Instructions

  1. Add the sugar and yeast to the warm water and let them dissolve.
  2. Gradually add the salt and flour to the liquid and mix thoroughly until the dough pulls from the sides of the bowl.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface to knead. Fold the far edge of the dough back over on itself towards you. Press the dough away with the heels of your hands. After each push, rotate the dough 90°. Repeat this process with a rhythmic, rocking motion for about 3 minutes.
  4. Let the dough rest while you scrape out and grease a mixing bowl. Knead the dough for about 3 more minutes, until it's bouncy and smooth.
  5. Place the dough in the bowl and turn it over once to grease the top. Cover it with plastic wrap or a damp towel, and let it rise until it's doubled in bulk, about 1 to 2 hours.
  6. Gently deflate the dough and briefly knead out any gas bubbles. Cut it in half and shape each half into an Italian or French-style loaf.
  7. Place the loaves on a baking sheet generously sprinkled with cornmeal.
  8. Let the loaves rise for 45 minutes, or until puffy.
  9. Preheat the oven to 450°F towards the end of the rising time, and bring 3 cups of water to a boil.
  10. Make three or four diagonal slashes in each loaf. Pour the boiling water into a roasting pan and carefully place it on the lowest rack of the oven.
  11. Place the bread on an oven rack above the pan, and bake it for 20 minutes.
  12. Turn the heat off and allow the bread to remain in the oven for 5 more minutes. Remove the loaves from the oven and cool them on a rack.
  13. Store, well-wrapped, for 2 days on the counter. Freeze for up to a month.