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Country Bread {#CookforJulia #BakeYourOwnBread}

Let me begin with a weather update: currently 58° F with occasional light rain. I believe it hit a high of 64° today.

And let me follow that up by saying: I'm lovin' every minute of it!  As in Loverboy circa 1985, baby. Minus the sexual innuendo.

I can finally breathe again!  The heat and humidity are so oppressive to me, so the past three and a half months or so has been rough.  I thrive when there's a chill in the air.  Plus I'm a water baby (Scorpio), so I also love a rainy night.  As in Eddie Rabbit circa 1980.  Eeeehhhh...sorry.  I can't help it.  My seventies/eighties-child is showing again.  I tell ya, the cool breeze blowing through my windows that have been thrown wide open all day is making me giddy!
So this would have been THE perfect day to bake a loaf of bread.  The smell of yeast and grains snaking from the oven and through the kitchen and eventually out of those open windows.  But I made a loaf yesterday (which was also fairly cool), so instead of baking another one right away, I just toasted it up and enjoyed that today.  Alongside this beautiful day.

So this makes five of seven of my Julia Child books that I've cooked from.  It looks like I'm going to reach the goal that I set for myself (cooking one recipe from each of them during the #CookforJulia event).  Double giddy!

Country Bread

by Heather Schmitt-González
Prep Time: 2½ hrs. + overnight (largely unattended)
Cook Time: 60-70 minutes
Keywords: bake bread

Ingredients (1 large round loaf)
    the sponge:
    • 1½ c. warm water (105°-115° F)
    • 2½ tsp. active dry yeast
    • 1 c. bread flour
    • ½ c. rye flour
    • ½ c. whole wheat flour
    the dough:
    • 1 tsp. active dry yeast
    • 1 c. warm water
    • all of the sponge
    • 3-3½ c. bread flour
    • 1 c. whole wheat flour
    • 1 Tbs. salt
    make the sponge (the evening before you want to bake the bread):
    Put ¼ cup of the warm water into a bowl and sprinkle with the yeast; stir to mix. Allow to rest for ~5 minutes, in which time it will turn creamy. Add remaining water. Stir the flours together and add them to the yeast mixture a little at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon until sponge has the consistency of pancake batter (loose, yet thick).

    Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight. Plan on pulling this out of the fridge 1 hour before you're ready to continue with your recipe.
    making the bread (day of baking):
    Be sure to pull the sponge from the refrigerator and allow it to sit at room temperature for an hour before continuing on with the dough.

    Dissolve the yeast in ½ cup of the warm water. Scrape the sponge into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment and add the other ½ cup of warm water to that bowl. Cobine 3 cups of the bread flour with the whole wheat flour.

    Gradually add 2 cups of the flour mixture into the mixer bowl, while it runs on medium-low speed. Once it has mixed for ~3 minutes, add the yeast mixture until incorporated. Sprinkle the salt over the dough and allow it to mix in. Work the remaining flour mixture in until the dough starts to "clean" the sides of the bowl (if you need to, add a tad more bread flour until this happens). Increase the mixer speed to medium and allow to knead for ~10 minutes or until the dough begins to look smooth and satiny; it should feel slightly tacky (almost enough to be sticky, but not quite).

    Form dough into a loose ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic and allow dough to proof at room temperature until doubled in volume, 1½-2 hours.

    Prepare a banneton (measuring 8" across base) or a large basket or colander lined with a linen towel by rubbing with flour. Set aside until needed.

    Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and pat it into a flat round with your fingers and palms. Fold the four "edges" in and press down with the heel of your hand, then flip the dough over and work it against the counter with your cupped hands to form a tight ball. Repeat this process (flattening, folding, tightening) four more times. Turn the loaf over and lay it into the prepared banneton, smooth side down.
    Cover with plastic wrap that has been lightly oiled on the surface facing the dough. Let it rise at room temperature until it has risen over the edge of the banneton. This could take anywhere from 30 minutes to 1½ hours.

    About 30 minutes before you're ready to bake the loaf, position an oven rack in the lower third of your oven and set a baking stone on it. Preheat oven to 425° F. Have a spray bottle filled with water ready.

    When the dough has risen fully, sprinkle a baker's peel or rimless baking sheet with cornmeal and carefully invert your risen dough onto it. Spray the oven walls with water and immediately close the door to trap the steam.
    Score your bread a few times, cutting ~½" deep. Open the oven and slide the dough onto the baking stone, turn down the heat to 400° F, and quickly spray the oven walls again. Close oven quickly. Bake for 60-70 minutes, or until the crust is a deep golden color. The loaf will sound hollow when tapped on the bottom and should register at least 200° F when an instant-read thermometer is inserted into the center.

    Remove loaf and allow to cool on a wire rack before cutting. Will keep at room temperature for ~3 days and wrapped tightly and frozen for a month (thaw, still wrapped, at room temperature).

    slightly adapted from Joe Ortiz in Baking with Julia
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