This Chewy French Bread recipe gets me “all in the feels” about my mom.
When I first started my blog, I texted my family asking for hand-written recipes from Mom. I know I had one for this french bread recipe at one time, but can only find one in my handwriting. Such a bummer. Mom’s handwriting is so unique and I love seeing it today. My boys could never read her cursive handwriting and would ask that I translate all their birthday cards she sent them over the years.
It’s funny how I never thought much about that handwriting at the time, but now, I look at it and just treasure those memories I have of Mom in the kitchen. Before we moved Mom and Dad out of their home in 2013 – our childhood home – I would visit and sit for hours at the bar in the kitchen with her. She would cook and bake and we’d chat and look at recipes. Mom had every local church cookbook, and I loved looking at them and hearing about what she’d tried and what she liked. Then I’d copy them and take them home with me to try.
The kitchen was Mom’s “happy place” and when I’m in my kitchen, it’s mine too. And it’s even happier when I spend time cooking Mom’s recipes and thinking about all those moments we had together in her kitchen.
While Mom enjoyed cooking and did it so well, she loved baking the most. Breads, rolls, cookies, pies, cakes… Those were her specialty.
This Bosch Universal Mixer is the bomb of bread mixers! My Mom had one sitting on her counter for as long as I can remember. She used it so often that she literally wore the first one out and bought a second one after she and Dad moved into an apartment. Mike bought me one for Mother’s Day several years ago and I love it. It doesn’t do the work FOR you, but it’s much sturdier than using a KitchenAid Mixer, and the lid prevents the dough from falling out of the mixer when making large batches of bread.
If you make a lot of french bread, you are going to want a french bread pan. It prevents the loafs from flattening out. You can see from my pictures that the loafs are nice and round, while the sub buns are flat because I baked those on a regular sheet pan.
A few tips for making this recipe.
- When you add the warm water to the yeast, sugar, and salt – be careful to use WARM water, not hot. If the water is too hot, the yeast will disappear and you can’t make bread without yeast. Also, do not use cool water because it won’t activate the yeast.
- Don’t add all the flour at once because every baking day is different. Some days you will need a bit more flour and some days, you will need less.
- The dough shouldn’t be overly sticky when ready. It should bounce back slightly to the touch. Over time, you will learn exactly how much flour is needed to make the ultimate french bread.
- Be sure to use an egg white wash before baking. This is what gives the bread a nice golden color. Also, use a serrated edge knife to cut the slits on top.
- When done, the bottom of the bread should be slightly brown and crunchy, and the top, a nice golden brown.
Mom used to make sub buns out of this recipe too for her french dip sandwiches. She made many different shapes and sizes. I’m pretty sure this was one of her favorite breads to make because there was always a loaf or two in the freezer.
One recipe makes two large loafs of bread. I made an extra half of the recipe so I could make six sub buns as well as two loafs. I’m saving one of the loafs for our Thanksgiving dinner.
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- 1 Tablespoon yeast I use Red Star
- 1 Tablespoon white sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 1/2 cups warm water not hot, not cold!
- 5-6 cups all-purpose flour or until right consistency
In large standing mixer, combine the yeast, sugar, salt, and warm water. Be careful to use warm water, not hot.
Mix and let sit for about 15 minutes to get the yeast working.
Gradually add 5-6 cups flour until you get just the right consistency. You want the dough to be soft but not too sticky.
Grease a large bowl with canola oil and add the dough. Punch the dough down into a nice smooth ball. Cover with a clean dishtowel and set it in a warm corner of your kitchen.
Let the dough rise until doubled in size. Punch down and smooth it out, and let it rise again.
Form into two large oblong shapes (or you can make several smaller loafs or even buns). Place on a large greased cookie sheet or on a french bread pan. Cover with a towel and let rise again, about 30-40 minutes.
Cut slits on top of loaves with scissors or serrated knife. Mix one egg white and 1/2 teaspoon salt and brush this mixture on top of the loafs.
Bake on 400 degrees for 25 minutes or until bottom is slightly brown and crunchy, and top is nice and golden brown. Remove and let cool on baking rack.
This bread freezes well in a freezer bag up to three months.