An Italian white bread. This recipe required first that a "sponge"be made. A sponge is part of the flour, water and yeast from the regular recipe, that are allowed to sit out, covered, for 6-24 hours. It helps in developing the taste, texture and chemistry in the bread. But, also means that this is a two-day recipe.
Here's the beginning of my sponge, before it's all stirred together.
And there's the sponge. It was then covered and allowed to sit all night, and most of the next day.
The next day I first made the dough, (no sponge yet). I combined more flour, yeast and water in a stand mixer, and mixed until the dough came together. There it is... all together. Isn't it nice when things really come together?!
That dough is then covered to rest for about 20 minutes, then the sponge is added. Gloppy, glop, glop. Oh, along with some salt.
Mix until it's all uniform and "together".
The dough is then put in a large oiled bowl, and covered with plastic wrap. Rise for 1 hour.
Then we dust the dough with flour, and "turn" it. There were some great pictures in the book that really illustrated how this was supposed to be done.
Basically you should have a plastic bench scraper to really do this well, I think. It said a rubber spatula would also work, but I found it a bit tricky. I don't think it worked quite as well. One-third of the dough is supposed to be folded into the center, and then the other side, folded over the first. Then, the whole thing is supposed to be folded in half, perpendicular to the first folds.
It said after all the folding, the dough should look roughly like a square. Did NOT get that quite right. The dough is then covered again, and should rise until tripled in size, about 1 hour.
The dough is turned onto a floured counter, and dusted with more flour... it's a REALLY wet and sticky dough, if you can't tell from the pictures, hence all the flour, dusting.
Divide dough in half and quickly lift each half onto a parchment lined, upside down rimmed baking sheet.
The dough is folded, each side into the middle.
And then stretched with fingers to 10 by 5-inch rectangle, and allowed to rise for 1-1 1/2 hours.
There is is, risen. Then it's baked in a 500 degree oven on a stone. You leave it on the parchment paper for the first 20 minutes of baking, then get rid of the paper, and turn it over so the bottom can get nice and crisp. It continues baking for another 15 minutes.
There's the bottom of my first loaf. Can you see that black around the edges. Yep, slightly burned.
There's the top. Lovely. (There's a bit of sarcasm there.)
And there's the inside. It was pretty. And some nice big air holes/pockets developed, thanks to all that gluten development.
Here's my second loaf. After my first one came out so dark, I read a tip in the book, that said to cook it for the first 10 minutes at 500 degrees, and then turn it down to 400 degrees for the remainder of the cooking time. That's what happened here. Better.
And still a nice crumb.
Ok. So, even the slightly burned one tasted good. It had a really crispy, almost cracker-like crust, and a chewy inside. The flavor was good. I was curious to see if it had a sourdough flavor, since the sponge is a somewhat similar idea. I don't think it was sour, just really developed and nice.
It was a long process. But it was also a yummy bread. I don't know, I may try it again... there are some things I'd like to perfect and play around with a bit. There is a version for a one day deal in the book, too. So maybe I'll give that a go sometime.
For the complete recipe, go to Emily's blog.