Country BreadUser Submitted Recipe
1/4 tsp. yeast
1/4 cup warm water, 100-110 degrees F.
3 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups cold water
3 1/2 to 5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup room temperature water
3 1/2 tsp. salt
Make sponge as follows:
In small bowl, sprinkle yeast over warm water. Let stand for 5 minutes. In a large stand mixing bowl, combine flour and cold water until partially mixed. Scrape yeast mixture into flour mixture. Stir with paddle attachment at slow speed (2) for one minute. Transfer to a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a lid; let stand at room temperature (approximately 70 degrees F.) for about 12 hours or overnight. (The sponge is ready when small bubbles cover its surface and it appears thinner than at the start.)
Make the dough and form loaves:
Place 3 1/2 cups flour in a large stand mixer bowl; make a well in the center. Scrape sponge into well; set bowl aside. With the dough hook attachment, stir at speed 3, gradually incorporating flour into sponge. Rinse sponge bowl with 1 cup room temperature water, scraping down sides with a rubber spatula. Gradually add the rinsing liquid to the flour-sponge mixture while continuing to blend the mixture on speed 3. Add remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, while mixing (speed 3) until mixing bowl is clean and dough forms a smooth ball.(You may not need all of the remaining flour.) Continuing on speed 3, knead dough for 3 more minutes. Leaving bowl/dough hook on the stand mixer, cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap and allow dough to rest for 15 minutes. Sprinkle dough with salt and knead on speed 3 for an additional 5 minutes, until salt is fully incorporated and dough feels soft and elastic. Shape dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or damp towel and let it rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Punch down dough and reshape into a ball. Cover again and rise, until more than doubled in bulk, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Lightly dust 2 baking sheets with flour. Divide dough in half and form 2 round loaves. Place loaves on baking sheets; lightly cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in the refrigerator for 8 hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. Have ready a clean spray bottle filled with water. Just before baking, with a sharp knife or baker's razor (lame), slash a crosshatch design into the top of each loaf. Spray lightly with water. Bake loaves for 15 minutes, lightly spraying with water every 4-5 minutes. (Be careful to avoid spraying the oven light.) Reduce oven temperature to 425 degrees F., bake, without spraying, for 15-20 minutes more, or until loaves are golden and sound hollow when tapped. Transfer loaves to a wire rack and cool completely.