Mama Claire's French Bread

August 13, 2011
2 Ratings
  • Makes 2 loaves
Author Notes

When I was small, I remember going to school with a lunch box (yes, we used lunch boxes back then) filled with what, at the time, were dreadfully embarrassing lunches. Slices of homemade french bread bracketing weird fillings (cream cheese and olives), veggies grown from our garden and milk in a thermos. The cool kids had peanut butter (store bought, not made from scratch) and jelly sandwiches on Wonder Bread, juice boxes and Twinkies. It wasn't until I was much older that I came to understand and appreciate the love and time that went into my Mom's efforts to provide us with wholesome, healthy foods. I can't take back the contemptuous glances I tossed casually over my shoulder at her but I can, as a grown woman with children of my own, pay her my compliments by trying to provide my own children with her brand of love. I remember these loaves of bread coming out of the oven when I was a teenager and, despite my best efforts to remain aloof, being seduced by the crispy, salty crust and the spongy, hole-ridden center. Serve with garlic and herbs on the top as a side for lasagna, smeared with mashed avocados and sea salt or eaten plain, hot out of the oven, with some butter and salt. She doesn't remember where this recipe came from but it is the taste of my childhood and, hopefully, the taste my children think of when remembering home. Thanks Mom. —Niknud

What You'll Need
  • 2.5 cups warm water (105 - 115 degrees)
  • 2 packets active dry yeast
  • pinch sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • 7 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tablespoon cold water
  1. Dissolve yeast in warmed water (105-115 degrees) in a warmed stand mixer bowl with a pinch of sugar. Let sit for 10 minutes.
  2. Add salt, melted butter and flour. Attach dough hook to stand mixer and run on speed 2 for 2 minutes until ingredients are well blended. Run on speed 2 for two minutes more. Dough will be sticky but don't worry. Remove any rings you happen to be wearing...or resign yourself to a good bout of cleaning later.
  3. Place in a greased bowl, turning to grease top. Seriously, it will be sticky but don't fret about it. Let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size ~ about 1 hour.
  4. Punch dough down and divide into 2 equal parts. Roll each into a 12" x 15" rectangle. Roll up tightly, beginning at the long side, sealing as you roll. Taper ends if desired.
  5. Place rolled dough on 2 greased backing sheets which have been generously sprinkled with corn meal and kosher salt. Cover and let rise as above for about 1 hour.
  6. Preheat oven to 450 degrees
  7. With a sharp knife make 4 diagonal slashes on the top of each loaf. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and brush with slightly beaten egg white and and water. If desired, sprinkle the top with a coarse grained salt - kosher salt or sea salt. Return to oven and bake 5 minutes longer.
  8. Remove from oven and cool on wire racks.
  9. Feel free to play fast and loose with the dough. I have added dried rosemary to the dough with great success. And a little cracked black pepper never caused any complaints.....

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Joan Summers
    Joan Summers
  • Liz

Recipe by: Niknud

Full-time working wife and mother of two small boys whose obsessive need to cook delicious food is threatening to take over what little free time I have. I grew up in a family of serious cookers but didn't learn to cook myself until I got married and got out of the military and discovered the joys of micro-graters, ethiopian food, immersion blenders and watching my husband roll around on the floor after four servings of pulled pork tamales (with real lard!) complaining that he's so full he can't feel his legs. Trying to graduate from novice cooker to ranked amateur. The days of 'the biscuit incident of aught five' as my husband refers to it are long past but I still haven't tried my hand at paella so I'm a work in progress!

2 Reviews

Joan S. January 31, 2021
What a wonderful story about the lunches your Mom made for you. It reminds me of my childhood too. Now I will have to make this bread. The recipe sounds good as well as it brings back nice memories of my Mom.
Liz March 19, 2020
This is a terrific recipe! I did half (we are on social isolation and I wanted to be cautious w my flour). Next time I’ll make the whole thing, maybe with some cracked paper on the top. Thank you for sharing the excellent recipe!