Into the warm bowl of an electric mixer put the warm water and the yeast. (I heat up the bowl under hot running water.) Stir until dissolved.
Add in the oil, salt and 5 cups of the flour.
Using the paddle attachment stir the mixture until just mixed. If the dough is too moist add flour 2 Tablespoons at a time and stir with the mixer. The dough should be soft and shaggy. Depending on your flour and the humidity level, you may not use all the flour.
Switch to the dough hook and mix on medium (I use number 4 on my Kitchen-Aid) for 2 to 3 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Coat a medium mixing bowl with oil (about a Tablespoon) and put the dough in, turning to coat with the oil (this is so the dough doesn't dry out while rising).
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a draft free place for 30 to 45 minutes until doubled in size.
Cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Punch the dough down, turn onto a floured surface and cut the dough in half. When I'm in a picky mood I actually weigh each half to make sure they are the same size!
Pulling and patting the dough, make a 15x10-inch rectangle with one half. Keep the other half of the dough covered with the plastic wrap while doing this.
Sprinkle with ½ cup olives and 1 ½ teaspoons thyme, if using.
Starting from the long edge, roll the dough into a long loaf shape and tuck the ends under.
Place the loaf onto the prepared baking sheet.
Repeat with the 2nd half of the dough. If you are making a plain French Bread, the rolling process is the same but without the olives and thyme.
When both loaves are on the baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a draft free area for 30 to 45 minutes until doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 400ºF.
Remove the plastic from the bread.
With a fork beat the egg with the water and brush the mixture onto the tops of the loaves.
Then make 4 or 5 diagonal cuts about ¼-inch deep on the tops of the loaves.
Bake for 15 minutes, brush again with the egg mixture.
Bake for 10 to 15 minutes longer until the bread is golden and emits a hollow sound when tapped.
Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
The bread can be made early in the day, but BEWARE, it might be all gone by the time you want to serve it!