The Homemade French Bread Flop

I’m beginning to wonder if I’m a homemade French Bread failure. Because every single recipe I’ve tried so far has been a disappointment.

Which makes me wonder whether it’s more the baker than the recipe itself. Ahem.

I was all determined to try yet again yesterday. I searched online, found what looked to be a winner recipe, and I got to work dumping the ingredients in the bread machine.

About an hour later, I checked the bread machine and saw that the ingredients hadn’t really moved at all — even though the bread machine was on, the pan was fully locked in place, and the paddles were installed. (Yes, those three things have been the culprits in the past when I’ve had issues with my bread machine not mixing up the dough!)

Then I realized that the paddles weren’t all the way locked in. Aha!

So I got the paddles fixed and restarted the bread machine cycle. I thought all was well.

The dough looked beautiful and it rose wonderfully. But in my haste (since I was delayed by the bread machine hiccup), I think I under-baked the bread even though I thought it was done when I took it out of the oven.

The final result was edible, but I didn’t love the taste or texture at all. And it’s far from the amazing loaf I was hoping for!

So I’m back to the drawing board again… and I’d LOVE any amazing French Bread recipes or tips you want to throw my way. Because clearly I need all the French Bread help I can get.

Someday, someday, I’m going to be a Homemade French Bread pro. In the mean time, I’ll keep experimenting and hoping that the next recipe I try becomes the winning ticket.

In the mean time, though, I can attest to the winning nature of these bread recipes. I’ve made them all multiple times and they are family favorites:

My Favorite Homemade Bread Recipe

My Sister’s Bread Recipe

Homemade Breadsticks in the Bread Machine

Homemade English Muffin Bread

Bread Machine Buttery Rolls

Bread Machine Cinnamon Rolls (not really bread, but these are so good that I have to include the link for those of you who have yet to discover their yummy goodness!)

Have you had any recipe flops recently? I’d love to commiserate with you! :)

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Comments

  1. Anna A. says

    I know you’re a bread machine girl, but I’ve been doing a lot of bread experimenting lately too. I don’t own a bread machine, but if you are going to do it by hand – ie Kitchen mixer in my case – I’ve noticed a huge difference when I use SAF brand yeast. It really has helped my end products to reliable.

  2. Jammie Eastham says

    I make french bread all of the time, ditch the bread machine. Use the recipe from Taste of home called crusty french bread.
    1 fresh package of active dry yeast
    1 1/2 cups warm water
    1 Tablespoon sugar
    2 teaspoons salt
    1 Tablespoon shortening-or substitute the appropriate amount of butter
    4 Cups of flour
    Dissolve yeast in a large bowl using 1/2 cup of the water. Add sugar, salt, shortening and last cup of the water. Cover and let rise for 1 hour, or until doubled. Turn onto a floured surface, divide dough in half. Roll each in to 10×8 rectangle. roll and pinch the ends to seal. Place on a greased baking sheet. Cover and rise until doubled. Make 5 diagonal cuts with a sharp knife in each loaf. Bake at 400 for 20-30 minutes.
    This recipe comes out with a lovely crusty edge and soft inside. Make sure that your yeast is fresh, or it will not raise properly. This recipe has never failed me for the last 13 years of marriage. It is worth a try.

    • says

      Crystal, I wonder if you would enjoy a book by Mariana Honig, Breads of the World? It can be sought inexpensively online(and is still available in some local and state-wide lending libraries)…includes a French Bread recipe with steps to recreate. The PBS Breaking Bread with Father Dominic, Dominic Garramone, often shares book titles of inspiration from his library that have interesting recipes. One can nicely springboard from there ~ His blog: http://www.breadmonk.com

  3. Heather says

    Don’t give up. But do give up on the bread machine! For my French bread, I don’t even use a hand mixer; I just whisk hard for 3 minutes. But a hand mixer is fine if you like. Still might want to knead by hand.
    Don’t use much whole wheat flour for your first few loaves – it really does change the result. Make it with white until you get the hang of it, and then you can experiment with adding in whole wheat.
    Your oven needs to be hot (at least 400), and the loaf should be much more browned than in your picture. Tap on it and it should sound hollow. It also looks like you may have slashed them a little too deeply.
    Water in the oven (for steam) really does add a nice crunch to the crust. If I don’t feel like messing with the pan of water, I just toss a handful of ice cubes on the bottom of the oven after I put the bread in, and it works great.
    True French bread has only flour, yeast, salt, and water. Only fat to grease the pan.
    Having lived in France, I will say that the only way to really get proper French bread is to go there. I think their flour/wheat has a different protein content or something. But making a French-style loaf at home yourself is a great frugal alternative to a plane ticket!

  4. says

    Crystal, I wonder if you would enjoy a book by Mariana Honig, Breads of the World? It can be sought inexpensively online(and is still available in some local and state-wide lending libraries)…includes a French Bread recipe with steps to recreate. The PBS Breaking Bread with Father Dominic, Dominic Garramone, often shares book titles of inspiration from his library that have interesting recipes. One can nicely springboard from there ~ His blog: http://www.breadmonk.com

    Sorry :-) ~ I put the comment under Jammie Eastham’s in error. Don’t know how to delete it there.

    • says

      OH…should have mentioned that the monk has what may or may not be a take-off recipe from Honig’s in his More Breaking Bread recipe book. Believe you’ll be very pleased with the results of following seasoned bakers…even whether following the main recipe or the bread machine version Garramone offers with most of his recipes.

