- 6½ cups flour (use bread flour if you can find it)
- 3 tablespoons yeast
- 1 tablespoons salt
- 2¼ cups warm water (110 degrees F or 43 °C)
- 1 tablespoon honey or sugar (optional)
- 3 cups boiling water (for oven steaming in baking pan, see below.)
- Add the honey and yeast to warm water, mix well and let stand for 10 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and mix with a mixer and dough hook or knead by hand for 10 minutes.
- Place the dough in a clean bowl; lightly oil the top. Cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in bulk (one to two hours). Punch dough with fist and proof once more. Knock dough down again and place on a floured surface.
- Cut the dough into four portions and shape into French-style loaves. Place on a flat baking pan or in a special French bread loaf pan. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (218 °C), let loaves rise for 40 minutes.
- Pour 3 cups boiling water into a roasting pan and carefully place on the oven bottom. Brush the loaves with cold water, slash diagonally three times or snip with scissors.
- Place the dough in the oven on a rack above the pan of water and bake for 20 minutes. Remove and cool on a rack.
This dough is meant to be on the sticky side, so use extra flour when handling it. This recipe can also be used for pizza, calzone, focaccia and rolls.
When using the recipe for bread, rolls or focaccia be sure to give it a full 40 minutes of proofing, just before baking, after it is formed into the desired shape.