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Even if you’ve never made homemade bread or worked with yeast before, this homemade crusty artisan bread is for you. It’s the perfect beginner recipe because it only requires 4 ingredients without any special pans or mixer, there’s no kneading or complicated shaping involved, and 95% of the work is hands-off. Bread masters will appreciate this recipe too because it delivers with delicious flavor, a slightly crisp and mega chewy crust, and those signature soft holes inside like ciabatta or French bread.

homemade artisan french bread

Bread Beginners– Start Here

Have you ever wanted to master homemade bread? Real, crusty, chewy, delicious bakery-style loaves that taste incredible with dips, soups, sauces, and comforting dinners? This recipe is where you start. This artisan bread is for beginners, but even bread masters will appreciate its flavor and ease. It’s so fresh, so flavorful, and so surprisingly easy because it basically makes itself.

You only need 4 ingredients without any special pans or mixer, there’s no kneading, no poolish or dough starter required, and you can add herbs, cheeses, and spices to make a variety of bread flavors.

This base recipe will soon be on repeat in your kitchen. After you realize how easy it is to make real homemade bread, you’ll find any excuse to bake a loaf.

homemade artisan bread loaves

What is Homemade Artisan Bread?

When it comes to bread, the term “artisan” doesn’t mean 1 particular thing. But generally, artisan bread is homemade, fresh, crusty, and deliciously rustic looking. An artisan is a skilled worker, one who works with their hands. But ironically, there isn’t much “work” involved with this recipe.

Why You’ll Love This Bread

  • Easier than you ever imagined
  • Soft + flavorful
  • Chewy, slightly crisp crust
  • Shape however you want
  • No special pans, poolish, or dough starter required
  • Only 4 ingredients
  • You decide the length of time it rests
homemade artisan french bread loaves

Homemade Artisan Bread Video Tutorial

Like sandwich bread, focaccia, homemade English muffins, and homemade bagels— the process is surprisingly easy. If you’re new to yeast, reference my Baking with Yeast Guide for answers to common yeast FAQs.

Only 4 Ingredients

The crustier and chewier the bread, the less fat in the dough– also known as a “lean dough.” We’re using a lean dough for our artisan loaf today. (If you’re curious, a “rich dough” is a soft bread dough with the presence of fat, such as butter and eggs– the kind we need for overnight cinnamon rolls.) Without fat, we’re left with the basics.

  1. Bread Flour: While you can use all-purpose flour in this recipe, I strongly recommend using bread flour. Just like when we make olive bread, bread flour produces a stronger, chewier bread and that makes a big difference in recipe with only 3 other ingredients.
  2. Instant Yeast: Instant yeast is key in this recipe. While you can use active dry if that’s all you have, any quick rise or instant yeast will produce flavorful results in less time. I use more yeast in this recipe compared to my cranberry nut no-knead bread and no-knead jalapeño cheddar bread. Why? Those doughs rest and rise at room temperature. However, for more flavor and just as much rise, I use more yeast and let the this dough rest in the refrigerator. (Cool air slows the fermentation process.)
  3. Salt: You can’t make good bread without salt and for best flavor, I recommend a coarse salt, such as coarse sea salt. I find the bread’s flavor lacking with regular table salt.
  4. Water: I normally encourage you to use warm liquid with yeast because warm liquid helps the yeast work faster. However, use cool or room temperature water here. Not freezing cold, not super warm– cool to touch. 70°F (21°C) is great, but the exact temperature doesn’t matter as long as it’s not hot or warm. The cooler the water, the longer the dough takes to rise and, usually, the better the bread’s flavor. (This is important since there are so little ingredients to add substantial flavor!) We use the same cool water method for no knead honey oat bread.
  5. Optional Cornmeal: Dusting the pan with cornmeal adds a pop of flavor and a little crunch to the bottom crust. This is completely optional. If you have it, use it. If you don’t have it, don’t worry about it.

