Friday, January 23, 2015

French-Style Country Bread

From my oven today: French-style country bread. I found this recipe on the King Arthur Flour website. They provided a detailed but quite lengthy recipe which seemed a little daunting at first. This recipe is  somewhat  time-consuming and requires a bit of extra attention (with a "starter" that has to be prepared a few hours in advance, and instructions such as spritzing the bread in the oven every few minutes for the first fifteen minutes of baking. ) But I was up to the challenge.  After all, I have found that few things are more comforting that freshly made bread. The results are well-worth the time and effort. 

French-Style Country Bread 

Sponge Starter 
1 cup cool to lukewarm water (90 to 100 °F)
1/2 tsp active dry or instant yeast 
1 1/4 cups unbleached bread flour 
1/4 cup whole wheat flour 

All of the sponge starter 
1 cup lukewarm water (100 to 115 °F
3/4 tsp active dry or 1/2 tsp instant yeast
1 tbsp sugar 
1 cup whole wheat flour 
2 1/4 to 2 3/4 bread four
1 1/2  tsp salt

To make the starter: In a larger bowl, stir all of the ingredients together to make a thick paste. Cover with plastic wrap and set on the kitchen counter for about 4 hours or over night. 

To make the dough: Stir down the starter. Add the water, yeast, sugar, whole wheat flour, 2 1/4 cup bread flour (reserve half cup to use if the dough is too sticky), and the salt. Knead the dough for about 10 to 12 minutes to make a soft dough. (I found that this step is made easier by using a stand up mixture.) 

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover with lightly greased plastic wrap and a damp towel. Let it rise until almost doubled in size, about 1 to 2 hours. After this first rise, deflate the dough gently and form into a round ball. Place two cookie sheets atop one another and place a semolina or corn-meal dusted piece of parchment paper on top. Gently place the ball of dough on the cookie sheets, seam side down. Cover with a tea towel and let it rise a second time until it is puffy and about 40% to 50% larger, anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes. Slash or cross-hash the bread with a sharp knife and dust with a little flour. 

Preheat the oven to 475 °F  Spritz water into the oven with a clean plant mister and place the bread in the oven. Reduce the heat to 425 °F and spritz with water every few minutes for the first 15 minutes of baking. Bake the bread for about 20 to 30 minutes or until done. 

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