Making bread by hand is an art; an intricate dance that is done differently by every baker. It’s also one of the best self sufficiency skills I’ve ever learned. To top it off, my hunky farmhand husband is the one who taught me all about bread baking. How lucky am I?
One of the first “grown up jobs” my husband had was as a production manager at a very large and popular bread making facility. He didn’t just manage employees, he also had to learn and master the science of bread making.
See my hunky farmhand husband pictured below!
I’m not going to get too deep into the science part because, wow it’s complicated! I also likely only retained half of what my hubby was explaining to me, lost in his charm I guess! Ha!
Anyways, this recipe for a French Loaf is made by hand and it’s fairly simple and worth the process!
Handmade Rustic French Loaf
- 5-6 Cups bread flour
- 2 1/4 Cups water
- 3/4 Tablespoons salt
- 2Tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 Tablespoons sugar
- 1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
- In a large mixing bowl add 2 1/4 C warm water and then sprinkle the yeast on top of the water. Give it a quick stir after 30 seconds and then let it sit and activate for 10 minutes. Once ready the mixture will look foamy, this means the yeast is working.
- Once the yeast is activated, combine the rest of the ingredients together in the bowl. Once you reach 5 cups of flour, only add in half a cup at a time until you reach a tacky like consistency. It should be hard to stir.
- Sprinkle some four on a flat surface and knead the dough for 8-10 minutes until the bread feels much more elastic and stretchy.
- Oil or spray a clean bowl and place the dough into the bowl(turn over once to coat in oil) , cover with plastic wrap, and place in the oven on the “proof” setting or in a warm spot in your home to rise until it’s doubled in size. It can take anywhere from 30 mins to two hours depending on the temp, humidity, and weather! This is the dance part!
* I use the proof setting on my oven which is set at 90 degrees Fahrenheit. If you don’t have a proof setting sit the bowl in a warm area that is somewhere between 90-104 degrees Fahrenheit. You could also simply turn your oven on and place the bowl on top of the stove in a warm spot. Anything over 140 degrees might be too hot and kill the yeast! I was listening during this part of my hunky husbands explanation!
5. Once the dough had doubled in size, grease or spray a flat surface, and shape the dough into a rectangle.
6. Roll the rectangle up forming a log, fold the ends up underneath the bread roll, and place on a greased cooking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap, and let the dough proof and rise for a second time until it’s doubled in size again.
7. After it’s risen for the 2nd time, preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
8. Right before the oven reaches its temp, use a serrated blade to create shallow scores in the top of the bread loaf. This does nothing for the baking process but adds charm to the bread.
9. Insert bread into oven for 25-30 minutes. At the 25 minutes check the bread. When it’s done it should have a nice brown color and feel hollow.
* Pro- Tip: Throw a couple of ice cubes in the oven to create steam and give the bread a nice golden color and crisp crust*
10. Once done, remove bread from oven and let it cool completely on a cooling rack before cutting or packaging.
And That’s it folks! If your overwhelmed just take it a step at a time, no two-steppin’ it! The more you make the bread,the easier it gets. You just have to get a feel for it.
Like I said, it’s a dance!