- 1 packet active dry yeast or 2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2 cups lukewarm water (not over 110°F)
- 5 1/2 to 6 cups King Arthur Unbleached All Purpose Flour, cornmeal or semolina, for sprinkling on the pan
- Mix all of the ingredients together, using the smaller amount of flour. Mix thoroughly until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, adding more of the flour if necessary. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface to knead. (This may be a little messy, but don’t give up!)
- To knead: Fold the far edge of the dough back over on itself towards you. Press into the dough with the heels of your hands and push away. After each push, rotate the dough 90°. Repeat this process in a rhythmic, rocking motion for 5 minutes, sprinkling only enough flour on your kneading surface to prevent sticking. Let the dough rest while you scrape out and grease the mixing bowl. Knead the dough again for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Return the dough to the bowl and turn it over once to grease the top. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft-free place (your turned-off oven works well) until the dough doubles in bulk, about 1 to 2 hours.
- Gently deflate the dough. Cut it in half and shape into two oval Italian- or longer, thinner French-style loaves. Place the loaves on a baking sheet generously sprinkled with cornmeal or semolina. Let the loaves rise, gently covered in greased plastic wrap, for 45 minutes, until they’re noticeably puffy. Toward the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425°F.
- Lightly slash the tops of the loaves three or more times diagonally and brush or spray them generously with lukewarm water. Place the pan on the middle rack of the oven.
- Bake the bread for 25 to 35 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and sounds hollow to the touch. The interior temperature of the bread should register at least 190°F on a digital thermometer.
- Remove the loaves from the oven, take them off the pan, and return them to the oven, placing them right on the rack. Turn the oven off and crack the door open several inches. Let the loaves cool in the cooling oven; this will make them extra-crusty.
- Store completely cool bread in a paper bag at room temperature for a couple of days. For longer storage, wrap well and freeze.