Monday, April 28, 2014

French-Style Country Bread

Hello! My name is Kassy and I have too many baking supplies ("Hi, Kassy!").

For real, though. Especially flour.

I shop at Costco and buy the gigantic two-packs of 10 lb. bags of unbleached all-purpose flour (so I have one or two of those)... my mom recently decided to go low-carb, so I acquired another, oh, three or so 5 lb. bags of different kinds of flour... then I also have cake flour, self rising flour, baking mix, etc. in my cabinet.

...and we have a potential big change for our family coming up in the next few months, so I need to clear some of this out...

So, to remedy this "problem" I've challenged myself to bake more and buy less, of course!

I made this loaf of bread last week.
It was awesome...  I'm making it again right now.

French-Style Country Bread

(recipe from 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.  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 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

"My name is Kassy.  I'm currently a stay-at-home mother of three.  I like to spend my free time crafting, cooking and, well, creating in general, I suppose.  When asked what kind of crafts I do, I'm usually left at a loss for words, as I have a severe case of "crafty ADD" and have WAY too many self-taught hobbies.  I have another blog called "Tinsnips and Scissors" where I share about the things I love, things that I've made (a tutorial or two), recipes and my weekly menu plans.  Head's up: I'm also an excessive user of punctuation..."

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