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Traditional French Bread

11/2 packages active dry yeast
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 cups lukewarm water*
1 Tbsp. salt
About 6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp. cornmeal
1 Tbsp. soya milk mixed with 1 Tbsp. water

• In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast and the sugar in the lukewarm water. Allow the yeast to grow for 5 minutes.
• Mix the salt with the flour, then stir it into the yeast mixture, 1 cup at a time, until you have stiff dough. (You may need less than 6 cups. If so, save the rest for kneading the dough.) Remove the dough to a lightly floured bread board or countertop and knead the dough until it is no longer sticky, adding more flour as necessary.
• Place the dough in a greased bowl and turn it so that the entire surface is coated. Cover the dough well and let it rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 to 2 hours.
• Punch down the dough. Turn it out onto the floured bread board or countertop and divide in two. Pat each half into a flat oblong. Roll the dough away from you to create two long cylindrical loaves.
• Place the loaves on a baking sheet that has been sprinkled with cornmeal. With a knife, slash the tops of the loaves diagonally in three places. Allow the dough to rise again until doubled in bulk. Brush with the soya milk and water mixture.
• Place the dough in the cold oven, then set the temperature to 400°F. Bake for 35 minutes, or until well browned and hollow sounding when tapped with your knuckles.

*Note: The temperature of lukewarm water is 85° to 105°F. To test for the correct temperature, drop a few drops onto the inside of your wrist. The water should feel neither hot nor cold.

Makes 2 loaves