So I had been craving some crusty French bread for a while. Well that’s not entirely true. What I was really craving was herbed dipping oil and crusty bread. I had made the herbed dipping out but had no bread. Well no bread that was best suited for the oil. Therefore I had to make bread. Now I know some of you are probably think “Go to the store woman and buy some!” Um no… I prefer to control the ingredients I put in my bread and honestly my bread ROCKS! You can keep your grocery store, specialty bread stores (that arrive frozen and aren’t made from scratch on-site btw!). I want MY bread! And once you make this, you’ll only want THIS bread again!
Now this bread is fairly easy but you do need to plan for it as it will be an all day thing. No, you won’t be with the bread all day working on it but rather you’ll have to let it rise, fold it, rise again and repeat a few more times. So the night before you want to eat this, you’ll have to start the recipe as you need to create the sponge.
“So what’s a sponge? Why’s it important anyway? Aren’t those the things you use to wash your car or dishes with? ”
A sponge is a wet batter that has yeast added to it. The yeast has create bubbles in the moist batter and makes the batter sponge-like. The sponge method is used for 3 different reasons: taste, texture and chemistry. The flavor that is created is dependent on the ingredients used and the fermenting yeast. Just like sourdough, the longer the ferment, the greater the taste difference.
Even though this dough took a full day (well okay I’m not counting the night prior to let the sponge ferment), it was well worth it! The bread was crusty on the outside and chewy on the inside.
It was absolutely PERFECT for the dipping oil…
… and the butter I had on it later
… and the crostinis I made later
… and what leftovers I had, I made awesome herbed croutons.
As you can see below I use a 2-Section Non-Perforated Non-Stick French Baguette Bread Pan.
If you want seriously crusty bread, GET THIS PAN! I use this for baguettes as well as Italian Breads. Now this one makes 2 ‘fatter’ baguettes or Italian loaves. If you want the thinner style baguettes, then use this pan: 3-section Non-Perforated Non-Stick Baguette Pan.
If you’re like me, the first time I bought this pan I was really, really nervous about using it as well it has holes. I was afraid that the dough would 1 – stick and 2 – seep through the holes and do bad things to the inside of my oven. I can tell you that with this recipe, it doesn’t stick nor seep through. All you have to do is spray it lightly with baking spray and then sprinkle on some corn meal. However if you tried to say use a more wet dough (think white bread or brioche) I’m fairly certain that it would stick or overflow. I’m not trying it though… I made enough mess in my oven as it is, no need to add to it! LOL
- 1/2 cup bread flour
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 1/2 tsp yeast
- 3 – 3 1/2 cups bread flour
- 1 tsp yeast
- 1 1/2 cups warm water
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 large egg beaten with 2 Tbl water
Make the Sponge
- Stir all of the ingredients together in a medium bowl until combined. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for at least 8 hours but no more than 24 hours. Essentially the sponge will rise and fall some.
Make the Dough
- Combine 3 cups flour and the yeast in a Stand Mixer fitted with the dough hook.
- With the mixer on low speed, add the water and mix until the dough comes together, ~ 2 minutes.
- Stop the mixer, cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Just wrap the plastic wrap around the top of the bowl with the dough hook in it. Don’t bother removing it.
Mix it all together
- Let the covered bowl sit at room temperature for 20 minutes.
- After 20 minutes, remove the plastic wrap, add the sponge and salt, and knead the dough on medium-low speed until it is smooth and elastic, ~ 8 minutes. If after 4 minutes the dough seems a bit too wet, add the remaining 1/2 cup flour, 2 Tbl at a time, until the dough clears the sides of the bowl, but sticks to the bottom.
- Lightly oil a large bowl, set aside.
- Sprinkle some flour on your counter and turn the dough out on to it.
- Gently knead by hand to form a smooth, round ball.
- Place the dough in the bowl and cover tightly with greased plastic wrap.
- Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, ~60-90 minutes.
- Turn the dough in the bowl with a Dough Scraper . Essentially you’re folding the dough on top of itself.
- Cover, let rise for 30 more minutes, then repeat the turning process.
- Cover and let rise until the dough has doubled in size, about 30 minutes longer.
- Sprinkle some flour on your counter and gently scrape the dough out of your bowl on the the floured counter.
- Using a Bench Cutter , divide the dough in half.
- Gently pat each piece of dough into an 8 by 6″ rectangle with the 8″ side towards you.
- Fold the bottom third of the dough up towards the center and press gently to seal.
- Take the top third of the dough and fold that over top the center gently pressing down to seal.
- Lightly flour the side of your hand and create a large crease length-wise down the center of the dough.
- Starting at one end of the dough, grab the outside of the dough (on either side of the crease), pull up to the top and pinch to secure.
- Repeat this for the entire length of the dough.
- Gently roll and set aside.
- Repeat the above folding, crease indention and pinching steps for the other dough ball.
- Spray the Baguette Pan with cooking spray and sprinkle with corn meal.
- Place both baguettes in the pan.
- Mist the baguettes with vegetable oil spray, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until nearly doubled in size and the dough barely springs back when poked with knuckle, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
- Meanwhile, adjust an oven rack to the lower third position, heat the oven to 500F.
- Place an empty metal pan on the bottom of the oven.
- Score the top of the breads with a sharp knife, cutting three-four 1/2″ deep slashes along the width of each baguette.
- Brush the breads with the glaze, then spray lightly with water.
- Place the baguette pan on the rack and immediately pour 1 cup of VERY hot water into pan on the bottom of the oven.
- Shut the door fast and IMMEDIATELY reduce the oven temperature to 425F and bake until the crust is deep golden brown and the center of the bread registers 210 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 25 minutes, rotating the loaves halfway through baking.
- Transfer the breads to a wire rack, discard the parchment, and let cool for about 30 minutes before serving.