Yes, you can make your own French bread! It takes some planning, like most bread, but the payoff is incredible. Unlike its cousins that decorate the bakery case at your local grocery store, this bread has incredible flavor and wonderful texture. The hardest part of this bread is being patient and allowing the yeast to work. It takes about 3 1/2 hours, but most of that time is inactive.
Will make one large loaf of bread.
1 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups bread flour
3 tsp yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup warm water (not hot! it will kill the yeast)
1 tsp sugar or honey
Mix 1 cup of the AP flour with the salt and yeast, then add the warm water, then mix in the rest of the flour and sugar slowly, until the dough forms a stiff ball.
Sprinkle some flour onto a cutting board, and knead the bread for a few minutes, carefully turning and folding the dough, which will wake up the yeast. Shape it into a ball, then spray a clean bowl with cooking spray and place the dough in it, turning over once.
Cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise for 2 hours.
When the dough has risen, roll it out onto the floured cutting board, flatten the bread slightly, and cover with the plastic wrap.
Let the bread rise for 10 minutes.
Spread the dough using a rolling pin or your hands to be approximately 6″ X 10″. Roll the dough up, and placed it seam side down. Round the ends and tuck them under to achieve the French bread shape.
Whisk the egg, and brush it onto the dough liberally. Cover with a clean tea towel, and allow to rise for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
When the dough has risen, remove the towel. Use a knife to cut four shallow slits into the top of the dough.
Bake the bread for 20 minutes, cover with the egg wash again, then bake for 15 minutes. Bread will be very sturdy and golden, with a hardy crust and soft inside.
Cool on a cooling rack for 10 minutes, then slice and enjoy.