Traditional (Real Deal) French Bread

"4 simple ingredients make up this rustic but flavourful, lovely bread. It has been said that only these 4 ingredients are allowed in order to make this a True French bread. Of course this recipe can be used for both your larger French Breads as well as the Baguette."
photo by sandesnow photo by sandesnow
photo by sandesnow
photo by sb2sbw photo by sb2sbw
photo by Gary M. photo by Gary M.
photo by sandesnow photo by sandesnow
Ready In:
4hrs 30mins
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).

Questions & Replies

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  1. Don W.
    By the way, I used your technique for "long" kneading. However, could I use the dough hook on the electric mixer to knead and, if so, how long should I knead using that device? 800 plus knead strokes was a bit much for me--I was exhausted!
  2. Don W.
    Your recipe for classic french bread worked great except that I could not get the darker hue on the crust. Flavor good; texture good; crust very light. Would an egg white wash help? Any other suggestions? And, by the way, I cooked it at 350 F for about 30 minutes and tapping confirmed that it was "done". Don Weissman


  1. sb2sbw
    I use the bread machine for French bread, then turn off the machine before the last rise. I use the mixing order (put salt in last)and shaping methods by Danielle Foresterie. Look like the real McCoy and taste delicious.
    • Review photo by sb2sbw
  2. Gary M.
    Awesome!!! It took longer then I planned, however not bad for my first time making any bread. Can’t wait to make pizza subs with it. If I only had made my homemade wine prior. Delicious bread!!! Thank you for this recipe.
    • Review photo by Gary M.
  3. jenwnatgeo
    I love this recipe but usually find that the first phase has some trouble with the flour:water ratio (usually ends up being too sticky, even for French bread). Can someone please post ingredient weights? I always prefer to weigh vs scoop, so would greatly appreciate any insight. Thanks.
  4. little v
    Excellent recipe. Didn't change a thing. A perfect French bread.


  1. sb2sbw
    I just went to Tony Gemignani's International School of Pizzas. The dough concept is the same: Put salt in last, right before you knead. (Also per Danielle Foresterie on YouTube.) I Use only 2 tsps yeast. Proof the yeast in 1/2 C warm water (85 F). Remaining water, ice cold. 4 parts KA Special unbleached wheat flour ( protein 12.7 %) .1 part soft winter wheat flour (cake flour 9% protein) to bring down the protein to about 11.5 to 11.75%. I used to bake with French flour type 55 (Francine, Bio) protein is only 11%. My oven heat recovery is very slow. I left the temperature at 425 for about 15 minutes then 15 at 375F.



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