Simple French bread

Simple French bread


64 people made this

About this recipe: Nothing quite beats the smell, flavour and texture of freshly baked homemade bread. This bread does take a while to make, but the results are worth it. Slather in butter, jam or anything you fancy.


Makes: 2 baguettes

  • Yeast Sponge
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried fast acting yeast
  • 125ml warm water (45 degrees C)
  • 95g wholemeal flour
  • Dough
  • 600ml warm water
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried fast acting yeast
  • 825g white bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons fine polenta or cornmeal for dusting

Prep:3hr  ›  Cook:25min  ›  Extra time:2hr proofing  ›  Ready in:5hr25min 

  1. To make the sponge, whisk the 1/2 teaspoon yeast in 125ml warm water. Stir in the wholemeal flour until the mixture resembles a thick batter. Beat for about 100 strokes to form longs strands of gluten. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and let sit at room temperature for 2 to 8 hours (longer is better for flavour development). You can also let the sponge ripen in the refrigerator for 12 to 15 hours, bringing it back to room temperature before proceeding with the recipe.
  2. When the sponge is ready, it will be bubbly and loose, with a yeasty, sour aroma. Scrape the sponge into a bowl and stir in the 600ml water and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon yeast. Stir well to combine. Add the bread flour 125g at a time, mixing well after each addition, until the dough becomes too difficult to stir.
  3. Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and knead for 10 to 12 minutes, adding more flour only when the dough becomes too sticky to handle. Sprinkle the salt over the dough and knead it for an additional 5 to 7 minutes. The dough should have a smooth surface and spring back to the touch. Shape the dough into a round and cover with a damp cloth for 5 to 10 minutes.
  4. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, turning to coat the surface of the dough with oil. Cover the dough with a damp cloth and let it rise at room temperature until doubled in size, about 2 to 3 hours.
  5. Deflate the dough and cut it into two pieces. Shape the dough into two rounds, cover them with a damp tea towel and allow the dough to rest for 30 minutes at room temperature.
  6. Shape the dough into baguettes. Place a heavily floured cloth on a baking tray, arranging a fold down the centre to separate the loaves. Place the loaves, seam-side up, on the floured cloth. Dust the tops of the loaves with flour, cover with a damp towel and let rise until doubled in bulk again, about 2 hours.
  7. Preheat an oven to 190 C / Gas 5.
  8. Sprinkle a baking tray with fine polenta or cornmeal. Gently transfer the risen loaves to the baking tray, placing them seam-side down on the fine polenta cornmeal. Make several diagonal slashes in the loaf with a serrated knife or razor blade.
  9. Immediately place the scored loaves in the preheated oven. Bake the bread until the loaves are golden brown, about 25 to 30 minutes. Cool the loaves on wire racks.


To make this dough in a stand mixer, use the dough hook attachments and mix on low speed for 10-15 minutes. To ensure the gluten has developed fully, cut off a walnut-sized piece of dough. Flour your fingers and then stretch the dough: if it tears immediately, the dough needs more kneading. Fully developed dough should form a thin translucent "windowpane."

Recently viewed

Reviews (2)


Delicious! - 01 Jun 2013


I cooked it by hand this time but normally I will use a bread maker - 29 Dec 2013

Write a review

Click on stars to rate