Tom, you're right...the key to the great crust on French bread is the
oven. Professional ovens have steam jets that inject moisture during
baking to produce the extra crisp crust. (The other secret is to use
no fat in the bread.) I've misted my French and sourdough breads
with a plant mister while baking for years but recently my co-author
and I discovered the La Cloche bakers at Williams-Sonoma (and in the
King Arthur Flour catalog....1-800-827-6836). They are clay cookers
that come in both round and oblong size....perfect for breads. If
you plan to bake a lot of French bread they're definitely worth it....
the best crust we've produced so far after lots of testing. Just
how crisp, you ask? The thin, crisp type that crackles as it cools.