The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Lesson Five: Ten Tips for Better French Bread

I've been baking something along the lines of what Americans call French Bread (a simple bread containing flour, salt, yeast, and water baked directly on a hearth or baking stone) almost every weekend for over a year now. Sometimes I bake more than one batch a weekend.

Over these 50 or 60 batches of bread there has been consistent improvement in the quality of my breads. Certainly there have been failures but, without question, I've gotten a lot better. Compare the tightness of the crumb of the breads I baked in my early lessons with the openness of my recent loaves. Much closer to what French Bread is supposed to be.

Through trial-and-error, by reading a lot of good baking books, and through numerous discussions with folks on this site I've learned a number of things worth passing on to other folks who want to try making artisan bread at home. Most of these rules hold true whether you are trying to bake pain sur poolish, pain de campagne, Ciabatta, or a rustic bread by any other name. Keep these tips in mind and bake regularly and you'll be making top notch artisan breads (whatever you want to call them) in no time.

Without further ado, the list:

Ten Tips For Better French Bread

10. Use Good Ingredients

9. Use a Preferment

8. Autolyse

7. The Wetter, The Better

6. Folding & Shaping

5. Slow Rise

4. Scoring

3. Bake with High Heat

2. Use a Baking Stone

1. Steam the Oven

0. Practice!

On to Number 10: Use Good Ingredients.

Lesson Five: Ten Tips for Better French Bread


smasty's picture

Ask for "Saltillo" tiles--mexican tiles--at Home Depot.  I have 1 whole and 1/2 tile on a shelf in my oven.  They are super cheap and last! 

Bake Skywalker's picture
Bake Skywalker

Hello all, this is my first post on here at TFL.  What a great community :)


I just wanted to comment on how difficult it was for me to find the right tile for my oven.  Finally after doing quite a lot of calling and looking around (in MI) I found exactly what I was looking for.

There is a company called Metropolitan Ceramics they carry the perfect Quarry Tile.  They do not deal directly to the public but a simple phone call will find you a distributer near you, I also confirmed that they are food safe but feel free to ask all the questions you want they are really friendly.  I went with the Mayflower Red as they are the cheapest and most natural im litteraly leaving after I type to pick up two boxes of tile, both for under $23 US.  Years of tile for $23, WOW!

My oven is about 16"x22" so what I am going to do is get a box of 8"x8" and a box of 4"x8".  This way I can use 4 8"x8"s and 2 4"x8"s to make one big 16"x20" shelf!  Perfect!  Also I am going to take one of my oven racks and weld some spring stops onto it so that my tiles dont move around.  Im going to start a blog and I will post pictures of the setup.

Happy Hunting Fellow Bakers!