Classic French Boule

Over the past year, I’ve come to realize that yeast, an ingredient that once intimidated me, has quickly become one of my favorite ingredients to use in the kitchen.  I’ve experimented with multigrain loaves, English muffins, and cheesy no-knead focaccia, but this following recipe is my all-time favorite.

It is easy to make and will satisfy any and all cravings for a great, crusty artisan bread.  It is wonderful with soup, sandwiches, or plain with a nice pat of butter.  In my opinion, a great bread doesn’t need a lot of frills or toppings.  Not to mention, it is incredibly wallet-friendly in comparison to quality store-bought artisan breads, which will generally cost around $5-6/loaf.

french_boule

This dough recipe, which makes two 2-pound loaves, can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, allowing you to make homemade bread any day of the week.  I promise, after tasting this bread, you’ll be making it all the time.  I do!

The recipe is adapted slightly from one of my favorite cookbooks, Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes A Day, by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois.  The original recipe calls for 100% unbleached white flour.  But I have experimented and made it with part whole wheat and the end result is even more delicious, while still retaining a great crust and not being overly dense.

french boule bread

While the cookbook title is a bit misleading, the Hertzberg & Francois’s bread recipes  are foolproof and can easily be made and put on the table in less than 2 hours—with 45 minutes needed to rest the loaf and another 45 minutes for the baking process.  The actual active time is less than 5 minutes–hence the title.

Here’s my adaptation!

Classic French Boule

Yield: 2 (2 lb) Loaves

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Ingredients:

  • 3 cups warm water
  • 1 tablespoon + 1.5 teaspoons Active Dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon + 1.5 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • cornmeal for dusting

Directions:

Day Before:

    1. In large container (with non-airtight lid), whisk together warm water, yeast, and salt. Slowly add in flours, mixing with wooden spoon. When dough becomes too difficult and thick to stir, mix together with hands until all the flour comes together and dough is uniform. The dough should be very wet and sticky. Do not knead. Cover lightly and allow to rise at room temperature for at least two hours. Place in refrigerator and cover lightly for up to two weeks.

Before Baking:

  1. Dust pizza peel lightly with corn meal, remove about half of the dough and “cloak” and shape loaf in a round in about 30-60 seconds—stretch the surface of the dough ball around to the bottom of the loaf, rotating the dough ball as you go, so that it is relatively smooth on the surface. The bottom will flatten out during baking. Allow to rest at room temperature for 45 minutes. **Note: If you do not have a pizza peel, place on baking sheet covered with parchment paper.
  2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.  If using pizza stone, allow to preheat for at least twenty minutes.
  3. Once oven is ready, dust loaf with floor and using serrated knife, slash a scallop (seen below) or tic-tac-toe pattern about 1/2” deep on top of the loaf.
  4. Place baking tray in oven or slide loaf onto pizza stone and bake for 35-50 minutes, or until internal temperature (taken from side of loaf) reads between 190-200 degrees Fahrenheit. Even if the loaf appears cooked from the outside, the easiest way to tell if it is fully cooked is using a digital instant-read thermometer. **Note: Steam allows bread to develop a crusty, crisp exterior. One way to incorporate steam into your oven at home is to place a broiler tray on an oven rack and fill it with very hot water immediately after placing the loaf in the oven. Close the oven door immediately.
  5. Allow baked loaf to rest on rack until it comes to room temperature or for at least 15-20 minutes before slicing.

french boule bread

Recently, I brought a loaf of this bread as a contribution to a dinner party with family and friends and it was a big hit.  I highly recommend you to do the same over the upcoming holidays!

It is unique, delicious, and makes a great conversation starter.

   

33 Responses to “Classic French Boule”

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    Lindsay @ Pinch of Yum — November 30, -0001 @ 12:00 am

    Wow – I’m totally distracted by your pictures! Love them!

    • Shreya. replied: — May 3rd, 2013 @ 4:34 pm

      Hi,

      I am trying to make this bread , while kneading my dough was not sticky and was on the dry side.i followed the recipe exactly, should i have added more water(more than 3 cups).

