So I tried making bread again this afternoon.
I added less flour and tried not to over-knead the bread. It seemed a little less dense than last time so I was hopeful.
Once again, the rising took For. Ever. At a friends' suggestion I put it in the warm oven to help it rise faster (even though my kitchen was a balmy 82 degrees). Who knows whether it worked or not. The loaves did grow, but instead of a nice round boule loaf, I got two flattish things. And when I moved one of them onto the baking stone it deflated a bit. I wasn't optimistic this baking would turn out any better than the last.
Steaming the crust didn't seem to work... I don't think the oven was hot enough for that. In fact, the oven was set to 375... and the preheating light clicked off, I put the loaves in. And then I noticed that the oven thermometer said it was only 325 degrees. Sheesh. Stupid oven. And how careless of me not to check the actual temperature before sliding the loaves in.
Here's the flat, pale round loaf. It looked, if anything, worse than the last batch.
But the crust was a bit easier to cut, and inside, it was a bit lighter and more moist than the last batch. So, I'd have to say it was a slight improvement over the first try. I'll have to keep practicing until I get that crust right!