Tuesday, January 14, 2014

TWD: Country Bread

Tuesdays with Dorie baking through Baking with Julia
by Dorie Greenspan
Contributing Baker: Joe Ortiz

This is a first for me, making bread using a sponge - a "pre-dough" if you will. It's said, that it gives the bread extra flavor and character.  The sponge in this case, is made up of water, yeast, and three types of flour - bread, rye and whole wheat. Once mixed together it needs to rest at room temperature for six to eight hours, or may be refrigerated overnight (I chose the latter). According to the book, refrigerating the sponge should give a little extra kick of sourdough flavor to your bread.

The sponge calls for two and a half teaspoons yeast. A packet of yeast contains two and a quarter teaspoons - so that is what I used. I recently read somewhere, that if you are refrigerating your dough, less yeast is used. Thinking back, I could have used the required amount for I had to open another yeast packet anyway, to finish the bread.

I was short about a third cup of bread flour to make the dough. I made up the difference with all-purpose flour - either flour can be used according to the recipe. The dough has two rising periods (three, counting the sponge) up to two hours each. Both of my rise times were considerably shorter. The first was done in about forty-five minutes and the final rise was done in a half hour. This must be due to the space heater I use to help warm the kitchen whenever I make bread in the winter.

This is a relatively simple recipe - just give yourself a full afternoon (after starting your sponge the night before) to allow for the rising and baking times.

I was surprised how large this loaf turned out; it was ten inches in diameter, and four and a half inches high. The bread has a soft, light, and moist crumb, with a chewy crust. The bread did not have a sourdough taste - it pretty much tastes like wheat bread.

Here is the dough after its first rise (second, if you count the sponge's rest). That little blob on top was caused by the dough sticking to the plastic wrap.

After shaping the dough as instructed, it is placed (smooth side down) in a banneton (which I do not have) and left to rise again.

A banneton is a type of basket to form bread (typically sourdough) that you coat with flour; the flour not only keeps the dough from sticking, but makes a decorative design on top of the loaf.

Brotform Baskets

I lined a colander (as suggested) with a baker's couche (you can use a tea towel or any other lint free towel).

Being I do not own a banneton, I wanted to decorate the top of the loaf in some way. I came across some pictures of "bread painting". This is my practice sheet (an artist, I'm not).

 The dough is ready to be inverted onto the baking sheet.

I could not decide if I wanted a lighter or darker "ink", so I made both. I ended up using the lighter first, thinking I can always go back over it with the darker color if needed. I really liked the lighter color and stayed with that, and used the darker, for the center of the flower.

The dark ink is made up of cocoa powder dissolved in very little water and mixed with egg yolk. The lighter, I just added some espresso powder directly to the egg yolk.

 If you have any artistic abilities in drawing or painting (unlike me), the possibilities are endless!

Woah! Turned out a lot darker than I imagined it would. I really liked how it looked before baking. Next time, I'll try using just egg yolk and water alone. If I made rolls, I could have tried different techniques in one shot!

One site I read about bread painting, they have you paint the bread in the last ten minutes or so. I did it before placing the bread in the oven, as is done whenever an egg wash is called for - and basically that's all this is, with added color.

I should have made the flowers larger, to cover more of the bread. But hey, this was my first time at bread painting. I can't wait to try my hand at this again - so fun!

Click here for tutorial on bread painting.

To see results of all the talented bakers in the group, click here for their links, or go to the Tuesdays with Dorie website and look for the link: LYL: Country Bread.

Country Bread
Makes 1 large round loaf

The Sponge:

1 ½ cups warm water
1 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup bread flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
½ cup rye flour
½ cup whole wheat flour

Put about ¼ cup of the warm water into the bowl of a mixer and sprinkle over the yeast, stirring to mix. Allow the yeast to rest for about 5 minutes, until it turns creamy, before adding the rest of the water. Stir the 3 flours together and gradually add them to the yeast mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon and mixing until the sponge has the consistency of pancake batter.

First Rise: Cover the bowl with a towel and let the sponge rest at room temperature for 6 to 8 hours, during which time it will rise and fall. Alternatively, you can place the sponge in the refrigerator overnight. If you chilled your sponge, pull it out of the refrigerator about an hour before you are ready to continue with the recipe and, just to be on the safe side, use warm water in the next step.

The Dough:

1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 cup water
The sponge from above
3 to 3 ½ cups bread flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 Tablespoon salt

Dissolve the yeast in ½ cup of the water; pour another ½ cup water into the bowl with the sponge. Combine 3 cups of the white flour and 1 cup of whole wheat flour.

