Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Country French Bread

And my 100th blog post! I can't believe I've blogged 100 recipes since last October. In fact, it came up on me so fast I didn't really plan a "special" recipe per se for this post, but this bread was so good, it sure worked out to be pretty special! I also want to give a big THANK YOU to everyone who reads my little blog! I really love to cook, I'm learning to love baking a lot more and I really have a great time blogging about my recipes. I can't wait to post the next hundred, and the next hundred after that, and the next hundred after get the idea!

So about this special bread. I've actually made it twice now. First time I let the sponge sit for 2 hours, the second time I let it sit for 16 hours. Definitely let it sit as long as you can! The bread gets these great holes in it and has a lovely texture. The crust is perfect, as is the inside. I have made 1 large loaf both times which works out great. Also, I used my bread maker for the sponge and to mix the dough itself, but then took it out to let it rise and bake. A great tip I recently learned: if you have a cold kitchen (like me) and things don't rise that well in it, put the dough in the oven (while the oven is off!) with a pot of boiling water. It makes for the perfect temperature to rise the dough, and keeps it moist.

Anyways this is a great bread that you should definitely try! And the appearance makes it look so artisan, so it's perfect to serve to company! They will be very impressed that you made it yourself!

Source: King Arthur Flour

Sponge Starter (Begin 2 to 16 hours ahead)
1 cup (8 ounces) cool to lukewarm water, preferably spring water (90 to 100°F)
1/2 teaspoon active dry or instant yeast
1 1/4 cups (5 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
1/4 cup (1 ounce) King Arthur White Whole Wheat or Traditional Whole Wheat Flour

All of the sponge starter (above)
1 cup (8 ounces) lukewarm water, preferably spring water (l00 to 115°F)
3/4 teaspoon active dry or 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
3 3/4 to 4 cups (1 pound to 1 pound 1 ounce) King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

To Make The Sponge: Stir all of the sponge ingredients together to make a thick, pudding-like mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and leave on a counter overnight or for at least 2 to 4 hours. If you're making this in a bread machine, place the sponge ingredients inside, and turn the machine on for just a few seconds to mix the ingredients together. Turn the machine off and close the cover. Let the sponge rest for 4 hours or overnight (anywhere between 2 and 16 hours is fine, the longer the better).

To Make The Dough: Stir down the sponge with a spoon and add the water, yeast, sugar, most of the flour (hold back about 1/2 cup to use if required), and salt. Knead the dough, adding more flour as necessary, to make a soft dough, 10 to 12 minutes.

Note: You may also do this in your bread machine, using the Dough or Manual setting. After the dough has finished kneading, place it in a lightly greased bowl, and continue as directed below.

Big Tip: Mix ingredients together using up to 80% of the flour called for: it will be a loose, messy mass. Let the dough rest for 12 minutes, and you'll see it change in texture, to be come much smoother. Continue, kneading and adding additional flour as required. Overall, the dough handles better once its had time for the flour to absorb the water while resting and relaxing. By using this method, you'll tend to add less flour, and have much bigger holes in your finished bread.

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl or plastic container, cover with lightly greased plastic wrap and a damp towel, and let it rise until almost doubled (depending on the weather, this could be l to 2 hours). If you're going out, or if you prefer, let the dough rise slowly in the fridge. If your dough has been refrigerated, allow it to come to room temperature; it'll warm up and rise at the same time. After its first rise, deflate the dough gently, but don't knock out all the air; this will create those "holes" so important to French bread. Form the dough into a round ball. Place two cookie sheets atop one another, and place a semolina- or cornmeal-dusted piece of parchment paper on top. Gently place the ball of dough on the cookie sheets, seam-side down. Cover it lightly with a tea towel, and let it rise the second time until it's puffy and about 40% to 50% larger, anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes (depending on the weather, luck, and magic). Slash or cross-hatch the bread with a sharp knife or lame. Dust it with a little flour.

Preheat your grill to High. Place the bread (on the doubled-up cookie sheets) on the grill, and close the cover. Immediately reduce the heat to Medium (400°F), and allow the bread to bake for 25 minutes, or until it's well-browned. Reduce the heat to Low, and carefully place the bread directly on the grill. Continue to bake until completely done, about 5 minutes.

For Regular (Oven) Baking: Preheat the oven to 475°F. Slash the bread, 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 25 to 30 minutes, or until it tests done. Yield: 1 large round bread or two medium breads, 10 to 12 servings.

Nutrition information per serving (1 hearty slice, 1/12 of recipe, 97g): 180 cal, .5g fat, 6g protein, 38g complex carbohydrates, 1g sugar, 2g dietary fiber, 534mg sodium, 74mg potassium, 2mg iron, 89mg calcium, 56mg phosphorus.


Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your 100th blog post! This bread looks great! I'll have to give it a try. I'm on a big bread making kick right now.

Joelen said...

what a great looking bread!

Kelsey said...

Congratulations on 100 wonderful posts! Keep up the great work!

Maria said...

Congrats on 100! The loaf is beautiful!! Nice job!


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