Long kneading is the key to correct texture for Italian and French breads
2 pkgs. active dry yeast
2½c. warm water (110 to 115°)
7¼ to 7¾c. sifted flour
1egg white, slightly beaten
1tblsp. cold water
Sprinkle yeast on warm water; stir to dissolve.
Add 2 c. flour and beat thoroughly; stir in salt. Stir in 4½c. flour (about) a cupful at a time; the dough will be stiff.
Turn onto a lightly floured board, cover with a clean towel and let rest 10 to 15 minutes. Knead 15 to 25 minutes, until dough is smooth and very elastic, working in ¾ to 1¼c. more flour. Do not underknead.
Place in lightly greased bowl; turn dough over to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place free from drafts until doubled, about 1½ hours. Punch down, let rise again until doubled, about 1 hour.
Turn onto lightly floured board, divide in half, cover and let rest 10 minutes.
Roll each half in a 15 X 12″ rectangle; the dough will be about ¼″ thick. Starting with the long side, roll up tightly, sealing each turn well with the hands. Roll the ends between hands to taper them and place diagonally, seam side down, on greased baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Cut slits ⅛″ deep and 2″ apart on tops of loaf. Combine egg white and cold water. Brush on tops and sides of loaves. Cover with towel wrung from water, but do not let it touch the bread; prop it with iced tea glasses turned upside down. Let rise in warm place until doubled, 1 to 1½ hours.
Place a large, shallow pan on the floor or low rack of a moderate oven (375°); fill with boiling water. Bake loaves about 20 minutes, or until light brown. Brush tops and sides again with egg white-water mixture. Bake 20 minutes longer until golden brown. Cool.