So, I made a batch of French bread today. Never Buying Loaves AGAIN.
1.5 Tablespoons yeast
1.5 Tablespoons sugar
1.5 Tablespoons oil
1 Tablespoon salt
2.5 cups warm water
about 6 cups flour
Mix all together down through water, and proof 10 minutes. Add 4 cups flour and beat the crud out of it; add up to 2 cups more to form a loose-but-nice dough. Proof, stopping by to give it a good smack down every 20 minutes for an hour or so. What will have started out as a somewhat sticky dough will autolyze into a lovely smooth elastic dough. It’s bread magic.
Divide and form 4 batards/oblong loaves, really TIGHTLY shaped (there are videos… I do a rounded-end baton, rather than a batard, but it’s fun to write Four Fat Batard Breads).
Place on an oiled sheet or parchment paper, and brush with egg wash (this is the faux bit… true French breads get their shattering crisp crust by added steam in the first part of high-temp baking. The egg wash will create a shiny, sorta-crisp crust, much like the big-store-bakery loaves, but *not* like actual French bakery loaves); slash deeply 3-4 times down the length. Preheat the oven to 425* while they rise til doubled.
Bake 425* for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 375* and bake another 20 minutes. Remove and cool on a rack until you can’t stand it anymore, and break open a loaf.