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.
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