French Bread Baked with a Brick
1 Envelope dry yeast
3 c Warm water (105 F to 115 F)
8 c (about) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tb Salt
1 Egg white beaten with 1 Tbs water (glaze)
Makes 12 small loaves
Soak a brick in water overnight. Sprinkle yeast onto 1/4 cup warm water in bowl of electric mixer fitted with a dough hook; stir to dissolve. Let stand 5 minutes. Add remaining water, 4 cups flour and salt and beat until smooth. Beat in remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time until slightly sticky dough forms. Mix until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and no longer sticky, adding more flour if necessary, about 3 minutes. (Dough can also be mixed and kneaded by hand.) Grease large bowl and add dough, turning to coat surface. Cover with damp towel. Let rise at room temperature until doubled. Punch dough down and knead on lightly floured surface until smooth, about 2 minutes. Return to greased bowl, turning to coat entire surface. Cover with damp towel and let rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume. Grease baking sheets and sprinkle with cornmeal. Punch dough down and knead on lightly floured surface until smooth, about 2 minutes. Divide into 12 pieces. Pat each into 4x7-inch rectangle. Roll up jelly roll fashion, starting at one long side. Pinch seams to seal. Arrange seam side down on prepared sheets, spacing 3 inches apart. Let rise until almost doubled in volume, about 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 475 F. Remove brick from water and place in oven. Make 3 diagonal slashes in loaves. Brush with egg glaze. Bake 10 minutes. Reduce oven to 350 F and continue baking until loaves sound hollow when tapped on bottom, about 35 minutes. Cool on racks before serving.