You can also add herbs and seasonings such as garlic, rosemary, dill, chopped onion, jalapeño, shredded cheese, chopped nuts, dried cranberries, etc. My no yeast bread is the quick bread alternative here– you can add flavors to that loaf, too!

homemade artisan bread dough in a bowl
collage of 2 artisan bread dough images

Baker’s Tip: Avoid adding too much flour to the dough as you work with it. The stickier it is– and the longer it sits in the refrigerator– the more likely you’ll have those big airy pockets of air in the crumb.

shaped artisan bread dough before baking

How to Make Homemade Artisan Bread in 5 Steps

  1. Mix the dough ingredients together. At first the dough will seem very dry and shaggy and you’ll question if it will even come together. But it will. Use a spatula at first, then switch to your hands to ensure all of the flour is moistened. The dough is actually a little sticky after it’s thoroughly mixed.
  2. Let it rise at room temperature for 2-3 hours. Cover the dough and let it rise at room temperature for about 2-3 hours until doubled in size.
  3. Use right away or refrigerate. After 2-3 hours, you can immediately continue with the next step. However, for ideal flavor and texture, I strongly recommend letting the dough sit in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours and up to 3 days. Yes, 3 full days! I usually only let it rest for about 18 hours. During this crucial step, the cold air slows the fermentation process and adds so much flavor and texture. So, you can bake bread in 2-3 hours or in 3 days. The longer it sits, the better it tastes. 🙂
  4. Shape into 2 loaves or 1 boule. Rest as oven preheats. You can shape the bread into a round loaf (boule) or two longer loaves. I usually make 2 longer loaves side-by-side on a flat baking sheet, about 9×3 inches each. Score with a sharp knife or bread lame. Preheat the oven to a very hot 475°F (246°C). The extremely hot air will immediately set the crust so the bread rises up instead of spreading all over. To help ensure a crispier crust, after the oven pre-heats– pour boiling water into a metal or cast iron baking pan/dish on the bottom oven rack. Immediately place the dough inside and shut the oven door to trap the steam. The steam will help create that coveted crisp crust. If you have a dutch oven, shape the dough into 1 round loaf, and bake it inside the dutch oven with the lid on.
  5. Bake until golden brown, about 20-25 minutes. Gently tap the loaves because if they sound hollow, they’re done.

Look at those deliciously soft holes inside! Reminds me of ciabatta or a French baguette, both of which can be a little more complicated to make.

slices of homemade artisan french bread
slices of homemade artisan french bread on a plate

Serve Artisan Bread With

  1. Slather with homemade honey butter
  2. Slice and dunk in crab dip, beer cheese dip, or roasted garlic bacon spinach dip
  3. Serve alongside slow cooker chicken chili or pumpkin chili
  4. As a dunker for minestrone soup or creamy chicken noodle soup
  5. With a big bowl of mac & cheese
  6. Use for my goat cheese & honey crostini
  7. It’s the perfect starch in breakfast casserole
  8. With anything because homemade bread is everything’s best friend

See Your Homemade Artisan Bread!

Many readers tried this recipe as part of a baking challenge! Feel free to email or share your recipe photos with us on social media. 🙂

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homemade artisan bread loaves

Homemade Artisan Bread (With or Without Dutch Oven)

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 4 hours
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours, 25 minutes
  • Yield: 2 8-inch loaves 1x
  • Category: Bread
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Even if you’ve never made homemade bread or worked with yeast before, this homemade artisan bread is for you. Watch the video tutorial above and review the recipe instructions and recipe notes prior to beginning. If you’re new to working with yeast, reference my Baking with Yeast Guide for answers to common yeast FAQs.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 3 and 1/4 cups (about 430g) bread flour (spoon & leveled), plus more for hands and pan
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt (see note)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (360ml) cool water
  • optional: cornmeal for dusting pan

