We love french bread but have always been afraid to try baking it ourselves. Finally, I found a recipe that works. I used freshly ground whole wheat flour milled from white wheat berries with my own WonderMill instead of store-bought bread flour. It is not as light as regular French Bread but it is delicious. The key is to use good yeast and based on my experiments, Red Star yeast has worked best for me. The original recipe is from here. The key to crusty French bread with a soft interior is to use high temperature in baking and misting the surface of the loaves with water as they bake for the first 10 minutes. Using white wheat berries is important so the bread will have a more French bread texture.
Whole Wheat French Bread
1 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees F)
1 tablespoon Red Star active dry yeast
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups whole wheat flour
Stir together warm water, yeast, and sugar and let stand for about 10 minutes till it becomes frothy. Add yeast mixture to the oil, salt, and 2 cups flour.
Add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until the dough has pulled away from the sides of the bowl.
On a lightly floured surface knead the dough for about 8 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl, and turn to coat. Cover with a damp cloth or plastic bag, and let the dough rise in a warm place until it has doubled in volume. This may take about 1-2 hours.
Deflate the dough, and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface.
Divide the dough into 3 pieces, and form into loaves.
Place on lightly greased baking sheets.
Cover the loaves with a damp cloth, and let rise until doubled in volume, about 40 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Place the loaves in the oven. After 2 minutes, open oven door and mist the surface of the breads with water. Do this again twice during the first 10 minutes. Bake for a total of 18 to 20 minutes or until loaves are golden brown.