*  Exported from  MasterCook II  *

                        Sourdough French Bread II

Recipe By     : Charlie Sorsby (crs@beta.lanl.gov)
Serving Size  : 1    Preparation Time :48:00
Categories    : Breads

  Amount  Measure       Ingredient -- Preparation Method
--------  ------------  --------------------------------
                        SPONGE:
   1      Cup           Starter
   1 1/2  Cups          Warm Water
   2      Teaspoons     Sugar
   2      Teaspoons     Salt
   1      Cup           Flour
   3      Cups          Flour
                        TO FEED STARTER:
                        the remaining starter
     3/4  Cup           Warm Water
     3/4  Cup           Flour
                        DOUGH:
                        all of the sponge
   2      Cups          Flour (approx.)

SPONGE AND FEEDING STARTER:

1)  Combine the starter, warm water, sugar, salt and 1 cup flour in a large glass or plastic mixing bowl and mix well.  Cover with plastic wrap to prevent drying and allow to ferment in a warm place until the surface is well-covered with foamy bubbles.  This step can take anywhere from a few hours to overnight or longer if the temperatures are low or if the starter hasn't been fed and reproofed for awhile.

2)  After you've prepared the above and set it aside to proof, feed the remaining starter by adding 1/2 to 1 cup water and 1/2 to 1 cup flour to the starter - use equal quantities of each.  Mix well and cover with plastic wrap.  Set the starter next to the sponge.  When the surface is well-covered with foamy bubbles, return the starter to the fridge.

3)  When the sponge has proofed (surface covered with foamy bubbles), add the remaining 3 cups of flour and mix well.  Replace the plastic cover and return the bowl to a warm place to ferment.  When the sponge has puffed up noticeably, go on to make the dough.

DOUGH:

4)  Stir down the sponge and stir in as much of the additional flour as is needed.  Depending on the moisture content of the flour you are using, you may not need the entire 2 cups.  It is better that the dough be too moist than too dry.

5)  Knead the dough for 8 to 10 minutes on a floured surface.  Allow the dough to rest, covered with a towel, for 5 minutes while preparing the pan(s).

6)  Grease whatever sort of pan you want to use and sprinkle the bottom lightly with cornmeal.  The pan can be a cookie sheet for one round loaf or two or three formed loaves, or bread pans, or a dutch oven.

7)  For formed loaves, divide the dough into halves or thirds, and roll each piece out with a rolling pin.  Roll each piece into the shape of a rectangle and roll up tightly beginning on the longer side.  Pinch edge of dough into roll to seal well.  Roll gently back and forth to taper ends.

8)  Allow the formed loaves to rise in a humid environment until at least doubled in volume.  Just before baking, slash the tops of the loaves with a very sharp knife or razor blade.  Make the slashes 1/2 inch deep and at a 45 degree angle.  Then brush the loaves with a mixture of 1 egg white and 1 tsp. of water.

BAKING:

9)  Preheat the oven to 200° C (400° F).  Just before putting the loaves into the oven, squirt water onto the bottom of the oven to create steam.  Open the oven door as little as possible to keep the steam trapped inside.  Place the loaves in the oven, squirt some more water and close the door.  Toss in a few (two to four) ice cubes, keeping the oven open only just longe enough to do so.  The objective is to create steam and to trap it inside the oven to keep the surface of the bread moist for the first part of the baking period. It is important to maintain the steam only through the first 5 to 10 minutes of baking.

10)  Bake for 45 minutes or until the internal temperature of the bread has reached at least 190° F.  Remove the bread to wire racks to cool.  Cover with a cloth while cooling for a softer crust.

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NOTES : 1)  If the sponge ferments past its point of peak activity, it becomes more sour, but it loses some of its leavening power.