I had no idea when I wrote yesterday that the concept of a bread sponge, something I make all the time, was so foreign. So tonight, when I came home from work I photographed the sponge:
It may not be super-obvious unless you look closely, but this is the flour-water-yeast concoction that sat for 24 hours before being turned into bread dough. And it’s spongey with lots of air bubbles. A bit more flour, water, yeast, salt, and just a dash of olive oil and we have this:
Two loaves of fresh-baked bread, bursting at the seams and gorgeous. They are still cooling so I have not yet tasted the fruit of my efforts, but I’m pretty sure from past experience that they will be edible. And how much do I love the massive cupcake-like parchment paper wrappers that I got here in England to line loaf pans!!! I used to do parchment origami when baking but no more!
DO try this at home:
Sponge: mix 1 cup flour, 1 cup warm water and 1 pkg yeast in a bowl, cover and let rest 12-24 hours.
Bread dough: add another packet of yeast and 1 cup warm water to the sponge after time has passed and it looks spongey. Stir well. Add another cup of flour and a few tsp. salt (and one tablespoon of butter or olive oil if not making baguettes; also can add a tablespoon of dry milk powder and a pinch of sugar depending on if you like your bread with a bit of sweetness). Stir well. Now the moment of truth, choose to make either pain rustica or pain Kitchenaid by adding more flour with pure elbow grease on the counter, kneading it in, or with the dough hook on a nice stand mixer set to medium if you’re sore from the free weights at the gym. No precise measures are present in any of this recipe–you can add more or less flour depending on your tolerance for sticky dough when trying to put it into the pans–dry, floury dough makes for easy handling but wetter dough looks like ciabatta when cooked and can be lovely. Let it rise at least once before punching down and forming loaves, then rise again (about an hour each but depends on local climate) then bake at 200 C or 425 F or something else that reads “a hot oven” until brown.
The best thing about home-made bread is that there is so much imprecision in the recipe. Unlike cake, you can mess with the proportions of things and still end up with a nice, edible loaf fresh out of the oven. And who on either continent can resist that???