This homemade French – Style Country Bread is made using the poolish or sponge method. Poolish is kind of a poor man’s (or woman’s) starter. It requires only a little pre-planning and no feedings but yields superb bread nonetheless. It also allows you to adjust the recipe timings to make this loaf fit into your daily routine.
Mastering the Art of French Bread Making. Part 4. French – Style Country BreadCourse: Breakfast, BrunchCuisine: FrenchDifficulty: Medium
- Poolish (Starter)
227 g / 8.0 oz cool to lukewarm water
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast or instant yeast
150 g / 5.3 oz unbleached bread flour
28 g / 1 oz whole wheat flour
all of the Poolish (above)
227 g / 8 oz lukewarm water
3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
450 g to 480 g / 15.9 to 16.9 oz unbleached bread flour
1 1/2 to 2 1/4 teaspoons salt, to taste
- Prepare the poolish (starter): In a mixing bowl stir all the starter ingredients together to make a thick, pudding-like mixture. Cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap and allow it to rest for at least 2 hours. For the best flavor, let the starter mature overnight. Up to 16 hours is best.
- Prepare the dough: Stir down the starter with a spoon and add the water, yeast, sugar, 390 g of the flour, and the salt. The dough will be a loose, messy mass. Let it rest for about 15 minutes, then stir it again; it should become more cohesive and a little bit smoother. The dough handles better once the flour had time to absorb the water while resting and relaxing.
- Knead the dough, adding up to additional 90 g flour, to make a soft dough, about 10 – 12 minutes.
- Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with lightly greased plastic wrap, and let rise until almost doubled for 1 – 2 hours. If you prefer, allow the dough to rise slowly in the fridge. If your dough has been refrigerated, let it come to room temperature before shaping. It will warm up and rise at the same time.
- Gently deflate the dough without knocking out all the air and transfer it onto a flour – dusted workspace. For one large loaf, form the dough into a round ball; for two loaves, divide the dough in half and shape into two balls.
- Place semolina – or cornmeal – dusted piece of parchment paper onto a large baking sheet. Gently place the ball(s) of dough on the baking sheet, seamside down.
- Cover the bread gently with lightly greased plastic wrap, and let it rise until it’s puffly and about 50 % larger for about 45 to 90 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 475F / 245C.
- Slash or cross-hatch the bread with a sharp knife or lame. Dust it with a little bit of flour. Spray water into the oven with a clean plant mister and place the bread in the oven. Reduce the heat to 425F / 220C and spray with water every few minutes for the first 15 minutes of baking.
- Bake the bread for about 25 – 30 minutes, or until it’s rich golden brown. The smaller loaves will bake more quickly, so keep your eye on them.
- Remove the bread from the oven and allow to cool down on a rack. Store bread loosely wrapped in paper, for a few days at room temperature or wrap it in plastic and freeze.