5 1/2 - 6 cups all-purpose flour
2 packages active dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 cups warm water (120 degrees F to 130 degrees F)
1 egg white, slightly beaten
1 tablespoon water
1. In a large mixing bowl stir together 2 cups of the flour, the yeast, and salt. Add the warm water to the flour mixture. Beat with an electric mixer on low to medium speed for 30 seconds, scraping bowl constantly. Beat on high speed for 3 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can.
2. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough remaining flour to make a stiff dough that is smooth and elastic (8 to 10 minutes total). Shape dough into a ball. Place in a lightly greased bowl, turning once to grease surface. Cover; let rise in a warm place until double in size (about 1 hour).
3. Punch dough down. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide dough in half. Cover; let rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, lightly grease a baking sheet. Sprinkle with cornmeal.
4. Roll each portion of the dough into a 15x10-inch rectangle. Roll up, starting from a long side; seal well. Pinch ends and pull slightly to taper. Place seam side down on prepared baking sheet. In a small bowl stir together egg white and water. Brush some of the egg white mixture over loaves. Let rise until nearly double in size (35 to 45 minutes).
5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Using a sharp knife, make 3 or 4 diagonal cuts about 1/4 inch deep across the top of each loaf. Bake for 20 minutes. Brush again with some of the egg white mixture. Continue baking for 15 to 20 minutes more or until bread sounds hollow when lightly tapped. Immediately remove bread from baking sheet. Cool on wire racks. Makes 2 loaves (28 slices).
From the Test Kitchen
Prepare as above, except divide dough into 4 portions. Shape into balls. Cover; let rest 10 minutes. Meanwhile, lightly grease 2 baking sheets or 4 baguette pans; sprinkle with cornmeal. Roll each portion of the dough into a 14x5-inch to 16x5-inch rectangle. Roll up, starting from a long side; seal well. Pinch ends and pull slightly to taper. Place seam side down on prepared baking sheets or baguette pans. Continue as directed, except reduce the second baking time to 8 to 10 minutes. Makes 4 baguettes (56 slices).
Makes: 28 servings Serving size: 1 slice French bread or 2 slices baguettes Yield: 2 loaves (28 slices)
Prep 40 mins Rise 1 hr 30 mins Bake 375°F 35 mins