2 packages dry active (or cakes of compressed) yeast
2½ cups warm water
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablesppon melted butter
6½ to 7 cups flour, unsifted
1½ tablespoons cornmeal
1 egg white
1 tablespoon cold water
In a large mixing bowl dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Stir gently. Add the salt and butter. Stir in 2½ cups of flour. Mix at medium speed of an electric mixer for 2 minutes, until well blended. Blend in one more cup of flour and mix at high speed for 2 minutes, scraping the bowl from time to time. The result will be a fairly sticky dough. Add the remaining flour sothat the dough becomes fairly stiff. Knead for a few minutes on a lightly floured board. place the dough in a large greased bowl, turning it over once to grease the top. Cover with a cloth and let it rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size (approximatel 1 hour). To tell whether it has risen enough, press the tipes of two fingers quickly into the dough (about ½ inch). If the dents stay, the dough is ready to punch down.
Punch the dough down and turn it out on a lightly floured board. Knead for a minute or two, then divide the dough in half. Shape each half into a long tapered loaf. Butter a baking sheet and sprinkle the sheet with the cornmeal. Place the loaves on the baking sheet. Cover loosely with a linen towel and set in a warm, draft-free place. Allow the loaves to double in bulk (about 1 to 1½ hours). Score the surfaces by making several diagonal cuts about ¼ inch deep with a sharp knife. Brush lightly with egg white moistened with 1 tablespoon cold water. Preheat oven to 400°F. Place a pan of hot water on the bottom of the oven, and bake the bread until crusty and golden brown (approximately 55 minutes). Remove from the oven, slide the bread from the baking sheet and cool on a wire rack.
Second, here's how we actually do it here at Chateau Sinister:
Forget the corn meal, egg white, and cold water. Also, we've found we actually need about 8 cups of flour to get the consistency right. You don't need an electric mixer either, just get your hands in there (wash 'em first!) and do it. Use 2 tablespoons of fast rising yeast, let it rise for 15-20 minutes and punch it down, twice. Let it rise a third time, punch it down, divide in half, put it into two bread pans and let it rise another 20-30 minutes. We find this amount of dough fits nicely into two 12-inch pans. Preheat the oven to 350°F and bake both loaves together for 30 minutes.
That produces two very nice loaves with a lightly browned soft crust. If you like that hard, crunchy darker crust more typical of French bread, give it the egg white treatment, 400°F, and 55 minutes the original recipe calls for, but keep an eye on it the first few times, it may not take that long. Every oven's different and you need to discover what yours does with this.