I am NOT a baker. At all. I don't have the patience for it and I hate when you go to so much work only to have it fail. I can't tell you the number of times I've had to throw bread out because it hasn't risen and/or is hard as a rock. Some recipes are worth the risk though. The feeling of cutting through the crusty top and reaching the soft center is such an awesome thing.
This recipe is one of those- totally worth the risk and a lot easier than you'd ever imagine french bread would be. While it requires a lot of time, very little effort is needed and the end results are amazing.
-Mix together 3 cups flour and 5 tsp yeast, set aside.
-In a small saucepan mix together 2 1/2 cups cold water, 1 Tbs sugar, 1 Tbs salt, and 1 Tbs oil. Heat on medium until water reaches 115 or just above room temperature. (When you touch it with a knuckle it should feel just barely warm)
-Pour warmed mixture into flour mixture and mix for 30 seconds on low followed by 3 minutes on high.
-Add up to 4 cups of flour until dough is soft and pulling clean away from the sides. Add SLOWLY; I only needed 2 1/2 cups flour.
-Knead bread for 10-12 minutes. You can do this in a mixer, I just prefer to do it by hand.
-Put into a greased bowl and turn over once to evenly distribute the grease.
-After dough has doubled in size, punch it down, turn it out onto a greased baking pan and divide into 2 equal balls.
-Now, you can roll the dough and fold it up OR you can do my (cheater's) route and form the balls into loaf shaped masses.
-Gash tops with cuts about 1/8"-1/4" deep and 2" apart.
-Then walk away for another hour (I usually heat the oven at this point) and allow dough to double again.
-After the hour is over, pop the bread into an oven preheated to 375 and bake for ~40 minutes (mine were ready after 30 minutes)
-Let cool and enjoy!