I have had this recipe in my "Favorites" recipe notebook for ages. I just haven't made any yeast bread in a while, and "got the bug" to make some. Dug out my old Favorites and a bowl and some bread flour and started down the lengthy but easy path towards these loaves.
In a large mixing bowl, mix together well, 1c water, 1 1/2 c bread flour and 1/4 pkg yeast. Cover with damp towel and plastic wrap and let rest overnight in a cool (65 degree) area.
When ready to proceed, add the remaining ingredients to the bowl (start with 4 c. flour) and mix well. Continue to add more flour until you have a firm but slightly tacky feeling dough. Turn out on a lightly floured counter and knead for 15-20 minutes, re-flouring the counter as needed to keep dough from sticking to your hands too much. Use as little flour as needed. Let dough rest covered loosely with plastic film for 10 minutes, then knead again for 10 minutes. Let rest and knead again for 5 minutes, two times. Approximate kneading time is 35 to 40 minutes total with rests between each kneading. Oil a large mixing bowl, make dough into round, place in bowl and turn over to coat with oil. Again, place moist towel and plastic wrap over and let proof in a cool location (65 to 70 degrees)for 2 to 5 hours til doubled.
Turn out, knead a few times to express large air bubbles, cut into 5 to 6 equal pieces. Form each piece into a log and let rest for 30 minutes. When rested, form each log into a baguette and place two baguettes on each of two or three baking sheets which have been covered with parchment paper. Alternately, use one or two of the baguettes to form French hard rolls slightly larger than a golf ball and place 6 rolls in a 9" oiled pie plate.
Cover and let rise about 1 to 1/2 hours. Preheat oven to 425 - 450 degrees about 15 minutes before you are ready to bake and place a pan of water in the bottom of the oven to provide steam for baking.
Bake 20 to 30 minutes at 425-450, switching pans front to back and from side to side to bake evenly about half way through baking. Remove pans and let cool.
NOTES: The Long, slow, cool rises used for this bread are to develop more flavor from the dough. There is no hard and fast rule about what temperature to use to proof dough. The cooler it is, the slower the proofing.
This bread will usually not get dark when baking because of the lack of sugar to brown. But it is a delightfully crackly and crunchy crust with a smooth grained and tender interior crumb from the long kneading time.
This recipe makes about 5 or 6 small baguettes 3 inches wide by 14 long, or 18 to 24 hard rolls, depending on how you measure and mold the dough.