An unexpected, unscheduled day at home is a gift straight from heaven. (Literally, if it’s caused by snow or ice.) I get so excited contemplating possible projects while still lying in bed, I can’t sleep late even if I want to.I received one those “presents” recently and took the day as an opportunity to make one of my youngest son’s favorite breads. He loves it for good reason. The yeast is allowed to develop slowly resulting in superb flavor, chewy texture and a close crumb. Please note: you won’t get big holes and spider web texture with this recipe. It’s not that kind of bread.Fruity olive oil with freshly ground pepper makes for good dipping.
Begin by making a “sponge”. Well, the original recipe called it a sponge. I hesitate, because I think it may technically be called a biga based on the ratio of water to flour. Sponge sounds kinda gross but this mixture does look like a sponge after 6-8 hours.
I’ll skirt the whole issue and call it a preferment.
Then add the remainder of the flour, water and salt to make the dough. I do it all in a bread machine although it can certainly be made by hand or with a stand mixer if you don’t have a machine.
Try making this bread the next time you find yourself with several hours at home. Yes, it requires a little more time than most homemade bread, but it’s not so much hands-on time. Rather, it’s the kind of time where you need to hang around just to keep an eye on things. Your reward for patience is a bread with better flavor that remains fresher longer.
Actually, you may need this bread sooner than you think. It’s almost a necessity to serve alongside the Chicken and Smoked Sausage Gumbo I plan to post about next week. It also looks good next to spaghetti or lasagna.
- 1-1/2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
- 1 teaspoon instant or bread machine yeast
- 1 cup water
- 3 tablespoons water
- 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
- 1-1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1-3/4 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
- Place water, yeast and flour in bread machine pan and select the "dough" cycle. Allow to mix about 5 minutes using small spatula to carefully push flour stuck in the corners into the mixing area. Unplug machine and let stand at room temperature over night or about 8 hours. Do not leave over 16 hours.
- Open lid of bread machine and add water, sugar, salt, and flour.
- Restart dough cycle. Check dough after 5-10 minutes of mixing. If necessary, add additional flour 1 tablespoon at a time to form a smooth but slightly tacky ball or water if dough is too dry and bounces against the sides.
- When dough cycle ends, allow dough to continue to rise in machine for at least 30 minutes (or more if ambient temperature is cool) until double in size. If you are new to bread machines, see Six Bread Machine Tips for Beginners for more help with this step.
- Remove dough from bread machine pan to lightly floured board or silicone baking mat (my preference). Form into smooth ball by pulling dough around to bottom until top is smooth. Place on parchment-covered cookie sheet. Cover loosely with lightly oiled plastic wrap and place in warm place to rise until almost double.
- About 15 minutes before bread is ready to bake, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Just before putting bread in the oven, sprinkle top with flour. Using a single edge razor blade (or a sharp, serrated knife), make several cuts across top of bread about ½ inch deep.
- Bake 30-35 minutes until loaf is golden brown and internal temperature has reached 190 degrees. Allow to cool on rack before slicing. Or slice while it's hot at the risk of squashing your bread. It's worth it.