out of the foil, and bake it in a 375 degree oven for twenty minutes or so, depending on the size of the loaf or rolls. It's just as delicious baked from its frozen state.