French style sourdough bread

       
French Style Sourdough Bread


           I have been making this bread in both stores since I started making bread, sometime in the early 90's.  It is a sourdough style bread which means it is made using a sponge or starter.  The recipe for the sponge is first and you should make this at least 2 days prior to making the bread.  You will only have to do this once as long as you maintain your sponge and use it often.

          I could discuss the process of making bread for hours as I have made many mistakes over the years some through trial and error and some through mere errors.  I will try to add to the discussion with each bread recipe and hope that will assist you.

  

          Let's talk yeast. For these recipes, add instant active yeast directly to the flour, but if you use dry yeast you will want to reactivate the yeast in water no warmer than 110 degrees Farenheit. I prefer to use fresh yeast (cake yeast), but it can be difficult to find.  Fresh yeast comes in a block form and is either in a single portion (and expensive) form or in 1 lb blocks. The block will last about 10 days in the fridge, so if plan on making bread often, it is the way to go. For this recipe, treat the cake yeast as you would the instant active yeast.



Sponge
  • 1 cup bread flour 
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 tsp yeast
Mix your yeast and flour together.

Then add the water to make a sponge that has a paste like consistency.

Cover and let sit overnight at room temperature.

The next day place in the refrigerator for one more day or until you are ready to use it.




      



Bread
  • 3 tsp yeast
  • 4 cups bread flour
  • 1 cup rye flour
  • 2 1/3 cups water
  • 3 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 oz sponge (see recipe above)
  • 1 tbsp corn meal
Special equipment: counter top mixer, spray bottle.

Total time: Sponge - 2 days. 
                 Bread - 2 1/2 hours


  

If you are using active yeast start by placing yeast in 1/4 cup warm water.  If not combine all dry ingredients (including yeast) in a stand mixer and mix well.

Next add the oil and continue to mix.

Break apart sponge and add to the flour mixture and mix well.

  

Next add the remainder of the water and mix until dough ball is formed. This is the tricky part.  Flour will act differently almost every time you use it.  The variables are temperature, humidity, how compact the flour is, etc.  Experience is usually the only way to know when you have added enough water.  A good rule of thumb is that you will need about 46% water to flour.

Mix the dough for about 3 minutes on slow speed until it has formed a dough ball and the consistency is soft but not sticky.

  

When the dough is ready, place in an oiled bowl at least twice the size of the dough.  Make note of the volume so you can tell when it has doubled in size.  Cover with a towel, and wait.

When the dough has doubled (usually about an hour), empty dough onto a floured surface.  Roll the dough around once or twice to get rid of the air.  From here there are many options for shaping.  You may make this ball into two rounds or about five 10 oz baguettes.

  

For rounds, I like to lightly form a circle of dough by tucking the edges underneath and stretching the top to meet the under side.  I do this a few times until the ball looks smooth, then set the loaf on a greased and corn-mewled baking sheet.

Let rise again until doubled in size and pre heat your oven to 450 degrees F.

 

When they have risen again they are ready to bake. With a very sharp knife make a few 1/4 inch deep slice marks on top of the loaves. Lastly spray some water from a spray bottle all over the bread. Bake until the bottom of loaves are golden and the tops start to brown - about 20 minutes.

  

Cool bread on a rack and enjoy!


Photographs by Alene Pierro

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