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Jul 8, 2023

Classic French Bread for a French-Style Picnic

This Classic French bread takes a little bit of practice to make, and the results often depend on a lot of factors, including the weather, but it's so worth the effort! 

French Bread slices in a basket.

Other factors include gluten development, dough temperature, shaping technique, timing, and the right tool and technique for scoring right before baking. 

Baguettes.... I am a fairly confident home bread baker, except when it comes to baking those round baguettes with the beautifully open slashes. 

Baguettes sliced in half with a cloth over them.

So many times my baguettes have deflated when I slashed them...  or they curled up in the oven, either from my lack of skills in transferring the loaves to the oven, or just because they decided to. On their own.

With this recipe, you will have no trouble with the dough as long as the dough is the right temperature after kneading. It's a straight dough that is bouyant (almost bouncy), easy to shape, and will produce a round loaf with a thin crispy crust that crackles and sings when you pull it from the oven. 

The resulting loaves are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside and the bread actually stays soft and tender for at least two days. 

I'll continue to tackle the final frontier, scoring.... 

French Bread slices on a cutting board.

Regardless, these loaves are amazing. I'm pretty happy with this French bread. For one thing, I'm happy that the loaves are round and not flat!!! The slashes need a bit of work, but fortunately, this bread tastes so amazing that I will definitely continue to attempt this bake again. 

You can make them in an afternoon and have them with dinner....  and the crust crackles away when you remove them from the oven.

Side view of a French Bread loaf.


There are only four ingredients: flour, water, salt, and yeast. I used unbleached bread flour as well as instant yeast. 

The hydration ratio is 75% (water to flour by weight), which is a pretty high hydration dough, but it isn't super sticky because of all of the kneading. I was able to work with it without needing to flour my work surface at all. 

Equipment I used:

Note: I have made this French bread a few times, trying different options for cradling the shaped loaves for the second rise. The first time I used a baguette pan, which made it easy to transfer the loaves to the oven. The only issue was that as the bread rose, it tended to stick together on the sides. After about five minutes of baking, I had to remove them from the pan and place them directly on the baking stone. 

It's still a good option for its ease of use. 

The second time, I used a linen couche, cradling the shaped loaves between creases in the fabric. That worked well, although I needed to use two flipping boards to transfer the loaves to the oven, one at a time.

This last time, I used some baguette proofing baskets lined with towels sprinkled with rice flour, which made it easy to turn the risen loaves out upside down onto a parchment lined peel to score them and slide them into the oven. It also made it easy to chill the dough right before scoring. 

Stand Mixer (kneading by hand is an option but it requires 850 turns!) 

Kitchen scale - for both weighing ingredients and weighing the dough. 

Bench scraper - great for cutting and shaping the dough. 

Pizza peel - for transferring the French bread to the baking stone. You can also use the back of a baking sheet lined with parchment. 

Baking stone - if you don't have one, you can bake the loaves on a baking sheet. 

Other options include the Emile Henry Baguette pan (which I am totally coveting) or even a rectangular covered roasting pan. With either of these, you can skip setting up a steam oven. 

French bread with fruit and charcuterie on a plate.

This bread is perfect for a French-Style picnic, or pique-nique

French-Style Picnics:

Picnics are a long standing tradition in both rural and urban France, and can be as simple as a loaf of bread, soft cheeses, charcuterie, some fresh berries, and a bottle of wine spread out onto a checkered table cloth, or as a full spread with lots of options. 

Cheeses can include brie, Roquefort, chèvre, or camerbert. You can stop by your local cheese shop, or fromagerie, and taste a few before choosing what to buy and pack. 

You could also pack some prepared food, such as a salade niçoise, a pan bagnat (similar to salade niçoise in a sandwich), a jambon-beurre (a sandwich filled with ham and French butter on ficelles), a quiche Lorraine, or a rotisserie chicken picked up from the local marché (like a farmer's market). 

You can stop by a pastry shop (patisserie) for a fruit tart or some madeleines for dessert. 

French bread with fruit and charcuterie on a platter.

You can pack some fresh seasonal fruits and veggies, cornichons, olives, and some nuts. 

You can also pack French cultured butter, jam, tapenade, French mustard, and/or paté for spreading on slices of the bread. 

And don't forget the wine! A chilled rosé or white wine from Provence would be perfect. 

Pack it all up in a wicker basket along with a blanket, table cloth, and your favorite picnic dishes and glasses. 

French bread with fruit and charcuterie on a plate.

Did you know that there are (or once were) laws in France that you cannot open up a freshly baked loaf of bread for at least 20 minutes after it is removed from the oven? Did you know that a baguette in France can only have four ingredients? Flour, water, yeast, and salt!

(Full disclosure: Technically, these loaves are not baguettes. They're more like skinny batards.)

If you are so inclined, here is the world tour of my other baguette attempts (that I was willing to publish):

From our dinner table logo.

July is Picnic Month! When the weather is gorgeous, it's so fun to plan a picnic! 

The From Our Dinner Table Group has come together to share recipes for make-ahead dishes that are perfect for taking to picnics. 

Packable Picnic Recipes

We share Recipes From Our Dinner Table! Join our group and share your recipes, too! While you're at it, join our Pinterest board, too!

