Diana's Desserts - www.dianasdesserts.com

Country Style French Bread

in Diana's Recipe Book

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(total ratings: 9)
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Servings: Makes 1 large loaf or 2 medium size loaves
You could make this bread, and no other, for the rest of your baking career, and never feel cheated. It uses the sponge, or poolish, method: sort of a poor man's or woman's sourdough starter -- no feedings, little pre-planning, lots of flexibility and superb bread. I usually make this dough, sponge starter and all, in the bread machine, but you can do it by hand, processor, or stand mixer. After barbecue season, bake this bread in the conventional oven but atomize it with water to get that crisp crust. If you've always wanted crusty, hole-ridden, French-style bread, this is the ticket.

For the Sponge Starter: (Begin 2 to 16 hours ahead)
1 cup cool-lukewarm water, preferably spring water (90 to 100°F)
1/2 teaspoon active dry or instant yeast
1 1/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached Special Bread Flour (or any other brand of unbleached special bread flour)
1/4 cup King Arthur 100% White Whole Wheat or Traditional Whole Wheat Flour (or any other brand of white whole wheat or traditional whole wheat flour)

For the Dough:
All of the sponge starter (above)
1 cup 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 King Arthur Unbleached Special Bread Flour (or any other brand of unbleached special bread flour)
1 tablespoon kosher 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.

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. Mix into a loose, messy mass. Let the dough rest for 12 minutes. Then continue, kneading and adding additional flour as required. Overall, the dough handles better, having had a chance to absorb the flour while resting and relaxing, and you'll tend to add less flour.

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.

Baking in your Grill:
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/200°C), 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/245°C. 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/220°C 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.

Makes 1 large round loaf or two medium size loaves, 10 to 12 servings.

Photograph taken by Diana Baker Woodall© 2003

Source: King Arthur Flour
Date: June 2, 2003


Reviewer: Iwona
This is a great base recipe for bread made with a sponge, because it is realitively simple, gives great results and works for whole flour as well. For example, I use around 70% whole grain flour (including some flax and rye), compensate with some wheat gluten and the result is delicious - just like the bread I am used to from Europe.

Reviewer: Rei
I made this bread in winter. It took very long time to rise up. Result was good. I had crusty outside and moist insede. I wish inside had much more bubbles.

Reviewer: Hannah
Wonderful bread! I made this over the weekend. The whole process went smoothly. It was so moist and tender on the inside!

Reviewer: Jackie
I made this twice. It's just ok to be honest. I've tried other very simple French Bread recipes that are simpler with better results.

Reviewer: Jo-Ann
This bread is rising right now. I've made it with various whole grain flours. I've even used all white flour. This is a wonderful bread.

Reviewer: Dan
I made this 50/50 Wheat/White flour and let the starter ferment for 2 1/2 hours. To be fair, this is the first time I've made French bread, and my first time working with a starter. Baked at 365 degrees F on doubled cookie sheets with an additional sheet at the bottom of the oven full of water for steam. Like I said, I've never made French bread before, so I have nothing to compare to. What came out of my oven tonight, however, is absolutely wonderful. Truly, "You could make this bread, and no other, for the rest of your baking career, and never feel cheated."

Reviewer: drew
this bread is good, but it could be a lot better. my mom has made home made bread that is much flower, but she grinds her own grain. i have found much more simple breads that taste much better.

Reviewer: Jo-Ann
We love this bread and it has turned into our standard. Nice crunchy crust and just the right texture inside. After several uses, I've made my own variations: Honey instead of sugar, a little more salt, sometimes garlic. I baked it in 1 large pullman loaf pan.

Reviewer: Frank O
Hands down the best bread I have ever made. Give this recipe a try and I do not think you will be disappointed.


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