It’s cold outside. in fact, not only is it cold outside, but ice has been falling from the sky since yesterday. Welcome to the mid-Atlantic states. It’s a mess out there. Not as bad as upstate New York – or Cleveland – but a mess all the same.
Last night, knowing that today was going to be spent indoors, I decided I needed to warm up the house by baking bread. Searching through recipes, I found one for a French Country Bread. It calls for making a sponge the night before baking, so last night I did just that…
Once upon a time I had a sourdough starter that had to have been older than me. It was an original wild yeast starter. I carried it around for years, feeding it, using it. It was great because I could really make bread whenever I wanted, and back in my youth I did bake a lot more bread than I do today. Part of it was the times, part of it was financial. Baking bread is cheap. I have no idea where it finally ended up, but it really made a great loaf of bread. The one I made last night calls for packaged yeast and would shock the purists, but heck – it’s still a homemade loaf of bread, not squishy-white from the grocery store!
This particular bread is made with both whole wheat and white flour and has no oil or fat, so it’s basically a use-the-day-you-bake-it bread.
The basic recipe is:
French Country Bread
• 1/2 cup wheat flour
• 1/2 cup bread flour
• 1-1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
• 1/2 cup water
• 1-1/2 teaspoons dark corn syrup
Combine the two flours and the yeast in a mixing bowl. Add the water and corn syrup and stir until well blended. Cover with a kitchen towel and allow to stand at room temperature overnight.
To prepare the dough:
• 3/4 cup water
• 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
• 3/4 cup wheat flour
• l-1/2 cups bread flour
Add the water, salt and wheat flour to the sponge. Stir in the bread flour, adding an extra tablespoon or two if the dough seems sticky. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Place the dough in a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour and 45 minutes.
When the first rise is complete, punch the dough down. Shape into a ball or an oval. Flatten slightly. Place on a greased baking sheet that has been sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover with a kitchen towel and let triple in size – 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
Place an empty pie plate on the bottom oven shelf. Preheat the oven and the pan to 425 degrees. Five minutes before adding the bread, carefully pour 1 cup hot water into the pan. Careful here! This causes a big burst of steam!
Sprinkle the loaf with flour, and Using a sharp knife, cut 3 diagonal slashes across the surface of the loaf. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the pan and cool.
The bread is on its first rise right now… More details to follow…..
What a great bread! It has an extremely delicate crumb. Soft and moist, with a great chewy, crusty crust! Perfect for dipping into soup or stew, slathering butter, or making hefty sandwiches. it was incredibly easy to make, too.
I shall be making this, again. And again.