Crusty French Bread
Crusty French Bread

The starter needs to stand for 12 to 15 hours, so plan accordingly! The dough can also be used to make baguettes or boules.

adapted from Martha Stewart Living


  • 11 ounces all-purpose flour (2 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon), plus more for dusting
  • Pinch of active dry yeast
  • 5 1/2 ounces cool water (75 degrees to 78 degrees; 2/3 cup)

For the Dough

  • 11 ounces all-purpose flour (2 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 6 ounces cool water (75 to 78 degrees; 3/4 cup)
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons fine sea salt


1. Make the starter: Stir together flour, yeast, and water with a rubber spatula in a medium bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and let stand at cool room temperature until it has risen slightly and bubbles cover entire surface, 12 to 15 hours.

2. Make the dough: Whisk together flour and yeast in a large bowl. Add water and starter, and stir with spatula until mixture comes together in a slightly sticky, loosely formed ball of dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes.

3. Gently turn dough onto an unfloured work surface. Sprinkle with salt.

4. To knead: Gather dough, lifting it above work surface. Hold one end of dough close to you while you cast the other end in front of you, onto the surface. Pull the end of dough in your hands toward you, stretching it gently, then fold the dough in half on top of itself. Repeat. Lift, cast, stretch, and fold. Knead the dough until it is smooth, supple, and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes. Use a dough scraper to clean the surface as needed, adding the scraps to the dough. (Dough will be very sticky, but avoid adding more flour until the end, when it may be necessary to add a very small amount. Add the flour to your fingers, not the dough.) Form into a ball.

5. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with oiled plastic wrap. Let rise at cool room temperature for 45 minutes.

6. Gently turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. (Do not punch down.) Fold into thirds, as you would a business letter. Then fold it in half crosswise. Return to bowl, cover, and let rise at cool room temperature until it has almost doubled, at least 75 minutes.

7. Gently turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. Using a dough scraper or a knife, divide dough into equal portions (3 if making baguettes, 2 if making boules or rolls). Cover with oiled plastic wrap, and let rest for 20 minutes.

8. On a lightly floured surface, spread each portion of dough into a rectangle that’s roughly 10 by 6 inches. Fold dough into thirds again, as you would a business letter, pressing seams with your fingers. Shape portions into baguettes, rolls, or boules.

To Make French Rolls

1. Working with 1 portion of dough at a time, keeping remaining dough covered, fold dough in half lengthwise to form a tight, narrow log. Gently press edges with lightly floured fingertips to seal. Using a dough scraper or a knife, cut into 8 pieces.

2. Gather edges, and gently pull and tuck them underneath the dough to create a round shape, pinching to seal.

3. Place dough on the work surface. Cup one hand around dough, and rotate it in circles until a smooth, taut ball forms.

4. Place rolls on a generously floured linen towel or a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap, and let rise at cool room temperature until rolls have almost doubled and a floured finger pressed into side leaves a slight indentation, 30 to 40 minutes.

5. Place a skillet on oven rack adjusted to lowest position and a baking stone on middle oven rack. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. If using a linen towel, gently transfer rolls to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Just before baking, use a lame or a razor blade to slash the surface of each roll, forming an X. Pour 1/2 cup hot water into skillet in oven. Slide rolls and parchment onto baking stone.

6. Immediately reduce oven to 450 degrees. Bake until rolls are deep golden brown, sound hollow when bottoms are thumped, and interiors register 205 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool on racks.