The result is a flavorful loaf of great crust and toothy grain, a daily favorite in the land of cassoulets and bourguignons. French bread recipes are always for two loaves. One is never enough.
6 cups all-purpose flour
2 1⁄2 teaspoons yeast (2 packages)
11⁄2 teaspoons salt
2 cups warm water (100 degrees)
Whisk the yeast, salt and water in a mixing bowl. Add 2 cups of flour and blend until the flour is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Add remaining flour, mix and knead for up to 10 minutes. The dough should be satiny. Form into a ball. Oil a large bowl and add the dough. Oil a sheet of wax paper or plastic wrap and place against the ball to seal out the air. Cover with a clean dish towel and allow to double in bulk, about two hours. Punch down dough and knead for five minutes. Cut in half and load into two oiled bread pans. Place oiled wrap back on top and then the dish towel. Allow to rise about 40 minutes. Remove towel and wrap, brush loaves with water and bake in a 375-degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes. A loaf is done when it sounds hollow when tapped and the crust is brown.
Yield: About 30 servings.