After pretzel bread, this is the bread my family requests the most. The bread is crusty on the outside but soft and tangy on the inside. The vinegar in the recipe lends a sourdough taste to the bread that's fantastic!
This recipe makes two nice-sized loaves. If we're having company, it's definitely nice to have two loaves with only one prep. Sometimes I cut the recipe in half to just make one loaf (I'll share the measurements at the end of this post) if it's only my family. I've never frozen this bread - it usually doesn't last long enough to make it to the freezer. But I imagine it would freeze just fine as long as it's wrapped tightly to prevent freezer burn/drying out.
I will warn you ahead of time, this bread does take a while to prepare. Make this when you have an afternoon to spend babysitting the dough. It's definitely worth the effort!
Here's what you need (2-loaf measurements):
Homemade French Bread - click here for a printable version.
2 1/2 cups warm water
3 TBSP sugar
2 TBSP yeast
2 TBSP white vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil - you can use vegetable or canola oil
6-7 cups flour
1 TBSP salt
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the water, sugar, yeast and vinegar. Allow to sit until the mixture is bubbly, about 5 minutes.
Add the oil, 6 cups of flour and salt. Gradually add more flour until the dough is soft and not sticky. I usually start with about 1/2 cup and work my way up until I've reached 7 cups total. With the dough hook attachment, knead for 5 minutes. If you don't have a stand mixer, you can also do this by hand with a wooden spoon. Transfer to a greased ovenproof bowl if you don't use the stand mixer. You're going to put the dough into a warm oven so it rises quickly, giving it lots of lovely air pockets. If you use the metal bowl that comes with the stand mixer, pour a little olive oil into the bowl and make sure your dough is greased so it doesn't stick.
Make sure your oven has enough room to hold the bowl of dough. I have to move my top rack down to accomodate mine. Now turn your oven on to 200 degrees. While the oven is heating, boil about two cups of water. Pour the water into an ovenproof pan, then pop it into the oven. When the oven reaches 200 degrees, turn it off. Place some foil over your dough bowl, then put the bowl into the oven.
Now here are the measurements for one loaf. Just follow the same directions for mixing, kneading, rising, shaping and baking.
1 1/4 cups warm water
1 1/2 TBSP sugar
1 TBSP yeast
1 TBSP white vinegar
2 TBSP + 2 teas oil
3 1/2 cups flour
1/2 TBSP salt