CLASSIC FRENCH BREAD (Poppy's recipe via Stanley)
This recipe uses an overnight sponge and needs kneading--
Peter makes this bread on winter weekends in Vermont. Plans his skiing around stopping by the condo to punch down the bread and get it into the oven.
2 (1/4-oz.) pkgs. active dry yeast (2 tablespoons)
2 1/2 cups warm water (110F, 45C)
7 1/2 to 8 cups all purpose or bread flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 egg white blended with
1 tablespoon water for glaze
In large bowl of electric mixer, dissolve yeast in 2 1/2
cups water. Add 2 1/2 to 3 cups
flour; stir 1 minutes. Batter will
have consistency of soft pudding.
Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap.
Let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, overnight or at least 8
hours. The longer the sponge
ferments, the better the flavor will be.
Stir in salt and 1 to 1 1/2 cups of remaining flour. Beat at medium speed with electric mixer 6 minutes or, beat 600 vigorous strokes by hand. Stir in enough remaining flour to make a soft dough. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface. Clean and lightly flour bowl.
Knead dough 15 to 20 minutes or until smooth and elastic.
Place dough in floured bowl; dust surface lightly with flour.
Cover with a slightly damp towel. Let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, until tripled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.
Grease 2 large baking sheets or 4 French-bread pans.
Punch down dough; knead 2 minutes. Cover and let rest 10 minutes.
For oblong loaves, divide dough into 3 or 4 pieces, depending on desired thickness of loaves. On a lightly floured surface, shape each piece into a smooth log, gently tapering ends.
For round loaves, divide dough in half. Shape each half into a smooth ball.
Place shaped dough on prepared baking sheets. Cover with a dry towel. Let rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
Adjust oven racks to 2 lowest positions. Place a shallow roasting pan on lowest shelf. Pour in 2 cups boiling water.
Preheat oven 15 minutes to 425°F. (220°C).
Slash tops of oblong loaves with 5 diagonal slashes each.
Slash tops of each round loaf with 3 horizontal slashes and 3 vertical slashes, in a tic-tac-toe design.
Brush loaves with cold water. Bake 15 minutes.
Brush loaves with egg-white glaze. Bake 10 minutes longer.
Brush again with egg-white glaze. Remove roasting pan from oven. Bake loaves 10 to 15 minutes longer, for a total of 35 to 40 minutes, or until bread sounds hollow when tapped on bottom. Remove from pans. Place loaves directly on oven rack; bake 5 minutes longer.
Cool on racks.
Yield: 2 to 4 loaves.
This recipe has been kitchen tested.
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Copyright © 1999-2003 S.H. Klock/ The Recipe
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