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Crusty French Bread

Makes 2 loaves

Like many of you, I do not always have time to make bread. A heavy-duty mixer, processor or bread machine makes it quicker and easier. When I have the time, I make extra and freeze it. I use my stand mixer for this recipe, which was adapted from the book included by the manufacturer. It can easily be adjusted for other machines or for hand-kneading. Did I mention how excellent this recipe is? It has never failed. The finished loaves also make great garlic bread or toast, as in the recipe in the similar and related recipes.

Ingredients

Dissolve yeast in warm water in warmed mixer bowl. Add salt, butter, and flour. Using dough hook, mix on low speed until well blended, about 1 minute. Knead on same speed (depending on your mixer) for 2 minutes. Dough will be sticky, but do not add extra flour. Place in greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover with plastic wrap, then a heavy towel. Place in draft-free area and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

Punch dough down and divide in half. Roll each half into a 12x15-inch rectangle. Tightly roll each rectangle, from longest side, tapering ends and folding ends under slightly. Pinch seams to seal. Place loaves, seam side down on greased baking sheet that have been dusted with cornmeal, being certain to leave enough space between the loaves for additional rising. Cover the loaves with plastic wrap and towel; let rise in draft-free area until doubled, about 1 hour.

With a sharp knife, make 4 diagonal cuts on top of each loaf. Bake in a preheated 450° F oven for 25 minutes. Meanwhile, make egg wash by beating together the egg white and water. Remove loaves from oven; brush tops with egg wash. Return to oven and bake 5 minutes longer. Remove from baking sheet and cool on wire racks.

Notes: To freeze, cool completely, wrap in foil and place in a freezer bag for up to three months.