This bread is not as full of air as a ciabatta, but the texture and flavor are fabulous, and there's very little kneading required. It's a fairly wet dough, so a stand mixer is the best way to knead. A portable hand mixer with dough hook could work as well. The sponge should ferment overnight, or around 12 hours, so plan to start the day before you want to bake the bread.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
First Fermentation: 12 hours
Total Time: 12 hours, 45 minutes
Yield: Makes 2 Loaves
- 3 1/2 cups bread flour, 16 ounces
- 2 cups water, room temperature, 16 ounces
- 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Remaining Dough
- 4 cups flour, 18 ounces
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 3/4 cup water, 6 ounces
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
In a mixing bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment, mix the 3 1/2 cups of bread flour, the 2 cups of water, 1/4 teaspoon of instant yeast, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Beat until smooth. Remove the paddle attachment and cover the bowl tightly with plastic cling wrap. Let the sponge stand at room temperature overnight, or from 12 to 16 hours.
The next day, attach the dough hook to the mixer and add the remaining 4 cups of flour, the 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, 3/4 cup of water, the olive oil, and 1 teaspoon of instant yeast. Mix on low until combined. Beat on medium speed with the dough hook for about 4 to 6 minutes. The dough will be wet but should show some elasticity when you pull on it with floured fingers.
Flour your hands and fold though dough over on itself a few times. Sprinkle the dough with a teaspoon or two of flour and cover the mixing bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough ferment at room temperature for 3 hours, folding it again at the 1 hour mark and then again at the 2 hour mark.
Lightly grease baking sheets and sprinkle with cornmeal.
With floured hands, move the dough to a floured surface. Cut in half and gently shape into two oblong loaves. Place on the prepared baking sheets and sprinkle lightly with flour. cover with a lightweight tea towel and let rise for about 1 1/2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 425° F.
Put the bread in the oven and spray a mist on the oven flour to create steam. Do this a few times in the first 5 to 10 minutes.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the bread is nicely browned and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. The internal temperature will be around 190° F on an instant read thermometer inserted into the center of a loaf.
Remove the loaves to racks to cool.
Tip: I recommend using a kitchen scale to weigh flour and water. Even though amounts may vary a little because of humidity and moisture in flour, weighing will bring you very close to the correct ratio.
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