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My wonderful high school French teacher, Mr. Dilgren, in his never ending quest to get me to learn the French language, taught me this French bread recipe that he learned while he lived in France. His efforts in teaching me French were in vain, but I did remember his wonderful, hearty, peasant style french bread recipe. This recipe is easy to make with or without rapid rise yeast. It also makes excellent garlic bread.
2 - With a wooden spoon slowly mix in 1 cup of flour at a time until dough is smooth and satin like. You can add a little more water if needed.
3 - Knead by hand on a floured board or in the mixing bowl if it's big enough. Kneading time should be approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Don't overwork dough.
4 - Put dough in a rising bowl. Cover top and sides of dough ball with regular olive oil. Cover with a towel and put into a warm place to rise until doubled in volume. Rising times vary but should be approximately 3 to 4 hours for normal yeast and 2 to 3 hours for rapid rise yeast. There is no flavor difference between the two. Please note: There is only one rising cycle for this bread.
5 - Once dough is doubled in size, put onto a floured board (don't punch down). Cut dough into two equal sizes and gently shape into two baguette shaped loaves.
6 - Dust baking sheet lightly with cornmeal and place the two loaves onto the baking sheet. Let bread rise again for 5 - 15 minutes.
7 - Boil 3 to 4 cups of water. Find a metal pan to place on a shelf underneath where the bread will be baking.
8 - Use a knife to slash the loaves at a slight angle. With a brush, lightly brush the tops of each loaf with water.
9 - Put loaves into a COLD oven. Pour boiling water into pan underneath bread.
10 - Turn oven on to 380 degrees.
11 - Bake for approximately 30 to 35 minutes, turning halfway through.
12- Start watching the bread carefully at 25 minutes.
Flour notes: Montana Sapphire, non bleached flour is the best choice for this bread. You can also use any "Bread" flour as long as it's unbleached. This dough recipe also makes great pizza. Cook for 15 to 18 minutes at 380 to 400 degrees. Prepare dough and raise as per above. Put into a preheated oven and omit the tray of water in the oven. Use your favorite sauce and cheese, or lightly brush with olive oil and add a touch of salt and pepper for a more traditional pizza.