French Peasant Bread

For the sponge:

  • 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 and fairly free of lumps. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a cup 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, approximately

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 smooth round ball or an oval. Flatten slightly with your hands. Place on a greased baking sheet that has been sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover with wax paper and let triple in size – 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

Place an empty aluminum 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. This causes a big burst of steam, so use an oven mitt and be careful.

Sprinkle the loaf with flour. Using a serrated 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 on a wire rack.