Posted on 11/29/2007

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French Country Bread

French Country Bread

BetterBaking.Com Outstanding French Country Bread

A lot of breads are called French Country bread, the name is based as much on the type of dough used and method, as well as the rustic boule shape. This is one version of a French country bread. If you only bake one bread in your life, chose this one. This slightly sour bread is a nice foray into almost sourdough bread, offering something for both veteran and novice bakers. It calls for a poolish, which is a young starter, created of flour, water and a touch of yeast which is left to froth 8-16 hours. (After that point, if you wanted to allow it to mature into a starter, you would feed it flour and water, at regular intervals, and once mature, use it or refrigerate it). This bread has a great crust, holey interior, that is both moist and rustic. It is amazing plain, or toasted, as a sandwich bread or simply cut and served with a hunk of cheese. I most often make the dough for this bread in a bread machine and continue by hand through baking it in a traditional oven.

8 to 16 hours ahead

Sponge or Poolish Starter

1 cup water, preferably spring water
1/2 teaspoon dry yeast
1 1/4 cups unbleached bread flour or organic white bread flour
2 tablespoons organic whole-wheat flour
2 tablespoons organic rye flour


(all of) starter
1 cup water, preferably spring water
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon malt powder or syrup (optional - see home brewing supply or health food stores)
1/2 teaspoon yeast
3 3/4 to 4 cups unbleached bread flour

The night before or up to 16 hours before: In a small bowl, stir together the water and yeast and let yeast dissolve by briskly whisking.

With a whisk or medium wood spoon, stir in bread flour, whole wheat and rye flour to make a thick mixture. It should be like a thickened, gloppy pudding.

Cover bowl lightly with plastic wrap (leaving a small air space) and let stand at room temperature 8 to 16 hours. If you are using a bread machine, prepare sponge in a small bowl and then place this in the pan of the bread machine. Put cover down almost completely down (leave a wedge of space by placing a spoon between lid and machine) and let stand.

For the dough, first, stir down starter. Add remaining ingredients while holding back about 1/2 cup of the flour. Knead until dough is smooth and resilient. Shape dough into a ball and place in a lightly greased bowl. Insert bowl in a large plastic bag and let rise about 45 minutes.

For the bread machine, start 'dough' cycle. As dough begins to mix, it should form a soft mass, then a soft ball that is not too stiff or sticky. Add additional flour as required to achieve this. If dough is not coming together, stop machine and stir with a rubber spatula to help sponge and other ingredients combine. Once 'dough' cycle is complete, remove dough from machine.

After the rise, gently deflate dough (whether it is in the machine or in a bowl) and form into a ball. Gently place it, seam side down, on doubled up baking sheets. Line the top sheet with parchment.

Spray dough lightly with a non-stick vegetable spray. Insert entire baking sheet inside a large plastic garbage bag (this is your "proofing tent"). Let dough rise until ball is puffy (40% to 55% larger).

Preheat oven to 475 F.
Slash loaf with a sharp knife before baking. Spray with water (plant atomizer) and dust with flour. If dough deflates when you slash it, it rose too much. The heat of the oven should help it spring back. Atomize oven with a few squirts of water and place baking sheets on lowest rack of oven. Spray oven interior every five minutes for the first 15 minutes. When 20 minutes remain, reduce heat to 425 F. to finish baking. Loaf should be well browned after 25-35 minutes. Cool well on rack before slicing. Store, cut side down, on a counter (do not cover).
© This is a Marcy Goldman/ original recipe
8 years ago.