Cornmeal for dusting
2. Next, in your electric mixer bowl, combine about 3 1/2 cups of flour with all the salt. Pour in the yeast mixture and mix using the dough hook attachment on your mixer. Measure out 1 cup of warm water and begin pouring some in with the mixer running. Add enough water for a soft dough to form (I added just under 3/4 cup). If the dough is too sticky, just add in some more flour. Knead in your mixer for 6 minutes. Then, form the dough into a ball, place it in a greased bowl, cover it and let it rise in a warm place (I always let mine rise in the microwave, not with the microwave on, obviously!) for 30 minutes.
3. Once the 30 minutes have passed, take out the dough, punch it down, divide it in two and shape each half into one loaf. Do this by shaping the half into a rectangle, then folding all edges into the center and pinching down the seams. Repeat this several times, stretching the rectangle out a little every time, until the loaf is about 12 – 14 inches long and 2 inches wide. Place the loaves on a sheet pan that you have dusted with cornmeal. Make diagonal cuts on top of the loaves, then cover them with a dishtowel and let them rise for another half hour.
4. Preheat your oven to 450 deg F and prepare a baking dish with some water (you will need to add a couple of ice cubes to it once it’s time to bake the bread). Adjust the baking racks in your oven, place one in the middle, and one on the bottom (the one in the middle is for the bread, the one on the bottom is for the dish with water). Once the loaves have risen for the half hour, place them in the oven, add a couple of ice cubes to the water in the dish and place the dish on the bottom rack of the oven. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the bread is golden brown. (*Note: watch the bread very closely as it bakes, especially after 10 minutes of baking, and take it out whenever it starts getting golden brown and sounds hollow when you knock on it. Baking time may also depend on your oven (my gas oven burns everything very quickly) and on your baking sheet – I’m going to try a pizza stone next time!) Let the bread cool and sit for about 20 minutes before slicing.