French Bread Rolls (PheMOMenon.blogspot.com)
2 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
1 1/4 c. water + up to 1/3 c more, as needed
3 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
Put the 1 1/4 c. water into a small bowl and sprinkle the yeast over the top. Set aside and let dissolve for 5 minutes, then stir. Meanwhile, mix the flour, and salt, in a large bowl, make a well in the center. Pour in the dissolved yeast, then stir enough of the flour in from the sides to make a thick paste. Cover the bowl and let sit for 20 minutes. ( when covering spray some wax paper or saran wrap with cooking spray then lay it over your bowl then put a towel over that)
Mix the remaining flour into the wet mixture and add a little of the extra water at a time to make a soft sticky dough. Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface and knead the dough until it is soft, smooth, and slightly elastic. Try not to add to much flour into this when kneading or it will be tougher. You will knead this about 10 minutes by hand or 6 minutes in a mixer that has a kneading attachment.
Put the dough in a clean bowl and cover again. Let the dough rise for 1 hour or until doubled, then deflate the dough by punching it down, cover and let rise again for 45 minutes more then punch down again, cover and rise 45 minutes again. This process seems long but it lets the dough develop a really good flavor and helps get the right crust.
Deflate the dough gently one last time and divide the dough into 8 equal pieces, you could do 12 smaller rolls if you want and its still enough for 1 per person. Roll the dough pieces out into tight balls and place them on a lines baking sheet, or sprinkle a little cornmeal onto the baking sheet. The rolls shouldn't be touching, so leave a couple inches between the dough.
Using the handle of a clean wooden spoon, push a 'split' down the center of each dough ball, going all the way down to the bottom, but not hard enough to cut the dough in half, just to leave a huge indentation. It will soring up anyways on the last rise. Cover and let them rise for 30 minutes.
Heat the oven to 425 degrees f and bake the rolls 20 minutes or until lightly golden. Serve warm or at room temperature.