Braided French Bread :
6 cups all-purpose white flour· 2 ½ cups warm water· 2 packages (2 Tbsp.) active dry yeast· ¼ tsp sugar· 1/3 cup oil (vegetable)· 3 Tbs. sugar· 1 Tbsp. salt· 1 egg white· 1 Tbs. water
Combine the 1/2 cup warm water, yeast and 1/4 tbs sugar, stir just to combine.Let this mixture sit for about 5-10 minutes to proof the yeast.In a separate large mixing bowl combine the 2 cups warm water, oil, 3 Tbsp sugar, and salt.Add the yeast mixture to the mixture in the large bowl. Add 3 cups of flour and mix until you have an incorporated and somewhat smooth texture.Add the remaining 3 cups of flour to form a soft dough.Knead dough for about 15 minutes. Then for a nice round ball.Transfer dough into a lightly greased bowl and rotate to coat. Cover with a clean dry cloth, and let set in a warm draft free place (See Notes) for about an hour or until doubled in size.Divide the dough into two equal pieces. Work with one piece at a time, dividing it into three equal pieces. Form each piece into a snake and braid the three portions together. At both ends press the braids and tuck under the loaf.Repeat with second loaf.Place the loaves length-wise onto a lightly greased cookie sheet sprinkled with cornmeal.Let rise for about 20 minutes, just until braid becomes puffy and snug.Bake at 375 degrees for 45-50 minutes.After about 40 minutes brush with butter (for a soft crust as in the photo) for about 10 minutes. After 10 minutes check internal temperature.NOTE: For A crunchy crust, brush the top of each loaf with an egg wash. Mix the egg white with 1 Tbs. water. Then top with seeds of your choice. The crust should be very crisp, golden brown, and sound hollow when you tap on it.NOTE: Internal temperature should be 190-200 degrees. All ovens are different and this will insure a done loaf of bread.Let the loaves cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing.