French Bread

French Bread

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp salt
1 tsp white vinegar
2 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/3 cup warm water
1 T olive oil

Special equipment:  2 (17-inch long) French bread pans (preferably dark non-stick)

Pulse flour, salt and vinegar in a food processor to combine.

Stir together yeast and 1/3 cup water in a small bowl until yeast is dissolved, then let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.  With motor running, pour yeast mixture and remaining 1 cup of warm water into flour mixture in processor, blending until dough forms a ball and pulls away from side of processor bowl, about 1 minute.

Cover processor feed tube and let dough rise until it fills bowl, about 1 hour.  Pulse several times to deflate dough.

Generously oil bread pans with olive oil.

Turn out dough onto a work surface and divide in half (dough will be very soft).  Press 1 half into a 10-inch by 8-inch rectangle and fold in the 2 short outer sides to meet in the middle, pinching edges together.  Turn over (seam side down), then roll and stretch into a 15-inch long irregular loaf.  Put loaf, seam side up in bread pan and turn to coat with oil, leaving loaf seam side down.

Repeat procedure with remaining dough.  Let loaves rise, uncovered, in a warm draft-free place 30 minutes.

Put oven rack in upper third of oven, then put a large roasting pan with 1 inch of water in it on bottom of gas oven or on lowest rack of electric oven.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Make 3 shallow diagonal slashes down length of each loaf with a razor or sharp knife.  Bake loaves 30 minutes, then carefully remove pan of water from oven.  Remove bread from pans and turn upside down on upper oven rack, then bake until golden and crusty all over, about 5 minutes more.  Cool loaves on a rack.

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