      • Laura replied: — May 4th, 2013 @ 12:47 pm

        Hmm…the dough definitely shouldn’t be dry–it should be very wet, actually. Are you sure you incorporated all of the water or used the right flour measurements???

        • Shreya. replied: — May 4th, 2013 @ 3:36 pm

          HI Laura,

          Actually my dough after keeping for few hours was in good shape.Although it was very hard to mix it, but the end result is great.I had a perfect bread

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    Pippa@sundaysupperswithpippa — November 8, 2011 @ 9:06 pm

    Is this the recipe that you made for us?!?! Thanks for posting the recipe!

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    Laura — November 8, 2011 @ 11:35 pm

    Yes! It’s the exact same one.

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    Laura — November 9, 2011 @ 1:50 am

    Thanks so much Lindsay! That means a lot :)

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    Núria — November 9, 2011 @ 7:25 am

    You’ve got a beautiful blog, Laura! I have tried to make my own bread too and I know it’s a wonderful experience! Would love to try your classic French Boule :D

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    Joanne — November 9, 2011 @ 12:56 pm

    I used to be deathly afraid of working with yeast but once you do it a few times, you realize it’s not such a big deal! Though the bread you get out of it IS kind of a big deal….and a delicious deal. This looks amazing. Straight out of a bakery window.

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    Laura — November 9, 2011 @ 10:06 pm

    Thanks so much Nuria! I love making bread, something about it is so comforting. And nothing beats the fresh stuff! :)

    Definitely let me know if you try it, you won’t be disappointed!

    Laura

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    Laura — November 9, 2011 @ 10:07 pm

    It really isn’t! I don’t know why it took me so long to get around to using it more frequently. I always used to worry about proofing it or mixing it with the right temp water—but this bread recipe is not picky about any of that stuff. And it turns out better than most complicated bread recipes!

    Thanks so much Joanne! Love your blog, by the way.

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    kathleen @ the daily crumb — November 10, 2011 @ 1:54 am

    that looks straight out of a bakery! amazing. will definitely have to try this but i can absolutely guarantee it will not compare to yours :)

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    Med School — November 10, 2011 @ 5:49 am

    My heart just dropped. “Place in refrigerator and cover lightly for up to two weeks.” ??? Say it ain’t so. Hahaaa, I’m sure it’s a typo coz I mean, that would just be abuse.

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    Laura — November 10, 2011 @ 2:35 pm

    No seriously–you can store the dough for up to to TWO weeks! Pretty incredible, huh?

    It actually develops a slight sourdough taste as well. Enjoy! :)

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    zenedidyk — November 19, 2012 @ 7:09 pm

    Hello, beautiful photos! I recently learned to make this kind of bread and I'm loving it. Do you have any suggestions for how to store the bread once it's baked (like to eat the next day after baking)?

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    Sheebee — November 19, 2012 @ 8:05 pm

    I want to make rolls instead, Do you think the recipe would adapt well to that? Any suggestions? Thanks!

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    Laura @ Blogging Over Thyme — November 22, 2012 @ 2:10 pm

    Zenedidyk — I learned from somewhere that the best way to store bread is leave it cut side down on a cutting board. Occasionally, if it has been more than a day or two, the crust starts to get too hard this way, but I feel like it eliminates the moisture problem from putting it in ziploc bags. Another option is to stick it in a hot oven for 10-15 minutes to get the crust crispy again! That always makes a big difference. Hope this helps!

    Sheebee — Hmmm…I haven't done this with this recipe. I'm not sure if it would work as well–and it might lead to a drier bread. I would say just do the same technique and see how it works out. Can't promise anything though! But be sure to let me know how it goes if you do :)

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    Tom Lim — November 28, 2012 @ 7:00 am

    Can I substitute Active Dry Yeast with Instant Yeast for this recipe? What would therefore change? Eg. rise time, amount of yeast, amount of water, flour, etc. Thanks in advance.

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    Laura @ Blogging Over Thyme — November 29, 2012 @ 1:39 pm

    Tom LIm — I'm glad you asked this, because its actually something I was curious about ever since you brought it up. I looked to the original recipe inspiration source and they say that instant yeast (and actually any type of yeast) should work just as well with this recipe.