French Bread slices on a cutting board.

Classic French Bread

Classic French Bread
Yield: 24 dinner roll sized pieces
Author: Karen's Kitchen Stories
Prep time: 1 HourCook time: 25 MinInactive time: 2 HourTotal time: 3 H & 25 M
Classic French bread takes a little bit of practice to make, and the results often depend on a lot of factors, including the weather!


  • 638 grams (1 pound, 6 1/2 ounces / 5 cups) bread flour
  • 473 grams (2 cups) water, about 78 degrees F
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast (or one 0.6 ounce cube compressed fresh yeast)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup water for the steam pan in the oven.


  1. Add the flour and water to the bowl of a stand mixer and mix on low with the dough hook for 3 to 4 minutes, until you have a shaggy mass of dough. Cover the bowl with plastic and let it rest for about 20 minutes
  2. Add the yeast and mix for about a minute.
  3. Add the salt and mix on low for another minute or two.
  4. Increase the speed to medium low (speed 4), and mix for about 5 minutes. You should have a smooth dough that clears the sides of the bowl. The dough will be slightly sticky.
  5. Turn the dough out onto a very slightly floured surface, and hand knead for another couple of minutes. The dough temperature should be about 78 to 80 degrees F.
  6. Form the dough into a tight ball and cover with oiled plastic wrap to rest for 15 minutes.
  7. Form the dough into another ball by doing a long "stretch and fold" of the dough from all four "sides" of the dough.
  8. Place the dough ball, seam side down, into a greased bowl or dough rising bucket. Cover and let it nearly double in size. This could take from 45 to 120 minutes, depending on the temperature in the room.
  9. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and press it down with the palms of your hands.
  10. Using a scale to weigh the dough, cut the dough into three equal pieces, about 13 ounces each. Form each piece into a ball, and cover with the oiled plastic wrap to rest for 5 minutes.
  11. Heavily flour a couche or a cotton towel (the batards will rise between folds) and set it aside. See note 1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F with a baking stone in the middle of the oven and a broiler pan on the lowest rung.
  12. To form the batards, turn a dough ball over so that the seam side is up. Press it down into a rectangle. Fold it into thirds, lengthwise, like a letter, and press the seam together to form a cyllinder. Repeat two more times, "knitting" the final seam together.
  13. Roll the dough back and forth on the counter until it is about 14 inches long. Taper the ends and continue to pinch the seam together.
  14. Place each loaf, seam side up, onto the floured towel or linen couche, and pleat the fabric between the loaves. Fold the end of the fabric over the loaves and let rise until puffy, about 45 minutes to 2 hours. They are ready when the dough barely springs back when poked with a finger.
  15. Line a peel with heavy duty parchment paper. When the loaves are ready, move them to the parchment, seam side down, and score them with three slightly angled vertical slashes.
  16. Slip the parchment, loaves and all, onto the baking stone. Pour the water into the broiler pan, and close the oven door. Lower the temperature to 425 degrees F.
  17. Bake for 25 minutes. If the loaves are not brown enough, bake for another 5 minutes. The internal temperature of the loaves should be around 200 degrees F.
  18. Cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.


  1. See note in post regarding options for vessels for letting the dough rise.

Nutrition Facts



Fat (grams)

1 g

Sat. Fat (grams)

0 g

Carbs (grams)

20 g

Fiber (grams)

1 g

Net carbs

19 g

Sugar (grams)

0 g

Protein (grams)

4 g

Cholesterol (grams)

0 mg
Did you make this recipe?
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This recipe is adapted from the book, Baking with Julia: Savor the Joys of Baking with America's Best Bakers, published in 2012. The recipe is from contributing baker Danielle Forestier.

Updated post from September, 2014. 

Would you like to comment?

  1. Beautifully done! I would not have noticed that your slashes were anything less than perfect without you mentioning them...I'm thinking mine would be craters!!!

  2. Yeah! We succeeded at making French bread! I used the mixer too! 800+ turns... no thank you. Great work and beautiful results!

  3. They look beautiful. Wonderful holes in the crumb.

  4. The French have so many rules! No wonder their food is so good. :) Great job on your batards! They look really pretty.

  5. It looks like you succeeded in making these to me! They look lovely and delicious. I haven't had a chance yet, but want to make these soon, especially seeing everyone's results. And Andy is a bread man to say the very least - he'll love these.

    1. Thanks so much Cathy. Baguettes are always the loaves I have so much trouble with. The darn slashing!

  6. Slashes are my nemesis...
    Your loaves came out beautifully - great crumb!

  7. What type of knife are you using to slash your dough? and why can't we post pictures here?
    Great site

  8. Homemade French bread is so good. Perfect with cheese or charcuterie!

  9. Looks glorious Karen! So interesting on your experiences with how to hold the loaves for baking. I've looked at baguette pans but they are so expensive. I'll have to come back and review your other ideas when I get around to trying this.

    1. The Emile Henry is super expensive, but the baskets are pretty decently priced.

  10. Gorgeous loaf! The texture, color, everything is spot on.

  11. It's that crust that I just cannot seem to get right. When you press it makes that crunch sound. You need to offer master classes in bread! They always look perfect.


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