- Sponge: 24 hours in advance
- Dough Prep time: 15 minutes
- First rise: 1½ hours
- Second rise: 1 hour
- Baking time: 35 minutes
- Cooling time: 30 minutes
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 1¼ cups warm water (110F, 45C)
- 1½ cups flour
- 2½ to 4 cups of all-purpose flour
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 1 egg white
- 1 tablespoon water
In a large bowl dissolve yeast in 1¼ cups warm water.
- Add 1½ cups flour; stir for 1 minute. Batter will have the consistency of soft pudding.
- This is your sponge.
- Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Let it rest in a warm place, free from drafts, overnight. The longer the sponge ferments, the better the flavor of the bread.
- Transfer the sponge to a heavy duty mixer bowl.
- Wash out the bowl that had the sponge in it and dust it with flour; set it aside.
- Add salt and 2 cups of flour to the work bowl with the sponge in it.
- Using an electric mixer or the paddle attachment for a stand mixer, beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.
- Remove mixer or paddle attachments from bowl.
- Insert a dough hook into the stand mixer.
Stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a dough that is smooth and elastic.
- Place dough in the floured bowl and dust dough with flour.
- Cover with a damp towel.
- Let dough rise in a warm place, free from drafts, until tripled in bulk; about 1½ hours.
- Grease a cookie sheet and set aside. If you are using a wood paddle and pizza stone for baking, dust the paddle with flour and set aside.
- Punch down dough.
- Turn dough out onto a floured surface.
- Knead for 30 seconds.
- Cover the dough and let rest for 10 minutes.
- Shape dough into a smooth log for an oblong shaped loaf. For a round loaf, shape dough into a ball. For long baguettes, divide dough in half and shape accordingly.
- Place dough on prepared baking sheet or bread paddle.
- Cover with a dry towel. Let rise until double in bulk; about 1 hour.
- Place one oven rack in lowest position in the oven.
- Place a second oven rack one or two positions up from the lowest rack.
- If using pizza stone place on second rack.
- Leave enough space between the racks for a shallow roasting pan.
- Place a shallow roasting pan on first oven rack.
- Pour 2 cups of boiling water into the shallow roasting pan.
- Preheat oven to 425°.
- Slash top of oblong loaf with 5 diagonal slashes. If you are baking a round loaf, slash with 3 horizontal slashes and 3 vertical slashes, making a tic-tac-toe design.
- Brush the loaf with cold water.
- Place the loaf in the oven either directly on pizza stone or on prepared baking sheet.
- Bake for 15 minutes.
- Mix together 1 egg white and 1 tablespoon water to make a glaze. Click here for step-by-step instructions on how to separate eggs.
- Remove the loaf from the oven and brush with the egg white glaze.
- Bake for 10 minutes.
- Remove from oven and brush again with egg white glaze.
- Remove the shallow baking dish from oven.
- Bake loaf 10 to 15 minutes longer, for a total of 35 to 40 minutes total baking time, or until bread sounds hollow when tapped on bottom.
- Remove from oven and cool on a rack.
- Cool for 30 minutes, slice and serve.
Recipe from Breads, by Sharon Tyler Herbst. Tuscan: HPBooks (1983).