I absolutely love the Joy of Cooking cookbook. I know I have already said that in a post or two, but it is oh so true! It has so much information in it and thousands of recipes…literally. I made my first homemade bread from this book and I am about to tell you about my second bread that I made from it as well.
I always have french bread in my freezer. It is served with just about every meal that I cook. So, to have french bread in my freezer that I made is all the better. The recipe is for Rustic French Bread. French bread is usually in the form of long, thin baguettes. This however can be round loaves or thick (oblong) baguettes. It is also raised with a sponge starter. This gives the bread it’s rustic quality. Crusty crust and chewy crumbs. The sponge is just made with the yeast, a bit of bread flour and warm water. That ferments for about 6 hours. Then the bread is made. It does take all day, but it is not all day of work. It is some kneading, then rising , then halving, then rising some more and finally the baking.
Rustin French Bread
from Joy of Cooking by Irma S Rombauer, Marion Rombauer, Ethan Becker
For Sponge Starter combine and let dissolve:
1/2 Cup of Lukewarm Water
1/2 TSP Active Dry Yeast
3/4 Cup of Bread Flour
Stir this rapidly with a wooden spoon until elastic strands pull away from the sides of the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let triple in volume/rise at room temperature (about 6 hours).
Pour sponge into large mixing bowl and stir in:
2 Cups of Room-Temperature Water
4 1/2 Cups of Bread Flour (more if needed)
1 TBSP Fine Sea Salt
Mix until dough cleans the sides of bowl. Adjust the consistency of dough by adding more water or flour. Knead for 10 minutes by hand or your dough hook. Transfer to oiled bowl and turn once to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise 3 hours in warm place or 6 hours at room temperature.
Divide the dough in half and shape into the shape you want and place on floured baking sheets. Cover again with plastic wrap and let them sit for about 2-4 hours until doubled in size.
Score (cut) the tops of the risen loaves. Place in oven and that has been preheated to 450 and there is a rack in the center and one on the lowest setting. Pour 2 cups of boiling water in a pan and put on lower rack. Place loaves on center rack. Cook until browned. Between 30-40 minutes.