Instructions

  1. In a large un-greased mixing bowl, whisk the flour, yeast, and salt together. Pour in the cool water and gently mix together with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. The dough will seem dry and shaggy, but keep working it until all the flour is moistened. If needed, use your hands (as I do in the video tutorial above) to work the dough ingredients together. The dough will be sticky. Shape into a ball in the bowl as best you can.
  2. Cover the dough tightly with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and set on the counter at room temperature (honestly any normal room temperature is fine!). Allow to rise for 2-3 hours. The dough will just about double in size, stick to the sides of the bowl, and have a lot of air bubbles.
  3. You can continue with step 4 immediately, but for absolute best flavor and texture, I strongly recommend letting this risen dough rest in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours and up to 3 days. Place covered dough in the refrigerator for 12 hours – 3 days. I usually let it rest in the refrigerator for about 18 hours. The dough will puff up during this time, but may begin to deflate after 2 days. That’s fine and normal– nothing to worry about.
  4. Lightly dust a large nonstick baking sheet (with or without rims and make sure it’s nonstick) with flour and/or cornmeal. Turn the cold dough out onto a floured work surface. Using a sharp knife or bench scraper, cut dough in half. Some air bubbles will deflate as you work with it. Place dough halves on prepared baking sheet. Using floured hands, shape into 2 long loaves about 9×3 inches each (doesn’t have to be exact) about 3 inches apart. Loosely cover and allow to rest for 45 minutes. You will bake the dough on this prepared baking sheet. See recipe note if you want to use a pizza stone.
  5. During this 45 minutes, preheat the oven to 475°F (246°C).
  6. When ready to bake, using a very sharp knife or bread lame (some even use kitchen shears), score the bread loaves with 3 slashes, about 1/2 inch deep. (“Score” = shallow cut.) If the shaped loaves flattened out during the 45 minutes, use floured hands to narrow them out along the sides again.
  7. Optional for a slightly crispier crust: After the oven is preheated and bread is scored, place a shallow metal or cast iron baking pan or skillet (I usually use a metal 9×13 baking pan) on the bottom oven rack. Carefully and quickly pour 3-4 cups of boiling water into it. Place the scored dough/baking pan on a higher rack and quickly shut the oven, trapping the steam inside. The steam helps create a crispier crust.
  8. Place the shaped and scored dough (on the flour/cornmeal dusted pan) in the preheated oven on the center rack. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Gently tap the loaves– if they sound hollow, the bread is done.
  9. Remove the bread from the oven and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes before slicing and serving. Store leftovers loosely covered at room temperature for up to 5 days or in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: The dough can sit in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, so this is a wonderful recipe to begin ahead of time. You can also bake the bread, allow it to cool, and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature before serving. You can also freeze the dough. Complete the recipe through step 3. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in a freezer-friendly container. To bake, allow dough to thaw overnight in the refrigerator, or for 2-3 hours at room temperature. Continue with step 4 and the rest of the recipe instructions.
  2. Flour: For absolute best flavor and chewy texture, I strongly recommend using bread flour. You can use a 1:1 substitution of all-purpose flour in a pinch with no other changes to the recipe. I recommend avoiding whole wheat flour in this dough. If necessary, use half bread flour and half whole wheat flour. The bread will taste a bit dense.
  3. Yeast: You can use instant or active dry yeast, but I highly recommend an instant (aka “rapid rise” or “quick rise” yeast). The bread will rise faster. I usually use Platinum yeast by Red Star, which is an instant yeast. 2 teaspoons is a little less than 1 standard packet. If using active dry yeast, there are no changes needed to the recipe. The rise time in step 2 may take longer.
  4. Salt: Use a coarse salt, such as coarse sea salt, in this bread. I find the flavor slightly lacking when using regular table fine salt. If you only have fine salt, reduce to 1 and 1/2 teaspoons.
  5. Water: Use cool water. 70°F (21°C) is great, but the exact temperature doesn’t matter as long as it’s not hot or warm.
  6. Round Loaf: If you want to shape the dough into a boule (round loaf) simply shape into a round ball instead of 2 loaves in step 4. Baking instructions are the same, but the loaf will take a few extra minutes in the oven. If you want to bake the boule in a dutch oven, see next note.
  7. Using a Dutch Oven: Follow this dough recipe through step 3, then follow the simple shaping/baking instructions (steps 2-5) in my Cranberry Nut No Knead Bread recipe including using the parchment paper. If your parchment paper can’t withstand heat this high, you can either lower the oven temperature and bake the bread for longer or grease the dutch oven instead.
  8. Using a pizza stone: If you want to bake your bread loaves on a pizza stone, place pizza stone in the preheating oven. Transfer shaped and scored loaves to hot pizza stone and bake as directed.
  9. No Nonstick Pan: If you don’t have a nonstick baking sheet, line it with parchment paper instead. Coat with a dusting of flour and/or cornmeal before placing the dough on top. Parchment paper can burn, so it’s best to check the box to see how much heat yours can tolerate. Lower your oven heat if necessary and bake the bread for longer until golden brown and when gently tapped, sound hollow.
  10. Flavor ideas: Before pouring in the water in step 1, add any of the following ingredients/combination of ingredients to the dry ingredients in the bowl: 4 cloves minced garlic + 3 Tablespoons chopped rosemary, 3 Tablespoons your favorite fresh herb (chopped), 1 cup your favorite shredded cheese, a diced jalapeño, 3/4 – 1 cup dried cranberries and/or chopped nuts, 2 teaspoons garlic powder, etc.
  11. Reference my Baking with Yeast Guide for answers to common yeast FAQs.
  12. Recipe adapted from King Arthur FlourRed Star Yeast, similar method originally from Jim Lahey.

