Proof the yeast by putting it about 1 cup of the warm water for 1-2 minutes. It is important that you use good water – we use jugged water from the grocery store. Tap water is fine, if you consider it fine to drink.
Mix until it starts to form a ball by pulling away from the sides of the bowl. Scoop it out of the bowl onto a well-floured surface.
Knead for about 1 minute. Knead by folding the back of the dough over the front and pushing down. Give the whole thing a quarter turn either clockwise or counterclockwise, but always remain consistent. Repeat the folding, pushing, and turning. Then let the dough rest for 1 minute while cleaning the bowl. This is good because it warms the bowl up in preparation for the dough to rise in it, and it also gives the dough time to start forming. Knead for one more minute and return the dough to the clean bowl.
Cover in a plastic bag from the grocery store and let it rise, untouched, for 2 hours.
Remove the dough from the bowl, again, onto a well-floured surface. Notice it should have doubled in size. Knead for 1 more minute.
Then, cut the dough into 2 equal pieces and begin forming into loaves by rolling them out, then pounding down the center lengthwise with the side of your straightened hand. Pinch the sides up to form into a loaf again. Move onto the second loaf while the first rests. Continue until they are formed to about as long as your baking sheet.
Place each loaf on the buttered or sprayed cookie sheet and cut three angled slits in the top of each. Let rise, bagged, for another hour.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Take about a cup of water and throw it into the oven to create steam just before you put the bread in. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 and bake for 35 minutes.
Here’s another loaf we made. As it turns out, we put both loaves to rise on the same baking tray and they rose sort of into each other. We couldn’t save this one, so I balled it back up, kneaded it, and formed a new loaf. I let it rise a third time and then baked it according to the same directions. The loaf looked and tasted great! The only noticeable change was fewer air pockets inside. So, if this happens to you, have no fear! A third rise is okay. Well, at least in Phoenix!
Thanks to “netman21” on youtube for the video that is the basis of this recipe. This video is excellent help, and can be viewed here: French Bread Recipe