Homemade Rustic Bread
Updated July 1, 2017 by
This bread is started a day in advance. I used a stand mixer to mix the moist dough, but a handheld mixer with a dough hook should work as well. The great flavor comes from the long proofing and rising times. This bread, with its crusty exterior, is similar to a ciabatta loaf. Handle the bread as little as possible before the final rising to preserve the air bubbles.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Fermentation and Rising Times: 15 hours Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 15 hours 45 minutes
The Initial Sponge
- In the mixing bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment, combine the 3 1/2 cups of bread flour, 2 cups of water, 1/4 teaspoon of instant yeast, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Beat on medium-low speed until smooth.
- Remove the bowl and cover it tightly with plastic wrap. Let stand for about 12 to 16 hours, or overnight.
- The next day, add the remaining 4 cups of flour to the sponge along with the 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, 3/4 cup of water, the olive oil, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of instant yeast. Attach the dough hook and mix on low speed until the ingredients are well combined. Increase to medium speed and continue mixing for about 5 to 7 minutes. The dough will be quite wet but should show some elasticity when you pull on it with floured fingers.
- With the dough still in the bowl, flour your hands and fold it over on itself a few times. Sprinkle the dough with a teaspoon or two of flour and once again cover the mixing bowl with plastic wrap.
- Let the dough stand at room temperature for 3 hours, folding it again at the 1 hour mark and then again at the 2 hour mark. This will help incorporate some air into the dough.
- Lightly grease two baking sheets and sprinkle with cornmeal.
- With floured hands, gently move the dough to a floured surface. Cut the dough into two equal portions and gently shape them into two oblong loaves.
- Carefully move them to the prepared baking sheets.
- Sprinkle the loaves lightly with flour. Cover them with a lightweight tea towel and let rise for about 1 1/2 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 425 F.
- Move the bread in the oven and spray some water on the oven floor to create steam. Do this a few times within the initial 10 minutes.
- Bake the loaves 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.