Keywords: bread, loaf

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. I’ve used this recipe several times and it always produces the very best loaves! My husband gets annoyed whenever I bake them to give away because he wants to keep them for us. Such a simple but perfect recipe.

  2. I have made this recipe twice now, and I’m making it right now. I don’t use the Dutch oven I make two loaves and place them on a cookie sheet and bake them as described. They turn out perfect every time. And it’s the best bread. I add Italian herbs a little olive oil and garlic to the recipe. Delicious

  3. Ok so this is the second go round for me. I tried baking the loaves in a hot, humid climate with terrible results. Now I am back in a dry climate, although it is hot today, and the results are much better ( I kept the dough in the fridge for two days) my loaves do not have the brown glow of the photos (could that be a wee bit of coloring as food stylists I know use various methods to simulate a brown crust). I put a pan of boiling water under the baking sheet. What I am not seeing are those nice holes, My bread tastes dense and not light. I am a pretty experienced baker so I am puzzled. Oh yes, one more thing when i took the dough out of the oven after two days it was super dry. I let it rest before I shaped it and let it rest for the 45 minutes indicated in the recipe. Any words of wisdom?

    1. Hi Aline, I’m glad to help. The bread in the photos isn’t artificially browned (I don’t even know how to do that!), but maybe it’s the lighting. However, the photos do display how it looks in real life when I bake this recipe and you can see 100s of reader photos right above the recipe displaying a nice browned bread. You may just have to raise your oven rack so the exterior/tops brown a little nicer. Anyway, a wet/high hydration dough is what gives you that airy, flaky, hole-filled bread. Avoid adding too much flour to the dough as you work with it. The stickier it is– and the longer it sits in the refrigerator– the more likely you’ll have those big airy pockets of air in the crumb. In a dry climate, you may just need less flour or a little more water.

      1. My dough is also dense, and doesn’t have the larger bubbles. I used all purpose flour stead of bread flour, and also live in a dry climate. Let it proof in the fridge for 27 hours. It did deflate, but still had volume. I tried a raisin bread, but as I smell it baking, such a high heat may be a bit too much for raisins. I wonder if the all purpose flour is contributing to the density and dryness?mi do love your recipes, which I why I was willing to give this one a try.

  4. Hi Sally I have just discovered your site and absolutely love the clarity of direction and videos! The soft dinner roles were amazing! I also really loved this bread recipe. I’ve made it before with a polish but this was much easier and came out way better. My ONLY problem, both with the rolls and bread is with the final product presenting as too flat. I made sure the oven was hot at 475 and didn’t open the door during the bake. Any ideas? A huge thank you for sharing!

    1. Hi Linda, Thank you for trying this recipe and we are happy to help troubleshoot. If you followed the recipe exactly, and your dough rose properly before baking, the main reason it wouldn’t rise when baked is not scoring your loaf deep enough. This step is KEY to the bread’s texture and ability to rise/expand properly in the oven. Use a very sharp knife, kitchen shears, or a bread lame (recommended) to make a few large slashes. I hope this helps for next time!

  5. I have been baking for over 40 years . This was my first time to bake artisan bread . This recipe was awesome. . So easy and taste really good . I am knew to your website and just love it. Thanks for sharing your recipes and knowledge .

  6. I just made this and it turned out just like you said. Amazing! This was my very first loaf of bread I’ve ever made! How fun! Making more tomorrow and more for friend and family. I appreciate your thoughtfulness and easy to understand recipe and notes. I am a big fan. Thank you!!!!

  7. This was my first time baking bread. It is an easy recipe. A warm piece was so good with butter. The outside is crispy and chewy. The inside is so soft. I cannot let making this easy recipe become a habit. I baked it after it was mixed and rising at room temp for 4 hours. I baked it in a Dutch oven.

