Rustic Country Bread

For a big, hearty, earthy bread, try this. The mixture of whole wheat, rye and white flour is incredibly good. It's worth getting some unglazed quarry tiles to bake this on so that you can enjoy the authentic professional bakery crust. As with all breads based on a fermented sponge, the flavor becomes more intense as the sponge ferments longer. However, the sponge will die if left too long. I recommend leaving this sponge for 12-24 hours (longer in cold weather). This recipe was suggested by one in Cook's Illustrated, Jan/Feb. 1995.


Oven Temp: 450°
Yield: 1 large loaf
Mix all sponge ingredients, and let sit for 12-14 hours. Put first 4 bread ingredients and sponge in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the plastic blade. Mix well while adding water. Knead well until the dough is smooth and the texture of your earlobe. You might need to add additional bread flour. Grease a large bowl with 1 T oil, put the dough in the bowl, and turn to coat with oil. Let the dough rise for 3 hrs. Punch down dough, and shape into a round loaf. Place in muslin (flour coated) lined basket with the less attractive side up. Cover with foil, allow to rise for 45 min. Arrange the oven shelves so that the oven is divided into thirds. Put a pan with cold water on the bottom shelf of the oven, cover the upper shelf with tiles. Turn loaf unto a peel, coated with corn meal. Transfer the loaf to the hot tiles, slit the top in 3 or 4 lines, and bake 35-45 min. until the bread internal temperature is 210°. Turn off oven, crack door, leave 10 minutes. Cool 15-20 min. on rack before serving.
Back to Ruth's Kitchen