pix-2008-french-peasant-bread

Sponge Ingredients:
1-1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup water
1-1/2 teaspoons dark corn syrup or molasses
1/2 cup wheat flour
1/2 cup bread flour

Sponge Directions:
Combine the yeast and both flours in a mixing bowl. Add the water and corn syrup or molasses and stir until well blended and fairly free of lumps. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature overnight.

Dough Ingredients:
3/4 cup lukewarm water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 cup wheat flour
1 1/2 cups bread flour

Baking Directions:
1. Add the water, salt and wheat flour to the sponge, stirring until well combined.
2. Slowly stir in the bread flour, adding an extra tablespoon or two if the dough seems sticky. Knead until smooth and elastic.
3. Place the dough in a greased bowl and loosely cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour and 45 minutes.
4. When the first rise is complete, punch the dough down with your knuckles to release most of the air bubbles. Roll between your hands to shape the dough into a smooth round ball with a tight skin.
5. Flatten the top slightly with your hands.
6. Place on a greased baking sheet that has been sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover loosely with wax paper and let triple in size – 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
7. Place an empty half sheet pan on the bottom oven shelf. Preheat the oven and the pan to 425 degrees. Five minutes before adding the bread, carefully pour 1 cup hot water into the pan to moisturize the oven.
8. Sprinkle the loaf with flour. Use a serrated knife to cut 3 evenly spaced 1/4 inch deep diagonal slashes across the top of the loaf.
9. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the pan and cool on a wire rack 20 minutes before slicing.