joe's basic french bread

crusty french bread

crusty french bread is a staple in our home. my favorite recipe is a slight variation of joe's basic french bread from my current favorite cook book, canning for a new generation by liana krissoff. she also has a wonderful food blog, pie and beer. i am beyond excited to use some of her recipes to pickle cucumbers and tomatoes this summer, which is right around the corner!

back to the bread...i use my mixer and substitute sugar for raw honey and use whatever flour i have around. this dough is so versatile...i use this recipe to make smaller boules, flatbread, and pizza dough.

joe’s basic french bread
makes 2 loaves

julia child’s instructions for folding, patting, and rolling to shape the dough in mastering the art of french cooking, volume 2, are worth taking a look at, but if you don’t have that book (yet), just pat the dough into a rectangle, then roll it up tightly and pinch the ends of the roll, and the seam along the length of it. let rise seam side down.

  • 1 1/2 cups warm (not hot) water
  • 1 scant tablespoon instant or active dry yeast
  • pinch of sugar
  • 3 to 4 cups unbleached bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon pure kosher salt

put the water in a large bowl and sprinkle in the yeast and sugar. let sit until it bubbles a bit, about 5 minutes. add 1 cup of the flour and the salt and beat with a wooden spoon for a minute or so. add 2 to 3 cups more flour, to make a somewhat stiff dough; knead for 5 to 10 minutes, until no longer sticky. lightly oil the bowl and return the dough to the bowl. cover and set aside to rise in a warm spot until doubled in volume, about 2 hours. (if you have time, punch down the dough, cover, and let rise again until doubled in volume, about 2 hours.)

cut the dough in half and roll each half into a loaf shape. transfer to a baking sheet or perforated french bread pans and let rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until puffed up and tight looking. cut 3 deep diagonal slits in each loaf and let rest for 5 minutes. put on the middle rack of a cold oven and set the oven temperature to 400 F. toss 4 or 5 ice cubes onto the floor of the oven (or into a foil pan set on the oven floor.) *this is the key to that crusty french bread and i will be eternally grateful to liana krissoff for sharing this* bake for about 30 minutes, until golden brown; the bread should sound hollow when you tap the bottom of a loaf with your finger. let the bread cool on a rack for 20 minutes before slicing into it.