Begin by measuring the flour, salt and yeast into a bowl, using a spatula mix everything together thoroughly.
Make a well in the centre of the mixture, then add the water. Now mix to a dough, starting off with the spatula and using your hands in the final stages of mixing, adding a spot more water if there are any dry bits. Continue to mix and press the dough in the bowl for about 1 minute so that the dough is evenly mixed (it will feel little sticky but that’s fine) then put the bowl of dough into a large polythene bag and close it with a clip.
Leave it until it looks as though it has doubled in bulk, which will be about 2 hours at room temperature. After that, punch out all the air, then knead briefly and divide the dough evenly into two. Next roll one piece into a sausage shape about 40cm long then place it on a lightly floured surface and use the heal of your hand to flatten it out to about 12cm wide all the way along.
Now fold one long edge of dough into the centre, pressing it down with your fingertips and do the same with the other long edge. Turn the roll over so that the seam is underneath and place it on a well-greased baking sheet. Repeat with the second piece of dough.
Then place the baking sheet in an oiled polythene bag (you may need two overlapping bags) for about 1¼ hours at room temperature.
Pre-heat the oven to 230°C, gas mark 8. Position a shelf in the top third of the oven for the bread and place a roasting tin in the oven on a lower shelf.
When the sticks have risen, put a kettle on to boil. Then remove the bag and slash each stick diagonally five times with a sharp serrated knife, then dust the loaves with flour. Place them near the top of the oven, and then quickly pour boiling water into the hot roasting tray below (so that it is about 2cm deep). Quickly, but gently, close the oven door and time them for 25 minutes then turn the loaves over and give them a further 5 minutes, then cool on a wire rack.
You will need a Delia Online Baking Sheet (or similar), very well buttered. One or two large polythene bags, greased on the inside with a few drops of oil, and a roasting tin.
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I'm going to have a go at Delia's French Bread. Could I substitute the strong white flour for strong wholemeal, and could I make them in a bread machine?