Traditional (Real Deal) French Bread

Recipe by sandesnow
READY IN: 4hrs 30mins
YIELD: 2 loaves


  • 4
    cups flour, plus flour for your kneading surface (Bread Flour or AP Flour works well.)
  • 1
    tablespoon yeast
  • 1
    tablespoon salt
  • 1 12 - 2
    cups luke warm water
  • 12
    cup water, for oven


  • 1) In a small bowl, proof 1 T. Yeast with 1/2 cup Luke warm water. Set aside.
  • 2)In a Large Bowl, mix well 4 C Flour and 1 T. salt. (to prevent the yeast coming in direct contact with the salt.).
  • 3) Pour Yeast mix into the Flour mix, Using a wooden spoon, stir, add an additional 1 to 1 1/2 C Luke warm water until a dough forms and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. (doesn't take long for this to happen and the dough forms a clumpy mass.).
  • 4)Lightly flour your work surface, and dump out to knead. Knead for about 1-2 minutes, or until you get a recognizable ball. (this is not your main Kneading point, so don't fuss over it!) Let the dough now rest while you clean up your bowl you will now use to let the dough ferment inches (about 5-6 minutes rest time).
  • 5) Once your bowl is clean and dry (wiped clean) You now will need to start the Kneading process. Here, there are two methods you can take Fast, or Slow. What is the difference between the two? Texture/Crumb.
  • Method 1: Fast- Knead your usual way by doing quarter turns for 3-8 minutes, forming a nice elastic and smooth ball. Place Ball in your Large bowl and cover with Plastic. Let Rise for 90-120 minutes.
  • Method 2: Slow/Slap Bench: Begin to knead your dough, but this technique will be somewhat different than your typical quarter turn kneading. With this, the dough is flattened out slightly, then roughly fold dough into a single book fold ((Fold onto the second third and last third onto the second third)), held at one end (dough shape will be oblong) and slapped down on the work surface. Refolded and repeated about 850 times. YES 850! lol Once this is accomplished, dough is rounded into a ball and placed within the bowl to rise. 90-120 minutes, covered with plastic. (while this sounds outlandish, this is the traditional method and the texture is UN-BE-Leavable.) I also find that this method is less tiresome than normal kneading.
  • 6) Now that the dough has fermented, we can begin to form our loaves. Turn Dough out onto your kneading surface and flatten with your hands (by a smacking action) expelling all the gasses out of the dough. Divide into two equal parts. Round each piece into a ball, Rest for 5 minutes.
  • 7)Prepare a Couche (A couche can be made by using a piece of linen or Towel, non-terry-cloth usually a little bigger than a tea-towel, which has had flour generously smoothed into the fabric to fill any creases and crevices of the towel used.) Set up your towel up to cradle your loaves. (This step isn't needed, but it helps to support the dough as it rises and gives a less flat result.).
  • 8)Taking one portion, flatten out with your hands expelling all gasses. Take the top and fold down 2/3rds onto the dough, using the heal of your hand, seal the dough onto itself. Repeat fold and seal again. Fold down once more, but fold down to the bottom this time, sealing the top to the bottom.
  • 9)Lastly, taper off the ends of the dough by rolling your hands at the ends lighly with a bit of pressure to form a classic French Bread look. (at this point you can continue to roll your hands down the length of the dough to make a baguette rather than taper the ends).
  • 10) Place your dough seal side down onto your couche, leaving a bit of space for the loaves to expand between the two, yet still giving it support.
  • 11) Gash 3 cuts into the top of the loaves. Cover with the rest of the towel and Let rise an hour.
  • 12) Gently peal the couche back from the loaves and GENTLY place them on either a baking sheet or a (lightly floured) paddle for placing onto baking stone. (Many would be tempted to use corn meal to prevent sticking, but that then takes it out of the 4 Ingredient Rule, making it untraditional French Bread.) You do not want to be rough, as you don't want them to deflate.
  • 13) Brush the tops of the risen dough with cool water using a pastry brush.
  • 14) Cooking: Toss 1/2 Cup water into the bottom of the Hot Preheated Oven 425 (Beware! Steam is HOT! BE CAREFUL) Place loaves in the oven and close. Turn the oven down to 350 and bake for 28-30 minutes.
  • 15) Bread is done when the bottoms sound hollow when tapped and the loaves are a rich almost dark golden colour.
  • 16) For more information on the extensive technique used: Google French Bread Julia Child and view video's available. (Danielle Forestier).