2 1/4 c. hot water
1 T. yeast
2 T. sugar
1 tsp. salt
5-6 c. flour
In a small bowl or cup, place 1/4 c. hot water and yeast. Sprinkle 1 T. sugar over the yeast and let stand for 5 minutes until the yeast starts to bubble.
Meanwhile, in the bowl of a large stand mixer (or large mixing bowl if you want to do this by hand), mix together the salt and the remaining 2 c. of water and 1 T. sugar. Add 3 cups of flour and mix well. Add in the bubbled yeast mixture and then, with the mixer on low (or kneading by hand), gradually add the remaining flour 1 cup at a time until the dough pulls away from the sides and forms together. Knead for 5 minutes.
Place the dough in a large greased (I use olive oil) bowl, cover with a clean dish towel, and let rise until doubled, about 1-2 hrs.
Divide the dough into 2 pieces and form into 2 long loaves on a greased baking sheet. Let rise a second time until doubled in size, about 30-45 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 425 degrees and place a baking pan (i.e. 8x8 or 9x13) holding about an inch of water on the bottom rack.
Using a serrated knife, gently make 3 diagonal slashes in each loaf. Place the baking sheet on the middle rack and back at 425 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and place on cooling rack. Brush with butter or olive oil, if desired.