Recipe Idea: The Best Basic White Bread
Don here. Today I’m telling you about The Best Basic White Bread from a Sponge.
I love bread. I love everything about it. The soft, pliable texture of working the dough. The amazing miracle of nature that makes it rise. The aroma filling the house as it bakes. The splattering of crumbs as it is sliced. The crunchy crust and the soft tantalizing inside. Slathered with butter. Schmeered with cheese. Wrapped around a piece of chocolate. Dipped in olive oil. Coated with milk and egg and fried into French toast. And even just plain.
Years ago I would make sour dough bread from a starter kept in the fridge. Then we’d go away on vacation and the starter would be neglected and show its displeasure by dying. Plus the pressure to make bread every week took the pleasure out of it. Then I discovered the sponge. A suitable substitute for sour dough but with much less hassle. One caveat is that you need to plan ahead. The sponge needs to be made the night before.
You can bake this bread in any shape from square loaf to round loaf to baguette. I prefer the baguette.
If you read through the recipe, you will see I spritz the oven with water before baking the bread. Are you wondering about spritzing the water into the oven? That makes for a hard, crunchy crust just like the bread I used to buy from the boulangerie when I lived in France.
If you are going to freeze some of the loaves, first wrap them in aluminum foil then place them in a tightly sealed plastic bag. When you want to eat them, then just pop the foil wrapped loaf into the oven at 350 for about 10 minutes.
- 1 cup warm water (about 115 F)
- 1 ½ cups of bread flour
- 1 t of dry yeast
- Dissolve the yeast in the water for about 10 minutes.
- It should begin to bubble.
- Place the flour in a bowl of at least 8 cups of volume.
- Add the yeast/water mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until the dough comes off the sides of the bowl in strings. About 2 minutes.
- The dough will be slightly sticky. (You may need to add a little flour if it is too wet or a little water if it is too dry. If you have never made bread before don’t fuss about it. As long as it seems right you’ll be ok.)
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
- When you take it out in the morning (I always bake in the early part of the day), the sponge should have doubled in bulk.
- The sponge from above.
- 4 to 5 Cups of bread flour
- 2 Cups of warm water
- 1 T of fine sea salt
- ¼ Cup of Vegetable oil (I use canola)
- Dump the sponge into a large mixing bowl.
- Give it a good stir with a clean wooden spoon.
- Slowly add the flour to the sponge (1/2 cup at a time) alternating with some water until all the flour is incorporated and the dough holds together in a ball that is slightly sticky to the touch. (If it is too sticky work in a little more flour.)
- Turn the dough onto the counter and knead for 10 minutes. This gets the gluten working and makes for the lovely, airy texture.
- Coat the bottom and part way up the sides of a large bowl with some of the vegetable oil.
- Put the bread dough in the bowl and then turn it over to have an oiled side up.
- Cover with a clean dish cloth or plastic wrap and set in a warm draft free place for about an hour. (I turn on the electric oven for a couple of minutes, just until the element starts to glow, then turn it off and let the bread proof in the warm oven.)
- When the bread has doubled in bulk, turn it out onto the counter and punch it down.
- Divide it into the number of equal pieces for the quantity of loaves you are making. This recipe makes 4 large baguettes or 8 small ones. For round loaves, divide the dough into 2 or 3 pieces. Shape the round loaves, into balls then lightly press them down to about 3 inches thick.
- For baguettes roll the dough into long thin pieces a couple of inches shorter than the baguette pans.
- Oil a couple baking sheets and place one round loaf on each. For baguettes, oil the baguette pans and lay the long pieces of dough in each one.
- Again cover and let the dough rise again until double in bulk.
- Preheat the oven to 450F degrees.
- When the oven is hot, spritz water onto the sides of the oven and close the door for 2 minutes.
- Then place the bread in the oven.
- After a minute, again spritz the sides of the oven with water.
- Close the door and bake round loaves about 30–35 minutes, baguettes for 20-25 minutes.
- The bread is done when the crust is a lovely shade of brown and it sounds hollow when you tap on it.
- Remove the bread from the oven and cool on racks.