December 23, 2010

Sweet Rustic Bread

Although this is called Sweet Rustic Bread, it is not the type of sweet bread you think of when you imagine banana bread or other dessert-like breads. This is a complex flavor that tinges more toward sweet than savory, but it comes in the form of a crusty, chewy bread.

Sweet Rustic Bread
2 cups poolish-style sponge
4 1/2 cups bread flour
5 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. yeast
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup cool water

Measure the refrigerated poolish, and let stand at room temperature one hour to remove the chill.

Combine all ingredients using an electric mixer with a paddle attachment.

Mix on slow speed 1 minute, and then switch to the dough hook. Mix on medium for 8 minutes. You may have to scrape the sides once or twice. The dough is very batterlike and sticky. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let rise at room temperature until it is 1 1/2 times its original size, about 3 hours.

The dough should be slightly stiffer at this point. Scrape it onto a heavily floured surface, coating your hands in flour as well. Knead the dough gently for a few seconds. Cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let rise at room temperature for another hour.

Prepare three baking pans by covering them with parchment paper and then sprinkling them with semolina or flour.

Fold and knead the dough gently for a few seconds. Pat the dough into a thick disk, about 6 inches in diameter. Cut the dough into 6 to 8 wedges with a knife. Keeping your hands floured, transfer the wedges to the baking sheets. Make sure there is plenty of space between each piece, and do not stretch the pieces. Mist the tops of the dough with cooking spray, cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let the dough stand for 2 hours at room temperature or until the pieces increase to about 1 1/2 times their original size. Refrigerate them overnight.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator 2 hours before you plan to bake. The dough should be double the original size.

Preheat oven to 475ºF. Place empty cast iron skillet on bottom rack of oven. Fill a water bottle to spritz loaves. Place loaves in oven, and quickly pour 2 cups hot tap water into cast iron pan. Quickly spritz the oven and loaves, avoiding the oven light.

After two minutes, spray the oven and loaves again. After 5 minutes, reduce heat to 425
ºF. Bake the loaves for 10 minutes, and then rotate loaves in the oven. Continue baking another 10 minutes. Loaves are done when golden brown with an internal temperature of 205 to 210ºF. Cool bread completely before eating.

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