      EnJOY!

  5. AmyH. says

    Failproof French Bread –
    1 1/4 c. warm water; 1 tsp. salt; 3 1/2 – 3 3/4 c. all purpose flour; 1 tbsp. yeast.
    Layer them in your bread machine in that order. Set it on dough cycle. When cycle is finished, remove and shape into one large or two skinny loaves. Place on a greased baking sheet coated with cornmeal and let rise. Bake at 350* for 15-20 minutes. No longer!
    I make this almost every day, and it really is failproof!

  6. Caroline says

    I had two French Bread flops last week! The first time I completely forgot about the bread rising in the oven (not on, just the warmest place) and we’re talking like 2 hours. It must have risen and fallen because it looked more like foccacia. I baked it and it still tasted ok but was very flat. I tried the same recipe again the next day and forgot about it rising AGAIN. Not as long but it still was kind of flat. I think I also didn’t roll it into a good enough loaf shape. So I am also looking for a good french bread recipe that I won’t screw up! My husband was excited because I was going to make French Onion soup. I screwed up the onions too so we didn’t get to have that!

  7. says

    Oh dear! So sorry to hear of your French Bread troubles. I am by no means an expert at baking but a friend passed this recipe on to me and it is a NO FAIL recipe, I’ve done it so many times sometimes with the recipe and sometimes without, so I know that I’ve done it without the exact measurements and everytime it yields perfect, golden, crusty french bread.

    Judi’s French Bread
    Dissolve: 1Tbs yeast, 1/2 C warm water, 1/2 Tbs sugar

    Combine: 2Tbs Sugar, 4Tbs melted butter, 2tsp salt, 2 C very warm water
    Then add yeast mixture to above liquid

    stir in 7 1/2-8 C of flour

    knead(10min), rest (15-20min), punch down, rest, divide in half
    roll into loaves , place on greased cookie sheet or french bread pan, make 4 slashes, brush with egg, rise, bake @ 350 for 40 min or until golden brown and sounds hollow when flicked.

    HOPE THIS HELPS!

    • chris says

      I agree with a pp that your scores were too deep. I also suspect it was overproofed and that made it too dense.

  8. Jennifer says

    When I bake my french bread I put a shallow pan of water in the bottom of the oven. The steam will produce a wonderful delicious crust. It won’t look pale like yours.

  9. LK says

    Try The Prudent Homemaker’s french bread, it was super-delicious and my whole family raved about it dipped in flavored olive oil for an appetizer one day. But it’s made by hand – I don’t have a bread maker! Maybe french bread needs to be made by hand?

  10. Amy says

    My favorite easy French bread recipe is James Beard’s French-Style Bread in his classic, _Beard on Bread_. I haven’t tried it in the bread machine. I knead it in my Kitchen-Aid for 7 minutes on 2 speed. Left-overs work great for French toast.

  11. marie says

    Peter Reinhart is The Bread King, and his baguette recipe is the best a home baker can do. DH, who is a baguette fiend, says these are as good as the ones we got in France.

    http://www.applepiepatispate.com/bread/peter-reinharts-french-bread/

    If you love bread and want to learn to make a really extraordinary loaf, I can’t recommend these books highly enough–your library might have them:

    http://www.amazon.com/Bread-Bakers-Apprentice-Mastering-Extraordinary/dp/1580082688/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1363215734&sr=1-3&keywords=peter+reinhart

    http://www.amazon.com/Peter-Reinharts-Whole-Grain-Breads/dp/1580087590/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1363215734&sr=1-4&keywords=peter+reinhart

    • Jessica says

      This recipe (and secret technique) was the keeper for us: http://cookiescakespiesohmy.wordpress.com/2011/11/26/quick-crusty-french-baguettes/

      It doesn’t require a breadmaker (though I make all my other yeast bread and rolls and pizza dough with a breadmaker). Be careful not to make the water too hot, or it will kill the yeast and then the finished bread won’t have the right texture. I prefer to allow the loaf to rise about 20-30 minutes before baking. But start-to-finish, I can make this recipe within an hour!

      Also, I use all-purpose white flour (bleached or unbleached). When I tried using white whole wheat (even just a little mixed in with the regular all-purpose flour), it changed the texture dramatically, took longer to bake, and never browned quite right. I will definitely not make that change again.

      The recipe makes two baguettes at a time. I have halved the recipe (but kept the yeast amount the same), and it worked out fine. Usually, we eat one and freeze the other. This recipe freezes well (sliced or whole–though ours have never lasted more than 6 weeks in the freezer).

  12. Tina Rainwater says

    Yes, the bread did look very under-baked. I have had great success using Julia Child’s “Volume Two Mastering the Art of French Cooking”. She has a wonderful, step-by-step breakdown of making French Bread. Very simple ingredients of flour, yeast, salt and water. I think if you google for Julia’s French Bread, you might even be able to find versions on-line. I wish you the best of luck in your French Bread pursuit!!! :)

  13. darlene says

    I have found the recipe from my bread machine cookbook for French bread turns out well for me. I use the dough setting on the bread machine, when finished, I roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface, then roll up “jelly roll style”. cut some slashes in the top and allow to rise till doubled. Recipe follows:

    Classic French Bread
    1.5 pound loaf
    1 cup +2 TBSP water (75-85 Degrees)
    2 tsp. butter or margarine, softened
    3 1/4 cups flour (I use all purpose)
    1 TBSP sugar
    1 1/2 tsp salt
    2 1/2 tsp. yeast.