1. Add yeast to warm water; let stand 5 minutes. Add sugar, salt, shortening or oil and 2 c flour; beat well. Add egg whites. Add remaining flour until dough leaves the side of the bowl when you stir it.
2. Turn out on a lightly floured surface. Knead until tiny blisters show on the surface (approx. 5 minutes)
3. Place in a lightly greased bowl; then turn bottom side up. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch down.
You may shape the dough at this point but the best results come from letting the dough rise again. Shape according to the directions below.
Shaping: For French rolls: Shape raised dough in 3" balls; flatten under hands to make 4" circles or 6" tapered oblongs, 3/4" thick. Use a very sharp knife or razor to make cuts on top. Place on baking sheet, brush with egg wash (recipe below). Sprinkle rolls with sesame seeds or poppy seeds. Let rise until doubled, brush again with egg wash and bake.
Egg Wash: Beat slightly 1 egg white with 1 TBSP water. Brush on rolls.
Italian Bread Sticks: Divide raised dough into 4 portions; roll out each portion into a 4x7" rectangle. Cut into 1/2" strips. Roll under hands to make strips 8" long. Place on baking sheet 1" apart. Brush with water; let rise and brush again with water.
4. Place rolls or bread sticks onto greased sheets sprinkled with cornmeal. Brush with egg wash or water. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 20 minutes. Brush again with egg wash or water.
5. Bake in a hot oven (425º) 20 minutes, or until lightly brown and crusty. Place a shallow pan of boiling water on the bottom of the oven to provide steam while the rolls bake. This makes the rolls/bread sticks crusty.