This wonderful French bread recipe comes to us from my friend Mercedes here in Guam. She was kind enough to make this with me so we could teach you how to make French bread.
This recipe is easy. It requires some time but it is not complicated at all. You just need patience to let the dough rise twice.
One of the most important things here is that you be gentle with the dough when you are forming your baguettes or rolls. Don’t squish out all the air bubbles so that you can have a spongy interior. If you watch the video you will be able to appreciate Mercedes’ technique.
You will also notice that she sprays water on her bread before it bakes and while it is in the oven. This makes a difference so try and get a prayer for your bread. It will render you a nice shiny crust.
This is what you are going to need to make thie delicious French bread recipe:
Makes 12 rolls or 2 small baguette
3 cups (380 grams) bread flour *
1 tsp. (5 ml) salt (preferably Kosher)
1 ¼ cup (296 ml) warm water (110 degrees F/43 C)
1 tsp. (3 grams) active dry yeast
1 tsp. (4 grams) sugar
Baking pans – preferably perforated and baguette pans if making them
1 sprayer full of water
Place the flour and salt in a food processor with a dough blade and pulse it a few times or place it in a bowl and mix it well with a fork or whisk.
Heat the water in a microwave (depending on the power of your microwave you will probably be done in 45 seconds) and stir it to make sure it has heated evenly. Please make sure the water is warm and not too hot or cold, as the yeast will not activate.
Sprinkle the yeast and sugar on top of the water and stir. Let the yeast activate and get bubbly for about 10 minutes.
Add the yeast and water to the flour and process until you have a ball of dough. This should take less than a minute. If you are not using a processor add the water to the four inside a bowl and knead until you have a ball about 4 minutes.
Transfer the all of dough onto a lightly floured board and knead for 3 to 4 minutes longer. Make sure to incorporate air into the dough as you knead so that the French bread is spongier – pull it and fold it as you go. Knead until you have smooth and elastic dough that springs back when you press it in with your fingers.
Form it into a ball and place it into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a dishtowel and set in a draft free area until doubled in size – about one hour.
Place the risen dough on to a clean surface and punch out the air by kneading it a little. Allow the dough to rest for a few minutes before you cut it. Cut the dough in half and form 12 little balls of equal size – if you are weighing them shoot for about 2.5 oz. (60 to 70 grams) each.
If you will be making baguettes weigh each half to make sure they are equal in weight.
Turn your oven on to 450 degrees F (230 C) so that it is very hot when you are ready to bake the bread.
To make the rolls – make a ball of the dough and seal the edges. Cup your hand as if you were holding a baseball and roll the dough to make it round without squeezing it. Softly press down on the ends without pressing on the center – you want your roll to resemble a lemon. Place the rolls on a lightly sprayed baking sheet (preferably one with perforations – I use my perforated pizza pan) and loosely cover them with a dishtowel. Allow them to double in size for about 30 minutes.
Once they have doubled in size cut a slit lengthwise in the middle of each roll with a very sharp knife.
Spray the rolls with water and place the pan in the oven. Spray the rolls every 5 to 7 minutes while they are baking inside the oven.
The rolls will be ready once they are browned – between 15 to 20 minutes depending on how dark you like your bread and on your oven.
To make the baguettes – place half of the dough on a board and press out the air by squeezing it with your fingertips. Stretch out the dough with your fingers making sure not to press out all the little bubbles in the dough – don’t over work it. Form a rectangle with the dough (about 4×3 inches approximately). Start rolling the dough with the edge that is closest to you. Roll and pinch with your index finger. The rolls with start getting longer as you go. Once you reach the final edge make sure to seal it very well to the dough. If not your bread will come apart.
Flip the baguette and roll it against the board until you have a long log. Tightly pinch the ends. If you have a baguette pan spray it lightly. You do not need one to bake this bread but a pan will assure that the bread keeps its shape. You can also bake it on a lightly sprayed baking sheet (again preferably perforated).
Cover the formed baguettes loosely and allow them to double in size for about 30 minutes.
Once the baguettes have doubled in size make 6 diagonal slits down the bread with a very sharp knife. Spray the baguette with water and place it in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes depending on how dark you like your bread and on your oven.
Spray the baguette every 5 to 7 minutes while in the oven.
Remove from oven, cool down and enjoy.
NOTE: If you want to freeze this bread wait for it to be completely cooled down and go ahead. Enjoy!
*If you can’t find bread flour you can add 1 TBS of gluten to 1½ cups (190 grams) of flour OR make it with 3 cups (380 grams) of all-purpose flour and don’t worry about it.