    However, the storage time of the dough in the fridge really enables this to be possible without any major changes, so don't skip that part! Hope this helps!

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    Whitney Miller — January 9, 2013 @ 6:48 pm

    Laura:
    I live in the ever-humid area of New Orleans and have been having a problem with the dough. It is exceedingly wet, and spreads over a massive area when I let it rest for 45 minutes. What would you suggest I adjust to remedy this problem? I have been adding more flour, but it results in a very dense and dry bread.

    Thanks!!

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    Laura @ Blogging Over Thyme — January 19, 2013 @ 3:34 pm

    Whitney — Thank you for asking this question! This bread dough is definitely wet–it is actually a good thing, but it makes it difficult to work with when at room temperature. You might already be doing this, but definitely do the resting in the fridge after initially making the dough, as that will help a lot.

    As for the spread during resting to come to room temperature, I suggest experimenting (although I can't say I have personally done this) and maybe decreasing the rest time by half and then trying to bake. Hopefully that will eliminate some of the spreading with time! See if this works, and definitely get back to me and let me know the results. Thanks for visiting!

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    Tom — November 27, 2013 @ 10:07 am

    Do you punch the dough down at all?
    Can you bake it after the rest period or does it have to be refrigerated first?

    • Laura replied: — November 27th, 2013 @ 10:13 am

      Hi Tom! Thanks for your question–you don’t need to punch down the dough. Although you can use the dough immediately after allowing it to rest for two hours–I recommend refrigerating it for at least an hour or two (or overnight, if you have the time), so that it is a little bit more firm and easy to work with. It will result in a higher loaf, because it won’t be quite as loose going into the oven. But you CAN bake it after the rest period. Please let me know if you have any more questions! Thanks!

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    Tom — November 27, 2013 @ 10:20 am

    Wow! Thanks for the quick response! I made the dough last night and just took it out of the fridge. Boy, did it expand a lot. It’s on the baking sheet ready to go in the oven. It looks a lot flatter than the one in the beautiful picture. Did I do something wrong? By the way, I’m in South Florida. Is humidity a factor? I’m going to use the bread to make homemade dressing for tomorrow.

    • Laura replied: — November 27th, 2013 @ 10:32 am

      Of course! Did you shape the dough with your hands before putting it in the oven? If you live somewhere where its hot (or your kitchen is very hot), it will definitely be a little flatter (if thats the case, and you prefer a taller loaf, try just allowing it to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes, as opposed to 45), but it should rise quite a bit during baking. It will still be delicious regardless though! And if you’re using it for dressing, the looks don’t matter quite as much ;) Please let me know how it turns out!

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    Tom — November 27, 2013 @ 11:27 am

    So, I just took the bread out of the oven and decided that I need to make the other loaf right away because it looks so good I might eat it all before I have a chance to make the dressing! It did rise a lot in the oven. I’ll still try the other loaf at 15 minutes instead of 45. Thanks for you help!

    • Laura replied: — November 29th, 2013 @ 7:09 pm

      Yay!! :) So glad you liked it.

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    Tom — November 30, 2013 @ 8:51 am

    Hi Laura,
    Just thought I’d let you know that the dressing was the best I ever had! Thanks for the great recipe!

    • Laura replied: — December 1st, 2013 @ 11:54 am

      Wow! So glad to hear it! Thanks so much Tom!

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    Denise — April 16, 2014 @ 9:56 pm

    Have this bread in the works right now – and will be ready for the oven shortly. The recipe is so easy! – looked it up after seeing French Boule in a local bakery. Very excited to see how it turned out – is a gift for my grandsons tomorrow. They luuuuuv homemade bread!

    • Laura replied: — April 16th, 2014 @ 10:44 pm

      Oh my gosh, I am so happy to hear that! Please, please leave a comment letting me know your thoughts once you have tasted it. It is still one of my favorite bread recipes ever.

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    Denise — May 3, 2014 @ 6:35 pm

    I made the first batch with partial whole wheat flour, as above. I loved it but my young grandson pointed out that it “was more like sandwich bread” than what he saw at the bakery. Today I’m trying it with all white flour and will keep the dough in the fridge for a day or two to see how the results differ.

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