Homemade French Bread (adapted from Alli-n-Sons)
2-3 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp sugar
1 cups warm water
1 Tb melted butter
1 egg white
1 Tb water
1 Tb water
In a large bowl, combine 1 cup flour, yeast, sugar, and salt. Stir in the water and melted butter until well blended. Stir in 1-2 cups more flour, till you get a slightly shaggy dough, not super sticky. (I ended up adding 1 1/2 more cups of flour)
On a lightly floured surface, knead in enough flour to make a stiff dough that is smooth and elastic. Knead for about 8 to 10 minutes total. (Or in a mixer with a dough hook) Shape into a ball and place in a greased bowl, grease the top of the bowl, and cover with plastic wrap or a clean cloth. (I like to spray the dough and bowl with cooking spray) Cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled, 30 min to an hour.
Punch dough down, and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Cover, and let rest for 10 minutes. Roll the dough into large rectangle. Roll up, starting from a long side. Moisten edges with water and seal.
Line or grease a large baking sheet. Place loaves, seam side down, on the prepared baking sheet. With a very sharp knife, make 3 or 4 diagonal cuts about 1/4 inch deep across top of each loaf. Cover with a damp cloth/plastic wrap and let rise until nearly doubled, 35 to 40 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Beat egg white and water together and gently brush over the top of your loaf. Bake for 20 minutes. Brush again with egg white mixture. (The egg white mixture will make a harder, crunchy crust. You can also brush with butter or olive oil instead, for a softer crust) Bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, or until the bread sound hollow when tapped. If necessary, cover loosely with foil to prevent over browning. Remove from baking sheet, and cool on a wire rack.