Since I've had requests for this recipe, I'm finally going to post it. It's a bit wordy, but remarkably easy. If you own a decent food processor, you'll never buy French bread again!
From How to Cook Everything, 10th anniversary edition
- 3 1/2 c. all-purpose or bread flour, plus more as needed*
- 2 t. salt
- 1 1/2 t. instant (rapid rise) yeast
*can sub into up to 1 cup whole wheat flour
- Put dry ingredients into food processor. Whirl briefly. With the machine running, slowly pour 1 cup of water through the tube. Process until the dough forms a ball. If it is too dry, add some more water (tablespoon at a time). If it is too wet, add a tablespoon or so of flour. You're looking for a "moist, slightly shaggy but well-defined ball." This will take less than a minute once you know what to look for.
- Dump dough into a bowl (no need to grease) and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until double (roughly an hour or so--very flexible timing, here).
- On a lightly floured surface, punch dough down and shape into desired shape(s). I can get one generous loaf, 2 smaller baguettes, or 12-16 "boules" out of this. Know, too, that it will rise a good bit in the oven, even after it's risen the second countertop rise on the cookie sheet (leave enough space!). Place on cookie sheet or baking pan and let rise, covered with the plastic wrap, until double (an hour or so).
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (if your oven has trouble holding its temperature, stick a stoneware pan on the bottom rack while it's preheating). When oven is hot enough, lightly slash the top(s) of the bread 1-3 times, depending on size of bread, and pop into the oven. Turn heat down to 375 degrees and bake until golden brown and the bread sounds hollow when tapped from underneath. Time? hmmm.... best guess is around 30-40 minutes. I just keep an eye on it and check every now and then. It's a bit more flexible than sandwich bread and it depends on what size bread/rolls you've made.