The Simply Luxurious Life®: Homemade French Bread – Yes You Can!  

February 24, 2011

Homemade French Bread – Yes You Can!

Homemade food – dinner, pies and especially bread are extremely hard to outdo and over the past weekend, I had an opportunity to learn the tricks of the trade when it comes to bread making.

For quite some time now, I’ve found that the best gifts to receive are not things, but experiences.  So when my mother told me she and I had been invited to learn how to make artisan sourdough, rye and wheat bread from a close and very respected family friend, Anne Stephens, I was very excited. First of all, I admire, am inspired and intrigued by Anne and her family’s life (having lived on both the east & the west coasts, owned a bookstore, and being the most down to earth person I know who has such amazing stories to tell). And her baking, I can remember a peach pie with a touch of raspberries incorporated into the filling – the subtle touch made the most amazing difference and the crust was mouthwatering.

Needless to say, I was ready to absorb the tips and tricks she was willing to share. First of all, I must set the stage.  In a beautifully situated ranch style home which was custom built, the amount of light that floods their beautiful home makes it feel as though you are almost sitting in the middle of the field gazing up at the majestic Mount Joseph which stares down at the residents of Wallowa County with snowcapped ridges. All the while we kneaded away in her open kitchen.

We decided upon three different bread recipes, wheat bread, Swedish orange rye bread and sourdough French bread (shown above). And upon taking this photo, the bread was swiftly taken to my parents’ house and enjoyed with Spaghetti alla Carbonara, a delicious pear, pecan & arugula salad and a wonderful glass of L’Ecole No. 41 “Walla Viola” chenin blanc.  Absolutely the most decadently simple homemade meal I have had in quite some time. And of course, what made it even more special was the company I shared it with and the conversations we engaged in.

Key Things To Keep In Mind:

*Being at the right temperature for raising bread dough is paramount for successful break making (85-100 degrees Fahrenheit).

*Knead bread dough for about 5-10 minutes until it is as “soft as a baby’s bottom”. (I realized immediately, I had never kneaded long enough.)

*Patience is required – plan on making bread on a day when you will be staying home and have no errands that demand you leave the house.

*The amount of yeast I had used in the past wasn’t enough. (I had been using 1 1/2 teaspoons)

*Lukewarm water (comfortable to the touch), not hot, not cold, is required to activate the yeast.

*Feel free to freeze your bread. Simply wrap it tightly in tin foil.

*This recipe can make one large loaf (as seen above) or two small loaves.

Sourdough French Bread

(Anne Stephens’ recipe)


*1 heaping tablespoon active dry yeast (or 1 1/3 packet)

*1/4 cup warm water

*2 tablespoons sugar

*2 tablespoons oil (canola or vegetable)

*2 teaspoons salt

*1 cup warm water

*1/2 cup milk

*1/4 sourdough starter (read about how to find or create this below)

*2 cups unbleached bread flour (2 more cups later)


1. Combine the yeast and 1/4 cup warm water until yeast is dissolved.

2. Add to the yeast combination sugar, oil, salt, 1 cup warm water, milk, sourdough starter. Then add the flour (2 cups) and use a hand mixer to combine until dough is smooth and stretchy.

3. Add remaining 2 cups of flour and mix with a wooden spoon.

4. Take dough out of the bowl and place on a floured surface.  Knead until smooth as “a baby’s bottom”.

5. Place dough in an oiled bowl in a warm place (85-100 degrees) until double (about an hour).

6. Punch down dough. Make into long loaf and place on a cookie sheet that has been sprinkled with corn meal.

7. Let rise 20 minutes in a warm place.

8. Slash top with a knife, brush with 1 beaten egg and sprinkle with your choice of seeds or herbs (I chose rosemary in the above image).

9. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until the bread sounds hollow when you tap (knock) on it. The bread will grow and balloon quite quickly – which is just fascinating and impressive.

10. Cool on a rack and do not place a towel over the top.

(If you would like to make whole wheat bread, substitute 1/2 Whole Wheat flour for White flour.)

Sourdough Starter

Anne was kind enough to give my mother and myself both a half of a cup of her own 30 year old starter which is something you keep in your refrigerator until you are going to make bread (which you should do about every other week to keep the starter fresh, or refresh it by scraping off the top and adding equal parts water and flour to feed the yeast)

Rules of sourdough starter:

*Store in a glass or crockery jar – no metal. Store in a refrigerator.

*Add only flour and water – equal amounts. Then leave out on the counter until bubbly – about 4-8 hours (but watch it closely as you don’t want it to overgrow the jar it is in.)

*Use any quantity, but always leave at least 1/4 cup in the jar for the next batch.

*If it gets dark and smelly, throw out all but 1/4 cup and add more flour and water – leave out until bubbly.

*If it is not bubbly, throw out all but 1/4 cup and add more water and flour – leave out until bubbly.

*If you don’t use it for 3-4 weeks, throw out all but 1/4 cup and add more flour and water – leave out until bubbly.

{If you don’t know someone who has sourdough starter who can help get you started, click here to learn how to create your own starter or catch your very own.}


Image: Simply Luxurious

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At February 24, 2011 at 7:31 PM , Blogger The enchanted home said...

Just have to say this post has my name all over it...I LOVE LOVE LOVE sourdough bread, way more than it loves me and spaghetti carbonara is a serious weakness, next al vongele, and pesto its my favorite, creamy and delicious! I will have to click for the recipe as I am always looking for new versions. I am not even going to attempt to make the bread that could be lethal for me who has no self control when it comes to bread especially sour dough!

At February 24, 2011 at 10:14 PM , Anonymous Splendid Market said...

I love baking bread -- I have not tried a sourdough..yet. Thanks for this!!

At February 25, 2011 at 5:54 AM , Blogger MyFavouriteThings said...

My mouth is watering - I'll definitely try this recipe! Thanks for sharing!


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