I prefer to mix this bread by hand with a big wooden spoon--an electric mixer can lead to overmixing, and that will ruin the light texture of french bread.
*Note, you can do part wheat flour in this recipe if you like--I've had it work fine up to about half wheat--but hey, this is french bread...I like it white! ☺
Makes 2 large loaves
Preparation/cooking time = about 2 hours (it's easy, but there's a lot of rising time, and this really can't be rushed)
In a smallish bowl or measuring cup mix
5 tsp yeast (or 2 packets)
1/2 cup hot water
In a large bowl mix
2 cup hot water
1/2 cup oil (I use olive oil)
3 Tbs sugar (I usually put part of it in with the yeast to help it get off to a good start)
1 Tbs salt
Add to water mixture
3 cups flour
Add yeast mixture (which should now be nice and bubbly)
3 more cups flour
After mixing, dough will be pretty sticky. Cover bowl with a clean towel and set in a warm place for 10 minutes. At the end of 10 minutes, stir it down. Repeat the rising/stirring down for a total of 5 times. (If your kitchen is on the cooler side, try doing 15 minute risings, or if you have an oven-safe bowl you can set it in a slightly warm oven for the risings.) It's these multiple risings that make the big bubbles in the bread. ☺
Preheat the oven to 400*
Place the dough onto a floured counter and knead just a little (about 10 times) then divide into two parts and roll into long skinny loaves. If you have a french bread pan you can use that, otherwise sprinkle cornmeal on a cookie sheet and place the loaves side by side (leave a little space--they will rise as they cook). Do not rise them again before cooking, just put them into the oven. Bake at 400* for about 30 minutes.
- Sprinkle grated cheese into the bread dough while kneading for a cheesy bread.
- Make ahead of time, then slice loaves in half lengthwise and spread butter and garlic inside and warm in the oven until flavors melt together.
- Make ahead of time, slice loaves lengthwise, then put cheese in the middle and melt in oven.