Tuesday, January 7, 2014

TWD: Baking with Julia - Country Bread

Our Tuesday's with Dorie recipe this week is Country Bread.  You might also call this "Bread Success", or "yahoo, I did it" bread.  Though I knew what the recipe was for this week well enough in advance, the date actually snuck up on me so I was scrambling a bit to get it done.  This bread (like many in this book) has several steps, one which involved an optional overnight rise.  I wanted to do that overnight rise, as according to the book it would give the bread a kick of sourdough flavor, which I love.  So once I realized that my time was running short, I busted a move on making this bread!  Thanks to recently making Pumpernickel Loaves, I already had all of the ingredients on hand!  (Rye flour isn't usually a standard pantry item in my house...)

This bread starts with a sponge involving water, yeast, bread flour, rye flour and wheat flour.  After the fact, I realized that I accidentally used all-purpose flour instead of bread flour in my sponge, but it seemed to work out fine.  I get a pretty good quality all-purpose flour so maybe that helped!

All of the ingredients were mixed together and allowed to rest.  The options were to rest it at room temperature for 6-8 hours or to refrigerate it overnight for that sourdough flavor.  I opted for the overnight rest.  Nighty-night!

In the morning, I took the sponge out of the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature for over an hour before using.  To the sponge, I added more yeast, water, lots of bread flour (I used the right one this time!), a bit more wheat flour and some salt.  I was supposed to knead this with my mixer for 10 minutes but my poor mixer was not having it!  First, I had to move it off of my awesome lift-up shelf that comes out of a cabinet (I love this shelf) because she (the mixer) was trying to dance right off of the shelf!  I set her on the counter and kept a hand on her, but after a bit she started sounding very tired and unhappy so I had to let her take a break.  I finished the kneading by hand.  Poor mixer.  This bread was too much for her!  (Hmmm, could this be the beginning of the end for her?  Does she know that I secretly want to upgrade her with a bowl-lift version??)  After I was finished kneading the dough, I put it in an oiled bowl to rise for 1 1/2 - 2 hours, until doubled.

I'd say that is doubled!!
I took the dough out and did some fancy flattening, folding, flipping and tucking numerous times until the dough was ready to rest in a banneton.  A banneton is a basket that is used for proofing a sourdough loaf during it's final rise.  It gives it a rounded shape and helps wick moisture out of the crust.  I do not own such an item, so I used a large colander lined with a floured tea-towel.  It worked fine!  Maybe next time I'll use my colander that is the next size down to get a taller, rounder loaf, but I am not sure it would fit once it rises.  Maybe I just need to purchase an actual banneton?  Ha!

 I let it rise for another 1 1/2 hours until it doubled in size again.

Then I slashed a sort of slanted criss-cross pattern across the bread and baked it!

Ta-da!  Maybe it turned out so well because I didn't really think too much about it before baking?  I just jumped in and got it done.  It could have baked a bit less I think.  The recipe said to bake for 60-70 minutes.  I baked mine for 60 and it was done.  The crust is a bit "crustier" than I would like, or maybe my knife is just dull (definitely an option), but the bread is really wonderful!

This recipe can be found on pages 136-137 of Baking with Julia, or see below!

Country Bread
adapted from Baking with Julia

1 1/2 cups warm water (105F-115F)
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup bread flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup rye flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 cup water
3 - 3 1/2 cups bread flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 TB salt

Put 1/4 cup water into a mixer bowl and sprinkle with the yeast.  Stir to mix in the yeast and allow it to sit for about 5 minutes, until it gets creamy.  Add the rest of the water.  Stir the three flours together and add them gradually to the yeast mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula.  Mix until the sponge batter is like pancake batter in consistency.  Cover with a towel and allow to rest at room temperature for 6 to 8 hours or refrigerate overnight.  If you refrigerate, remove the bowl from the refrigerator at least an hour before you intend to work with the dough to allow it to warm up.

Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup of water and pour the other 1/2 cup into the bowl with the sponge.  Combine the 3 cups of bread flour and the wheat flour in a separate bowl.  With the mixer on low speed, gradually add 2 cups of the flour mixture to the yeast.  Mix for about 3 minutes and then incorporate the yeast mixture.  Sprinkle the salt over the dough and mix it in.  Work the remaining flour mixture into the dough, mixing until the dough "cleans" the sides of the bowl.  You may need a tad more bread flour before the dough is ready.  Now turn the mixer up to medium and allow it to knead the dough for 10 minutes.  The dough will be satiny and a bit tacky.

Form the dough into a ball and rest it in an oiled bowl.  Cover with oiled plastic wrap and let it rest at room temperature until doubled in volume, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Prepare a banneton that is 8 inches across at the base, or use a basket or colander lined with a tea-towel.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and pat it into a flat circle.  Fold the edges into the center and press with the heel of your hand.  Then flip the dough over and tuck in the edges making a firm round ball.  Repeat this pattern (flatten, fold, flip and tuck) 4 times and then lay the dough smooth side down in the banneton/basket.  Cover again with lightly oiled plastic wrap and let it rest at room temperature until doubled in volume, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

About 30 minutes before you intend to bake the bread, move an oven rack to the bottom third and place a baking stone in the center.  Heat the oven to 425F.  Rub a bakers peel or cookie sheet with cornmeal and carefully invert the dough onto it.  Spray the oven walls with water and close the door immediately to trap the steam.

Slash a few lines across the top of the dough, cutting in about 1/2 inch.  Slide the dough from the peel/cookie sheet onto the baking stone, spray the oven walls with water again, shut the oven door and turn the temperature down to 400F.  Bake for 60-70 minutes, until the crust is deeply golden.  The loaf should sound hollow if you knock on the bottom, and should read 200F if an instant-read thermometer is inserted into the center.

Allow the loaf to cool on a rack for at least 20 minutes, better to allow to get to room temperature before cutting.  This loaf will keep for 3 days at room temperature.  Store with the cut side down on the counter.  To store longer, wrap airtight with plastic wrap and place in the freezer.  Thaw, still wrapped, at room temperature.    
Printable Recipe
First of all, is there anything like the smell of bread baking in your kitchen?  Mmmm.  That alone was just wonderful.  The bread itself is nice and moist on the inside, crunchy on the outside.  The mixture of flours gives it a really nice flavor, somewhat hearty, and it smells almost nutty.  This bread would be great for toast, garlic bread, sandwiches, etc.  I slathered it with some Plugra butter and it was DIVINE.  The clever girl said, "Momma, this bread is delicious!  I am glad there is a whole loaf and not just our two pieces!".  Profound, sweet girl!

Be sure to check out the Tuesday's with Dorie blog and click on "LYL-Country Bread" to see what the other bakers thought of this bread!


  1. Gorgeous! Glad this was a hit for you.
    I think we all need to get a bannetton :-)

  2. Your loaf looks wonderful. Like your slashing skills.

  3. Your breads looks beautiful!!
    It seems to be a success for many!!!
    I enjoyed it too, simple on its own but nice with some marmalade (yummy!!) or served in different ways...

  4. Santa will have to deliver bannetons all around the world after having read the crunchy bread baking adventure.
    It's been on my list for ages but it's difficult to find it where I live.
    Luckily the colander trick did its job!
    Your loaf is really beautiful.

  5. Your loaf looks lovely! I felt this was a really good tasting bread, too! I’m with Cher…a bannetton in on my wish list!

  6. Fantastic looking loaf! Mine turned out too. I was really happy with it. And it was an easy recipe. I look forward to making it again. And it would be lovely to have a banneton. (it makes the bread look so pretty).

  7. Beautiful loaf! Mine was done sooner as well.

  8. The crust was definitely thick! Congrats on your success...and I, too, was glad not to have to hunt down rye flour :)

  9. Looks great! My mixer also was not happy with me after this one.

  10. The thick crunchy crust was great. It wasn't your knife. Mine is hard to slice, but delicious to eat.


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