French Bread


i present to you my very first loaf of french bread!  isn't it beautiful?  i have been in denial my whole life about how easy it is to make tasty, fresh bread from scratch.  now i'm addicted.  i wonder what i should try making next?
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tbs yeast (1 packet)
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup warm water
olive oil, for greasing
sprinkle of yellow cornmeal, optional
egg wash (1 egg white and 1 tbs water, whisked), optional

- Dissolve yeast in water for 5 minutes.
- Add salt and 2 cups of flour, mix together to create a batter.
- Add the remaining 1/2 cup flour until a rough, shaggy mass is formed.
- Knead for 8 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic. Add a little flour if it is too sticky.
- Grease a large bowl with olive oil.  Form the dough into a ball, place into the large bowl, coat with olive oil.
- Place a damp towel over the top of the bowl and let set in a warm area to rise and double in size (about 1 hour).  (If you want, you may boil a small pot of warm water; then place the towel-covered bowl and the hot water pot into the oven (make sure the oven is not turned on) and close the oven door.  This will create a warm, humid environment for the dough to rise.)
- After 1 hour, punch dough down and form into a long log.  Sprinkle a baking sheet with a thin layer of yellow cornmeal.  Place dough log onto the baking sheet and create evenly spaced diagonal slits across the top with a knife.  Using a pastry brush, glaze the top of the loaf with the egg wash.
- Slide the baking sheet with the dough log into the cool, un-preheated oven.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (while the loaf is in the oven).
- Bake for 30 minutes until it is a light golden color. (35 minutes at the most.)
- Let cool for 10 minutes and enjoy!

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