- 1 3/4 cups warm water (100F/38C)
- 1/2 tsp molasses
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 1/3 cups bread flour
- 1 1/4 tsp instant dry yeast
- Stir together the warm water, molasses, and salt in a bowl or large measuring cup to loosen the molasses and dissolve the salt.
- Tip the all-purpose flour, bread flour, and yeast into a large mixing bowl. Whisk the dry ingredients together to combine. Pour in the molasses mixture and stir to incorporate everything.
- Using your hands, knead the dough for 5-ish minutes. It will be soft and slightly tacky. Add a little flour if it sticks to your fingertips.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 90-ish minutes or until doubled in size. Once it has doubled, punch down the dough and divide it into two equal pieces.
- Place two pieces of parchment on the counter and sprinkle liberally with flour. Put each piece of dough on a prepared sheet of parchment and turn to coat in the flour. Poke a hole in the center of the dough and gently stretch the dough into a large circle 10 inches across. The hole in the center should be 5 inches across. Repeat with the other piece.
- Let the dough rise again for 30 minutes.
- While the dough rises, preheat the oven to 450F/232C. Move the two racks to the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Place a large baking sheet, upside down, on the upper rack and a metal or cast iron pan on the bottom rack while the oven preheats. DO NOT USE GLASS or PYREX because it will shatter.
- Dust the dough circle with flour. Cut the dough at an angle using scissors. Make deep cuts around 1 ½ inches apart but leave the center area still attached. Rotate the parchment as you make the cuts all the way around. Pull the pointy ends outward so that the shape resembles the sun. Or a flower. Or a sunflower.
- Slide the bread and parchment paper onto the hot baking sheet in the oven. You will hear a sizzle as the bottom dough comes into contact with the hot sheet. Quickly place 4 or 5 ice cubes (about 1 cup) into the metal or cast iron pan which will generate steam.
- Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown and remove from the oven to cool on a wire rack.
- Repeat with the second circle.
Keywords: crusty French bread