Working in the mixer with the dough hook in place, gradually add 2 cups of the flour to the sponge, mixing at medium-low speed. After mixing for about 3 minutes, add the yeast mixture and beat to incorporate. Sprinkle the salt over the dough and mix it in. Now work in the remaining flour mixture and enough additional white flour to produce a dough that starts to clean the sides of the bowl. Increase the mixer speed to medium and knead for about 10 minutes. The dough should be moist and satiny, even a bit sticky.

Second Rise: Turn the dough into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to proof at room temperature for 1 ½ to 2 hours, or until it doubles in volume.

Shaping the Dough: Prepare a resting place for the loaf. A banneton that measures 8 inches across the base would be good, as would a large basket or colander, lined with a linen towel. Rub flour into the liner of the banneton or basket and set aside until needed.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface that’s been very lightly dusted with flour and pat it into a flat round with your fingers and palms. Fold the edges in and press them down with the heel of your hand, then turn the dough over and, using your cupped hands, work the dough against the counter to form a tight ball that’s about the same size as your banneton or basket. Repeat this process of folding, flattening, and tightening into a ball, four more times. Turn the loaf over and lay it smooth side down into the banneton.

Final Rise: Cover the dough and set it at room temperature to rise for 1 to 1 ½ hours.

Baking the Bread: About 30 minutes before you are ready to bake the loaf, position a rack in the lower third of your oven and line it with a baking stone or quarry tiles (I used a cookie sheet lined with parchment), leaving a border of at least 1 inch free all around. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Have a spray bottle filled with water handy.

When the dough is fully risen, rub a baker’s peel or baking sheet with cornmeal and carefully invert the loaf onto it. Spray the oven walls with water and immediately close the oven door to trap the steam. Using a single-edge razor blade, slash the loaf in a pattern that appeals to you – 3 long slashes or a broad tic-tac-toe pattern would be nice – cutting about ½ inch into the loaf. Slide the bread onto the hot baking stone or tiles, turn the oven heat down to 400°F, and immediately spray the oven walls again; close the door as quickly as you can. Bake the bread for 60-70 minutes, or until the crust is deeply golden, the loaf sounds hollow when thumped on the bottom, and the internal temperature is 200°F as measured by an instant-read thermometer plunged into its center.

Remove the loaf to a rack and allow it to cool for at least 20 minutes, preferably longer, before cutting. (It really is best to allow the bread to cool to room temperature before cutting.)

Storing: The loaf will keep for about 3 days at room temperature. Store it cut side down on your counter – its thick crust will be fine exposed to the air. For storage of up to a month, wrap the loaf airtight in plastic and freeze it. Thaw, still wrapped, at room temperature.

Baking with Julia/Dorie Greenspan/Joe Ortiz


  1. Wonderful!!! Your bread looks lovely!!!
    I love your bread painting, I didn't know it, so thank you, this gives me ideas for fancy dinner!!!
    Well done!!!

  2. Ohhhh,, the bread painting is beautiful!! I love that idea!!

  3. Have never heard of bread painting before. Your loaf looks lovely.

  4. I love the bread painting. So beautiful and creative. I'm excited to try it sometime.

  5. This is the most elegant and beautiful country bread I've ever seen! Wow!
    Unfortunately, I'll never become a bread painter as me and painting / drawing do live on different planets ;-)
    But maybe I could bake and pass the finished bread to the kids ... yeah, that should work (and keep them quiet) LOL
    Bravo! bravo! bravo!

  6. Kathleen, I love your loaf of bread…the painting is just beautiful! Very creative and original! Baked perfectly!

  7. Wow, great looking loaf. What a lovely way to decorate the loaf.

  8. Wow! I love the bread painting! Your bread looks wonderful.

  9. Wow, you ARE an artist! What a gorgeous touch!

  10. Your bread has such height! And the painting is so creative!

  11. You are wrong - you are an artist. The bread sounds good but the loaf itself is GORGEOUS. I love it!! Pinning!

  12. I LOVE it!! What a great way to make a bread beautiful!! Have to try that when I gift bread.

  13. You are a bread artist! Love the flour decorations - thanks for sharing this idea! On a few rare occasions I have cut dough shapes, dusted them very well with extra flour and 'glued' them with water to the top of the bread. You could create any designs you want and the good thing is that you have a contrast between the baked bread and the shapes as they stay white even after baking.

  14. This is really neat Cathy! I have never heard of bread painting! I'm definitely trying this! While I didn't make it on time for TWD, my loaf was HUGE too. I love this post =)

  15. Your bread looks great...the painting idea is very cool. It's almost too pretty to cut.

  16. I've never seen bread painting before. That's so cool! What a pretty loaf. I also love the idea of keeping a space heater in the kitchen during the winter. My bread always takes forever to rise this time of year.


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