Combine the water, sugar, and yeast in the bowl of your stand mixer. Gently swirl together with your hand.
PRO:TIP: Ideally the water temperature should be around 90°F/32°C. To get the ideal temperature use a microwave to warm the water for about 30 seconds. Measure the temperature with your probe thermometer. Add a little cool water if the water is too hot. (80 to 90°F is fine.)
When the yeast is activated, you should be able to see tiny bubbles. (this might take 3 to 5 minutes)
Add 3 cups of flour to the work bowl of you stand mixer. Attach a dough hook and start to mix on low.
When the flour is mostly incorporated into the dough, add another 2 ½ cups of flour, the salt, and the olive oil.
Turn the mixer up to high and beat the dough until it forms a soft ball, and pulls cleaning away from the sides.
Use the remaining ½ cup of flour if your dough seems too sticky. This is where experience is the best guide.
PRO-TIP: The dough should feel sticky. If you touch the dough and end up with bits of the dough that are stuck to your fingers, then you should add a little bit more flour.
Place the dough into an oiled bowl covered with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise until it has doubled in size, about an hour.
PRO-TIP: Proofing is very temperature-dependent. If your house is cold. there are a few things you can do to warm the dough as it is proofing. (see recipe notes below.)
Form the Loaves
Turn the risen dough out onto a greased surface.
Cut the dough into 2 equal halves.
Roll out the dough into two 9 x 13-inch rectangles.
Starting with the long edge, roll the dough into a 13-inch long roll. Press the air out of the dough as you are rolling it.
Once you have a roll, use your fingers to pinch together the edge and seal the bread closed. Then turn the ends under to get nice rounded ends.
Place each loaf on a lined baking sheet. (line with parchment paper or use a silpat.)
Cover the loaves with oiled plastic wrap and let them rise until they have doubled in size, about an hour.
Preheat the oven to 375°Fk/190°C
Use a very sharp knife OR a baker's lame to very gently slash 4 to 5 diagonal cuts across the top of each loaf.
PRO-TIP: Steam injection. Professional bakeries use steam injected ovens to get that perfect crispy crust. You can mimic this at home with a few simple trips (See the recipe notes below.)
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. The internal temperature of the loaves should be 205°F/96°C
Tips for Proofing French Bread:
Proof Setting: Some ovens have a proofing setting on them. It is usually about 100°F.
Preheat your oven to 200°F (usually the lowest setting) then turn it off. Proof your sough in the prewarmed oven.
Use a heating pad: I have done this many times. I get out my heating pad, cover it with a layer of foil, then set it to medium. I set my dough bowl, covered with plastic on top.
You can monitor the temperature of the dough with a probe thermometer. Ideally, you don't want it to drop below 75℉.
Tips for Mimicking Steam Injection:
Place a large iron skillet or roasting ban on the bottom rack of your oven. After you place the bread in the oven add 1 cup of water to the roasting pan. Gently shut the oven door. This initial generation os steam contributes to the perfect french bread crust.
Ice cubes: I have never tried this method myself but have read about it! The principal is the same. After you place the loaves in the oven, toss 1 cup of ice cubes on the floor of your oven. The is will melt, and thus create steam.