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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. Love this bread recipe. Can you clarify what cool water is for me (degrees? F)? I’m never quite sure and sometimes I wonder if my water is more tepid than cool.

    1. Hi Loraine, it doesn’t have to be exact for this recipe – somewhere between room temperature and slightly cool will work just fine!

  2. Worked Perfectly!
    Left to prove for about 14 hours (12 ofss overnight in the fridge) which seemed an odd thing to do. I was not entirely confident of a good result when my two unbaked loaves looked a little lifeless after I had shaped them to 9×3, but – they rose nicely in the oven and came out great!
    Would this recipe work as one larger loaf – or even as a round ‘cob-style’ loaf?

    1. Hi Brian! This bread works great as one large round loaf (a boule) – see recipe notes for details.

  3. This is one of my go-to bread recipes! My family, LOVES it. Thank you so much!

  4. Hey Sally,
    I added a cup of cheese to one of my batches, the middle was raw… Was I supposed to adjust the baking time? I didn’t see any adjustments in notes. Confused.

    1. Hi Linzy, the bake time should be the same with the added cheese, but feel free to add a few additional minutes if you find the middle to be undercooked. The loaf should sound hollow when tapped.

    1. Hi Janet, we haven’t tested such a wet add-in like spinach. You would want to cook it down and drain/dab away as much moisture as possible before beginning. Let us know if you give it a try!

      1. What if I used fresh chopped spinach- not cooked? Would it be the same as the fresh chopped herbs?

      2. Hi Jan, you can certainly try with fresh chopped spinach. You may want to use a bit more than the herbs, since the taste is not as strong. Let us know if you give it a try!

      3. So I tried the spinach to my bread and Feta cheese and it is AWESOME! Used not quite a 10 ounce bag of fresh chopped spinach and a cup of feta cheese, and basically baked it the same way I did the recipe- refrigerate 3 days, etc! My family and friends have already placed orders and I’m bringing to the Farmers Market to sell! Yummy!

  5. Wow this turned out great! My husband was so impressed that it’s better than what you get at the KEG resto. I added 4 cloves of garlic and little rosemary and used AP coz that’s all I got. tHank you!!!!

  6. Hi Sally — I would love to try this recipe but I live in Mexico and my Mexican-made oven will only heat to 350-375 and we love crispy crusts. Could baking this at a lower temperature work? Thanks.

    1. Hi Linda, you can try baking it at a lower temperature for a bit longer. We’re unsure of the exact bake time. Hope you enjoy it!

  7. This has become my go-to recipe. It’s so easy, and is a good one for first-time bread makers.

  8. Such a good recipe, bread comes out wonderfully crispy. I find in my oven I need to bake it a bit longer than it says in the recipe though. It’s really easy to make, yet everyone will love it.

  9. Didnt work at all. My crust was super hard to cut and the middle was undercooked. I kept adding more time to cook and the outside just got worse amd the inside still wasn’t cooking. I’m a beginner, but I followed the recipe to a T and it didnt work at all. I’m so disappointed.

  10. Love this simple recipe! I followed instructions exactly at every step, but did not see any holes after cutting it up. Which step may have gone wrong?Thank you!

    1. Hi Ursula! All loaves bake up differently. The bread in the video wasn’t as hole-y as the pictured loaf we made the day earlier! See our Baker’s Tip in the post for a little help. 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.

  11. I absolutely love this recipe! I picked it because it didn’t require a dutch oven, which so many bread recipes do. The crust is perfect, and I love experimenting with different flavorings to add! My favorite has been garlic and rosemary. I make this at least twice a month.

  12. I love this recipe. I’ve been using coarse sea salt to make it with great results. But I’m all out of sea salt. How much kosher salt should I use? I’m not sure if kosher salt is considered table salt or coarse salt so I wasn’t sure how to substitute. Thanks for a favorite recipe. I love making this with spinach dip!

    1. Hi Rhetta, We are so glad you have been enjoying this recipe! Kosher salt usually has larger crystals and you can use the same amount as sea salt. If you are using regular table salt, 1 teaspoon should be fine.

  13. Hi, I’m a little bit confused by this recipe. I tried it a few days ago using the grams / millilitres measurements for the flour and water and the dough was incredibly wet. I couldn’t shape it really at all and it just went sideways during the final prove. You’ve said in response to other comments that it is a very wet dough, but in the video you say the dough may seem dry and your dough is clearly way firmer than mine was. I didn’t score mine because I forgot, but I wouldn’t have been able to score it anyway because of just how wet the dough was. It tasted pretty good and had a great crust, but came out very flat. Are you sure the grams and milliliters measurements are right? I’m meant to be doing this recipe for a work event week after next and I’m worried it won’t turn out well 🙁

    1. Hi KS, A dough’s consistency relies on many variables including how you measure the flour, brand of flour, even the weather and humidity in the air. While this should be a sticky dough, yours may be a little too sticky. Don’t be afraid to add 1/4 – 1/2 cup more flour to the dough next time before letting it rest at room temperature.

  14. Sally Sally Sally!! You have done it again!! I got my dough in the fridge by 3p.m. So didn’t get started the next day until 9a.m. My loaves were looking pretty pitiful before going in the oven, but just as promised they got nice & large while baking! I used the pizza stone that came with a toaster oven I purchased years ago because none of my nonstick sheet pans can go above 450 degrees. I also used the bottom pan to my broiler pan that came with my ovens to place the boiling water in on the bottom rack! Next time will be adding some flavorings & planning to give as gifts for the neighbors for the holidays!! Thank you Sally! I have never had a single one of your recipes fail!! Happy Holidays!!

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