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I have been making this bread recipe for several years. If one sprays the oven with some water prior to insertion, the crust is probably the thickest you will ever encounter. (Better than using the Dutch oven in the "no-knead" bread.)

Country Bread

This comes from the “Baking with Julia”. The baker is Joe Ortiz. This makes absolutely the best “artisan” style bread in the home that I’ve ever had. The crust is nice and hard. The bread is splendid. It has a wonderful nutty flavor - perhaps from using King Arthur Whole Wheat and dark rye flour.

One can substitute starter dough for some of the yeast. Having a spritzer to fill the oven with moisture is essential. When the oven is first turned on, it’s imperative to spritz the oven. Just before inserting the dough, another spritz is required.

The best time to serve this bread is warm - 10 minutes after removing from the oven. For the full recipe this would require 60 to 70 minutes baking in the oven. For a 2/3rd recipe, about 50 minutes.

There are several stages:

1. The sponge should be prepared the day before the bread is to be served. It should sit at least 6 hours up to 8 hours. (More time is okay.)

2. After mixing more ingredients into the sponge, I like to let the combination sit overnight, or from morning until mid-afternoon, about 6 hours. Again more time is okay.

3. The dough is formed into the final shape. It should have a minimum of 3 hours to sufficiently rise. More time is better.

If serving the bread at lunch. Do the first two steps the day before.

Servings
8 - 10 persons allowing for seconds.

Equipment
The heavy duty Kitchen Aid style mixer is essential. The dough is too sticky to knead by hand. This make a very large bread. Since most meals, it's just Heidi and me, I cut the dough into thirds, and store the rest in the refrigerator for baking later on.

Use of a stone or tiles in the oven is really important for developing the crispy crust.

Stuff for the Sponge
1 ½ cups water (105 to 115 degrees F)
2 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast (1 full packet)
1 cup all purpose unbleached flour (used King Arthur all purpose)
1 cup rye flour

Preparation of the Sponge
Put additional warm water - into mixer’s bowl, and let it warm up the surfaces. Pour out.
Add approximately 1/2 cup of the warm water into the bowl.
Sprinkle the yeast over the water. Stir to mix
Allow the yeast to turn creamy, before add the rest of the water.

Meanwhile, in a separate bowl combine the two flours. Mix them together.

Add the remaining water to the yeast/water.
Add the combined flours mixing together with a heavy spoon. Should be like pancake flour.

Cover the bowl. Let sponge set at room temperature for 6 to 8 hours.
One can put in refrigerator overnight. Pull it out of the refrigerator at least one hour before using.

Stuff for Dough
1 teaspoon dry yeast
1 cup water (105 to 115 degrees F)

The above sponge

3 ½ to 4 ½ cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour (King Arthur)
1 tablespoon coarse Kosher salt

Preparation of the Dough
Combine the 3 ½ cups of regular flour with whole wheat and salt together in a separate bowl.

Prepare the mixer with the dough hook. Placee the mixer bowl with the sponge on the machine.
Dissolve the yeast in ½ cup warm water

Turn machine on low/medium speed. Pour the other ½ cup water into the sponge.
Gradually add 2 cups of the mixed flour to the sponge.
Mix for about 3 minutes.

Add the yeast mixture and beat to incorporate.
Work in the remaining flour. If need, add additional flour
Dough should clean sides of bowl.
Mix for about 10 minutes. Dough should be moist and satiny, but sticky.

Oil a large bowl. Turn the dough into the bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
Let proof at room temperature for at least 2 to 3 hours, if not overnight.

Final Rise and Bake
Prepare a resting spot for the dough. Rub flour into the liner of a basket and set aside.
Turn dough on to floured work surface. Pat into a flat round with fingers and palms.
Fold the edge in and press down with heel of hand. Form dough into a tight ball.
Repeat this process up to four more times.
Turn the loaf over and lay in smooth side down into lined basket.
Let rise for 2 to 3 hours until double in size.

About 30 minutes before baking, put baking stone on bottom third of oven. Preheat to 425 F.
Put release foil, or corn meal on baking sheet.
Carefully invert loaf onto sheet - be careful not to compress it.
Slash 3 long slashes about ½ inch into loaf.

Mix one egg with 2 tablespoons water. Brush over bread.

Slide bread into oven. Reduce heat to 400 F.
If one large loaf, bake for 60 to 70 minutes. Instant thermometer should read 200 F.

Remove loaf from oven. Let sit on rack 10 to 20 minutes.
Serve and watch it be devoured.
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