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New Orleans French Bread, Overnight Sponge


New Orleans French Bread

New Orleans French Bread

Photo and Recipe: Diana Rattray

The sponge for this French style bread is proofed then refrigerated overnight, which really enhances the flavor. Let the sponge come to room temperature the next day, then add the remaining dough ingredients. 


Prep Time: 30 minutes

Proofing: 7 hours

Total Time: 7 hours, 30 minutes

Yield: About 2 lbs. 10 oz. of Dough


  • Sponge
  • 2 1/4 cups bread flour, 10 ounces, plus 2 teaspoons for sprinkling over sponge
  • 1 1/4 cups water, room temperature, 10 ounces
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
  • Remaining Dough
  • 3 1/2 cups bread flour, 16 ounces
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon water, room temperature, 6 1/2 ounces
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar, optional


  1. Combine the sponge ingredients and mix well for 3 minutes. Use the paddle attachment of a mixer or mix by hand with a wooden spoon. Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of flour, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let rise at room temperature for 4 to 5 hours. Refrigerate overnight.

  2. Take the sponge out of the refrigerator 2 hours before you plan to start mixing the remaining dough.

  3. Once the sponge has come to room temperature, add the remaining dough ingredients including the sugar, if using.

  4. Mix slowly with a dough hook then knead on medium-low speed for 8 minutes, until smooth and elastic. If kneading by hand, knead for about 10 minutes. Add more flour, if needed to keep the dough from sticking to the work surface or bowl.

  5. Leave the dough in the stand mixer bowl or put it back in the bowl if kneading by hand. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until doubled in bulk.

  6. Punch the dough down and shape into baguettes or round loaves. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise for about 45 minutes.

  7. Score the loaves using a lame, razor, or very sharp knife.

  8. Bake in a preheated 425° F oven for 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the size of the loaves. Spray a little water on the oven floor to create some steam 4 to 6 times during the first few minutes of baking.

  9. The loaves will be golden brown and will sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. If using an instant read thermometer, look for about 190° F.

  10. Makes about 2 pounds, 10 ounces of dough, enough for 3 baguettes or 2 small round loaves.


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