8 loaves, 6 converts, and two batches later I am sharing this recipe because it is amazing. It is the first French bread recipe that I have made that gives the crunchy exterior and the soft fluffy inside that usually eludes my home oven. Plus the recipe came with a cream cheese butter spread that is good enough to bathe in, and even better toasted.
So for the credit see this website: http://www.itsalwaysautumn.com/2012/04/26/cook-soft-and-chewy-french-bread-with-garlic-spread.html
To make it from here:
2 1/2 c. water (tepid)
1 1/2 Tbs yeast
1 1/2 Tbs sugar
1 1/2 Tbs oil
2 tsp salt
6 c. flour
So you can proof the yeast for 10 minutes, or just mix it all together. I tend to just mix it all together in my kitchen aid, set a timer for 5 minutes, and walk away as it kneads it.
After that, turn it out on a floured surface and knead every 10-20 minutes for an hour. Just a little kneading, punch it down, and walk away again.
1 hour later, divide the dough into four sections and shape into loaves. I found that you do not want to knead it here, just shape it with as little touching as possible.
Place on a cooking sheet, score the bread, brush with egg white, and let rise for 30 minutes or until doubled. While preheating the oven to 425.
Bake at 425 for 10 minutes, then lower the temp to 350 for 20 minutes.
And the Butter Spread:
1/2 C butter
8 oz package cream cheese
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 t oregano
1/2 t basil
1/8 t each dill, marjoram, thyme, and pepper OR 1/2 t poultry seasoning
Let butter and cream cheese come to room temperature, then stir all to combine. Spread on the lovely bread hot and let melt, or on cold bread and toast it. Trust me on the fact that you will not be disappointed.