If you overcook French bread it gets too hard. Not to worry; you can use it to attack Inspector Clouseau!
- 2 ¼ cups warm water, 110–115 degrees F
- 2 tbsp. granulated sugar
- 1 tbsp. yeast (see note)
- 2 ¼ tsp salt (see note)
- 2 tbsp. olive oil, canola oil, vegetable oil or avocado oil
- 5 ½ – 6 cups all-purpose flour or bread flour
Combine the water, sugar and yeast in a bowl to proof the yeast. Let the mixture bubble and foam before proceeding; 3–5 minutes.
Add the salt, oil and 3 cups of flour and mix. Add in 2 1⁄2 to 3 more cups of flour gradually. The dough should clear the sides of the bowl and form a soft ball that doesn’t leave a lot of dough residue on your fingers.
Place on a lightly floured surface knead for 2–3 minutes until the dough is smooth. If the dough is too sticky, add a bit of flour until it’s a smooth firm ball.
Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl and cover with a towel or greased plastic wrap. Let the dough rise until doubled, about an hour or so.
Turn the dough onto a lightly greased surface and divide in half. Pat each section into a thick rectangle, 9x13-inches-ish. Roll the dough up starting from the long edge, pressing out any air bubbles or seams with the heel of your hand, and pinch the edge to seal. Arrange seam side down on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Cover the loaves with greased plastic wrap or a kitchen towel, and let rise until noticeably puffy and nearly doubled in size, about an hour. With a sharp knife, cut several gashes at an angle on the top each loaf (you can wait to score the bread until after it rises, but it can easily deflate if the razor/knife isn’t sharp enough).
Preheat the oven to 375° and make sure an oven rack is in the center position. If you find your bread isn’t browning as much as you like, preheat the oven to 400 or 425 degrees and/or move the oven rack up one position (watch carefully so the bread, especially the bottom, doesn’t burn).
Bake the loaves for 25–30 minutes until golden and baked through.
If desired, brush melted butter over the hot loaves (this softens the crust a bit, so if you want a crispier crust, don’t butter the top).