What You Need:
4 cups Flour
1 packet Active Dry Yeast
1 3/4 cups Water -- Heat on high in microwave for 1 minute.
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp Sugar
1 Egg + 1 tbsp water whisked together (Egg Wash)
Much simpler than you think! First, heat the water to warm hot, but not scalding and add the sugar and yeast, then cover with a wet towel. Set aside for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, sift the flour into a large mixing bowl and add the salt. After 10 minutes add the yeast to the flour, stirring it in to incorporate. You do not want to over knead this, to use your hands and mash it all together then stop. Transport this ball of dough into a grease dish, cover the dish with a wet towel, and place the dough somewhere warm -- I sometimes heat the over for 5 minutes to 200 degrees (no it does not reach that!). then I set the bowl into the oven as a sort or proofer. If you do this make sure the oven is no more than warm. Otherwise you may start to cook the dough, not rise it.
After 1 hour, remove the dough. Punch it down with your fists, and knead 10 times. Stop. Cover with the wet towel and let rise 45 more minutes. Now you can shape the dough into logs "baguettes" and place on a grease baking sheet. You will want to pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees, and let the dough rise one last time while the oven preheats. I like to let these sit on top the preheating oven, with a wet towel over them for at least 30 minutes. Slit the tops on a bias with a knife (diagonally) and then brush with the egg wash and place into the oven -- optional if you want a shine to the bread.
These will bake about 20-25 minutes. Now if you are adventurous, you could have added ham and cheddar to the dough, or even peppers and onions. You can mix it up! Often in france you can get bread with many things baked into it -- olives, fruits, figs, meats, cheeses, herbs. Don't be shy!