Homemade French Bread

Here’s my newsflash of the day…

Homemade bread is amazing!

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Of course I knew that it was amazing before, but there’s something about the smell of bread fresh out of the oven that reestablishes the fact all over again. I really wish I could bottle up the smell and sell it on Ebay. I’m sure I’d make a fortune! 🙂

I’ve always had trouble with yeast breads. They look so easy on Pinterest, but that never seems to be the story when I try it on my own in the kitchen. My bread doesn’t ever seem to rise.

And now I’ve finally figured out why!

So now I’ve applied a few new tricks of the trade to a mouth-watering recipe from Pinterest, and I am thrilled to let you know that it really does work!

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French Bread – Soft, Chewy, and Homemade…

I owe a huge thank-you to another blogger for this recipe. Autumn, at It’s Always Autumn, shared this recipe for French bread in 2012 and recently updated her post to include a printable recipe card and step-by-step video in 2017.

Now, I’m not going to give you the recipe again here. Autumn has already done a great job with that, and you can find her ingredients and instructions here. What I am going to do is share a little of what I’ve learned in the art of making homemade bread actually happen in your kitchen.

Specifically, how in the world can I get this thing to rise???

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Rising Bread is a Science…

In researching the culprit behind my un-risen bread, I found a great article put together by a baker named Renee Pottle. In 2015, she wrote an article for Mother Earth News, a magazine and website that gives great tips and DIY projects for the home. In her article, 5 Reasons Why Your Bread Dough Doesn’t Rise, Renee shares some thoughts on the problem at hand…

  1. It might not be your fault! Whew! That’s a nice one to start out with! 🙂 Yeast is a living organism, and it dies if it isn’t kept in the right environment. So you might just need to buy a new batch of yeast and try again.
  2. Too Hot, Too Cold. This one is our fault. As a living organism, yeast has a temperature that it likes to live at. Warm water is good, hot water is bad. Warm house is good, cold house is bad. If we don’t stay in the range that the yeast prefers, it won’t do its thing.
  3. Wrong Pan. Sometimes the dough really has risen; it just doesn’t look like it has. If we put the bread dough in a pan that is too large, we won’t be able to tell if it has risen or not. Something else to check if you’re having trouble. 🙂

(Renee gives a few more great tips in her article… You should definitely check it out!)

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Rising Bread is an Art…

In this case, the problem with the un-risen bread really was my fault. We like to keep the heat down in the winter and the A/C off in the summer. If we can. I tend to be a penny-pincher that way. 🙂

But Renee Pottle notes that yeast prefers 75-90 degrees Fahrenheit, and that’s where my difficulty came in. Our house rarely reaches 75 degrees during the cold winter months, and if I try to bake during the hot summer months, the whole house ends up baking too! The result – flat bread in the winter and no bread in the summer.

Here’s where the secret comes in – it’s possible to keep your yeast happy by getting creative with your heat source. Try setting your bread dough on top of your refrigerator, on the stovetop, or in front of your fireplace. And if the dough is already in the baking pan, try turning your oven onto the “warm” setting and just let it rise there!

Check out the difference that this little trick made with my French bread!

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It Really Does Work!

I’ve had so much fun the last couple weeks figuring out this homemade bread thing. It’s delicious, easy on the grocery bill, and so satisfying! Renee Pottle puts it well – “Baking bread isn’t just about putting food on the table, it’s an experience, an event.[i]” It’s true! Making homemade bread takes time and energy, and we don’t really do it because we have to – we do it because we want to. And because it smells good. 😉

So now I’ve caught the homemade bread bug. Stay tuned for a post about delicious ways to use French bread… 🙂

Blessings!   ~ Erin

Pin - French Bread

[i] Renee Pottle, “5 Reasons Why Your Bread Dough Doesn’t Rise,” Mother Earth News, 3/16/2015, 1, accessed August 21, 2017, http://www.motherearthnews.com/real-food/why-your-bread-dough-doesnt-rise-zbcz1503.