I. love. bread. I love bread! Know what else I love? Bread that has no oil or butter in it! In fact, the official components of French bread (one of the best breads in my humble opinion) are flour, water, yeast, and salt. That's it, nothing more, nothing less. In my experience, some of the best bread recipes are the simplest, and these recipes are no exception. Here are three bread recipes without oil or butter in the mix (but that's up to you to add later).

I'm a huge fan of Julia Child. In her books, she goes into such great detail on how to execute proper technique, and in Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume Two, she spends 20 pages going over every detail of how to make this recipe. True French bread is a challenge, as it only contains four ingredients and requires serious time and skill. But as Julia writes in My Life in France, "no one is born a great cook, one learns by doing."

So find a day where you have around eight hours to dedicate to baking true French bread, and do it! Some are some of the techniques are difficult, so if you need extra clarification, My Life in France describes a "steam-generating contraption" here and here's how to score different bread shapes properly.

Julia Child's French Bread Recipe

  • Prep Time:8 hrs
  • Cook Time:25 mins
  • Total Time:8 hrs 25 mins
  • Servings:3
  • Hard


  • 1 cake 17 grams fresh yeast or 1 package 7 grams active dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup warm water
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 cup tepid water
crust, dough, rye, baguette, cereal, wheat, bread, flour
Photo courtesy of pixabay.com
  • Step 1

    Combine the yeast and warm water and let it liquefy.

  • Step 2

    Combine the yeast mixture with the flour, salt, and tepid water in a mixing bowl.

  • Step 3

    Turn out the dough onto a kneading surface and let it rest for 2-3 minutes. While it rests, wash and dry the bowl, because you'll need it again.

  • Step 4

    Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes. Julia describes the proper technique in Mastering the Art of Cooking Vol. 2.

  • Step 5

    Let the dough rest for 3-4 minutes, then knead again for a minute. The surface of the dough should be smooth, soft, and a little sticky.

  • Step 6

    Return the dough to the mixing bowl and let it rise at room temperature until 3 1/2 times its original size, about 3 hours.

  • Step 7

    Deflate the dough by folding it, and let it rise again at room temperature until almost tripled in size, about 1 1/2 - 2 hours.

  • Step 8

    Rub flour into canvas or linen towel placed on a baking sheet. This will be your rising surface.

  • Step 9

    Divide the dough into 3 (baguettes, batards, or boules), 6 (ficelles), or 12 (rolls) pieces.

  • Step 10

    Fold each piece of dough in half, cover loosely, and let them relax for 5 minutes. Shape the loaves depending on what you'd like to make and place them on the floured towel.

  • Step 11

    Cover the loaves loosely and let them rise at room temperature until almost tripled in size, about 1 1/2 - 2 1/2 hours.

  • Step 12

    Preheat the oven to 450°F.

  • Step 13

    Using an “unmolding board” (thin plywood), transfer the risen loaves onto a baking sheet or a baker's peel.

  • Step 14

    Slash the loaves. Spray the loaves with water and put them in the oven on the baking sheet or peel.

  • Step 15

    Steam them with a "steam-generating contraption" or by spraying 3 times at 3 minute intervals.

  • Step 16

    Bake for about 25 minutes. When they're done, the loaves should feel light. To test, insert a thermometer into a middle slash. The bread is done when it reaches 200°F.

  • Step 17

    Let it cool for about 2-3 hours. As Julia admits, cutting into warm bread is irresistible, but the texture is best when the loaf is cool.

2. Mary Berry's Irish Soda Bread

Ever since I began watching The Great British Bake Off, Mary Berry has been one of my favorite TV judges. Her Baking Bible is my go-to, and her Irish soda bread has become one of my favorite recipes of hers that I’ve made time and time again. There are only 5 ingredients, and it takes under an hour start to finish. My favorite way to enjoy it is warm (but not too fresh out of the oven, as the texture won’t be right) with some salted butter, but it also tastes great on its own!

Mary Berry's Irish Soda Bread Recipe

  • Prep Time:10 mins
  • Cook Time:45 mins
  • Total Time:55 mins
  • Servings:1
  • Easy


  • 450g strong white flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 300ml buttermilk or 150ml milk mixed with 150ml plain yogurt
  • 6tbsp tepid water
soda bread, pastry, dough, cereal, sweet, wheat, flour, bread
Photo by Jennifer Nigro
  • Step 1

    Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Lightly grease a baking sheet.

  • Step 2

    Mix together the dry ingredients. Add the buttermilk and enough tepid water to form a very soft dough. I've found using your hands is the easiest way to do this.

  • Step 3

    Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a round loaf around 18cm (7in) in diameter.

  • Step 4

    Transfer the loaf onto the baking sheet and cut a shallow cross on the top with a sharp knife.

  • Step 5

    Bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, Turn the loaf upside down and bake for another 10-15 minutes. When it's done, it will sound hollow when you tap it. Cool on a wire rack.

3. Cooking Light’s Basic Sponge and Ciabatta Bread

This recipe is a two-parter, with the Basic Sponge made a day in advance. Ciabatta is perfectly light and airy, but it needs to proof at room temperature to get that way. Most ciabatta recipes use oil, but this one doesn’t and contains only .5g fat per slice. Plus, it makes two loaves so you can have one now and save one for later!

Cooking Light's Basic Sponge and Ciabatta

  • Prep Time:45 mins
  • Cook Time:25 mins
  • Total Time:1 hr 10 mins
  • Servings:24
  • Medium


  • Basic Sponge:
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 7g active dry yeast
  • 3/4 cup very warm water 120°F to 130°F
  • Ciabatta:
  • 4 cups bread flour
  • Basic Sponge at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water 100°F to 110°F
  • 2 tsp nonfat dry milk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 7g active dry yeast
  • 2 tbsp cornmeal
  • 2 tbsp bread flour
  • Step 1

    Basic Sponge:
    Measure out the flour using the spoon and level method. Place the flour, sugar, and yeast in a food processor and pulse 5 times. Add water, process for 1 minute until well blended. Spoon the mixture into a bowl, cover, and chill for 2 to 24 hours. Before using it, bring it to room temperature.

  • Step 2

    Spoon and level the flour and combine it with the Basic Sponge and the warm water, nonfat dry milk, salt, and yeast in a food processor. Process until the dough forms a ball, and process for 1 more minute.

  • Step 3

    Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and divide it in half. Work on one at a time and cover the one not being worked. Roll each piece into a 12x6in rectangle. Place the dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and sprinkled with cornmeal. Taper the ends of the dough to make a “sipper” shape. Sprinkle 2 tbsp of flour over the loaves, cover, and let rise for 30 minutes until doubled in size. You’ll know it’s risen enough when you can press two fingers into the dough and the indentation stays.

  • Step 4

    Preheat the oven to 425°F.

  • Step 5

    Uncover the dough and bake for 25 minutes. You’ll know it’s done when the loaves sound hollow when tapped. Remove them from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Loaves can be frozen for later use.