I love my bread maker for the dough cycle. It mixes all the ingredients for you and provides the perfect environment for the bread to rise. I don't necessarily care for bread actually baked in the bread machine so I tend pretty much only use the dough cycle... If you don't have a bread machine you can easily use a kitchen aid or mix by hand and do a regular full rise for an hour for the first part.
Easy French Bread1 cup warm water (90 F)
2 1/2 scant cups bread flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp bread machine yeast (instant)
In a bread maker pan place the ingredients in the order specified by your machine. In mine the water goes first, then sugar and salt, flour, and the yeast is last. Use the dough cycle on the machine and let go through the full rise. Check after the beep to make sure that you have a good dough ball, sometimes a Tbsp or 2 more of warm water is needed.
Remove the dough from the pan and place in a covered greased bowl and let rise for 30 minutes. Dust your work surface with flour and roll into a 16x12 rectangle and cut in half so you have 2 6x16 rectangles. Roll each rectangle up tightly working out any air bubbles as you go, fold over the ends, pinch the seams and roll lightly to hide the seam. Repeat with the second loaf.
If you have a baguette pan place the loaves in the pan. If not dust a baking sheet with flour or corn meal. Make a few long diagonal slits in the loaf and let rise covered and free from drafts for another 30-40 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 375 F. Brush water over the loaves and spray some water in your oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes until a beautiful golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool if you can wait that long :)