  8. I made this bread with 2/3 spelt flour and left it in the fridge for 48 hrs. The bread came out very flat but tasted really good. Does it not rise as much because of the spelt flour? Also my dough is much softer and sticker than in your video although I use what the recipe calls for
    Thanks

    1. Hi JoAnne, spelt flour doesn’t absorb liquid as well as regular flour so that’s why the bread was flatter and dough was sticky. You could try reducing the water in the recipe or using a little more flour next time.

      1. Thanks Sally. I love all your recipes. All the ones I’ve tried come out delicious especially the olive bread

  9. Absolutely loved this recipe! My first time making bread and was so happy it turned out perfect. Would it be possible for me to split the dough to make 4 smaller loaves? Would it just affect the baking time?

    1. Hi Deb, you can make smaller loaves, yes. Bake until the crust is golden brown and when you tap the loaves– they will sound hollow when done!

  10. I wish I could put 10 stars for this delicious and simple recipe!
    First time I bake bread, and I’m not a good baker. I’ve made about 10 batches with this recipe and I realized with the humidity here in Montreal I need to reduce the water to 1 1/4 cup so I can shape the baguettes properly and give them a bit of height. With 1 1/2 water they wouldn’t hold their shape at all, and wouldn’t raise on the tray. I just put all the ingredients in the bowl, water included, mix only with a spatula for about 2 mins, until sticky everywhere. I prefer to leave on the counter for 3 hours in a air tight mixing bowl with lid (doubles in size with big bubbles), then separate the dough in 2 big scoops, shape in my baguette baking tray lightly coated with Olive Oil instead of flour so it comes out easily. I skip the fridge wait time, it didn’t really change the taste for me. I leave it to rest 1 hour at ambient temperature (almost doubles in size again and becomes monstrous in the tray) and reshape a bit just before putting in the oven. So simple!! Delicious and as good as baguettes from bakeries. 7 mins of hands on work.
    My boyfriend was skeptical as he’s half french/half italian and bread is sacred for him, but he approves the baguettes 100%. So again a big thank you for sharing this simple and accessible recipe!!

  11. So I tried this recipe out once and it turned out fantastic! I just made it last night again but forgot to do the step where you allow it to ride for 2 hours first…. I just threw it in the fridge. Do you think it’s salvageable? Should I just add 2 hours of rise time when I take it out to bake today?

    1. Hi Tracy, did it expand or rise at all in the refrigerator? If not, you can let it sit in the bowl at room temperature after removing it from the refrigerator.

      1. It didn’t do much in the fridge. The resulting bread rose beautifully in the oven, but it was a bit denser / didn’t have many air pockets. Kids still loved it though! Not nearly as delicious as the first batch! Will make sure not to miss that first rise step again.

    2. I use this recipe almost weekly! Whenever I need a recipe I come to your website. Thank you so much

  12. I have been making this recipe for two years now. I absolutely love it!!! I am trying to stock my freezer before I give birth to my first child later this month. Do you have any tried and true freezing tips? As far as what to wrap it in?

    1. Hi Bridget, this bread is great for freezing. You can either freeze it baked by wrapping in plastic wrap and even foil or in another plastic ziplock bag for extra protection from the cold and to keep out moisture. Or, you can freeze the dough, too — see recipe notes for best instructions. Congratulations to you on the upcoming addition to your family! If it’s helpful, you may enjoy this post on freezer friendly meals as well. Enjoy!

  13. Looking forward to trying this recipe! Any suggestions for adding whole wheat flour ?
    Thanks!

    1. Hi J! See recipe notes: we recommend avoiding whole wheat flour in this dough. If necessary, use half bread flour and half whole wheat flour. The bread will taste a bit dense.

  14. I am shocked by how easy this recipe is AND by the amazing results! I made this yesterday for a dinner party. I did not have time to let it sit longer than a few hours in the fridge (after 3 hours on the counter). The dough was very wet and I’m glad this was mentioned in the recipe because it was not the “normal” bread dough I usually work with. I followed directions and made no substitutions. My results were beautiful rustic loaves with large air pockets, golden crust, and chewy-lishous slices of bread. Everyone was impressed. This has to be the easiest recipe that results in the yummiest rustic bread out there. I’m not saying I’m done trying new recipes but this is my new go to for a rustic loaf. Fantastic! Does anyone have ideas for adding sourdough start to this?

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