Wondering about making French bread at home? It can be done. Here are some tips to help you get started in what is really an art. And consider your self lucky if you live down the street from the boulangerie!
So...can I make French bread at home?
Yes you can make French bread at home. After all, all you need is flour, water, salt, yeast, an oven and some patience.
I doubt very much that many French people make their own baguettes. Although bread machines are definitely popular here, for your everyday loaf, most people will just go to the boulangerie. Which is my convenient excuse for why I've never made French bread.
It turns out that making French bread is rather much of an art. In the book, My Life in France, Julia Child talks about her attempts at learning this art. It took her many, many weeks and she made countless loaves before she felt she had come up with a method worthy of sharing with others.
So I think the best approach to making your own French bread is to consider it as a long term project, maybe even a sort of weekly meditation. You will find plenty of recipes and techniques on the internet and people can be quite passionate about bread making. The Fresh Loaf is one site I found to be particularly thorough and probably a good place for you to start.
Meanwhile, here are three tips I see repeatedly mentioned for successful French bread making:
Use only the very best ingredients. That means carefully consider your flour (many recipes call for a higher protein flour), water (perhaps your tap water is not the best to use), salt (kosher or other special salts may be better) and of course yeast, which can vary considerably in quality and type.
Proof your yeast.
Even if it is not past the expiration date, yeast can just up and die. If you're going to go to the bother of making bread, make sure your yeast is good.
Allow plenty of time. The actual time you have to be in contact with the bread is short, but you must allow plenty of time for rising and baking correctly.
If you've had some experience with making French bread, please feel free to comment on this page and share your experience. We'd love to hear from you.