Dissolve yeast in ½ cup warm water and set aside. In bread bowl stir together remaining water, sugar, and salt. Add yeast and butter and stir until blended. Beat in flour, 1 cup at a time, to form a soft dough. Turn out onto floured board. Knead 1 minute, let sit 10 minutes, knead again, and let sit 10 minutes. Divide dough in half and roll each out into a rectangle about 8x12 inches. Starting at the long end, roll up tightly. Place seam-side down on ungreased baking sheet, slash top every 2 inches with a sharp knife, cover, and let rise until doubled. Bake in preheated 400 degree oven 30 to 40 minutes. Place on racks to cool and brush tops with melted butter.
For Garlic Bread: Cut a loaf of French bread into 1- to 1-½-inch slices, leaving each piece attached to the loaf at the base. Cream 1 stick of softened butter, 2 minced cloves of garlic, and, if desired, 1 tablespoon minced chervil or parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spread each slice with mixture, wrap loaf in tinfoil and bake 20 minutes in preheated 350 degree oven.
Serve warm with lots of butter.