Make this New Orleans style French bread in baguette or boule (ball) form. It's the perfect bread for muffulettas or po' boy sandwiches, and it is wonderful with gumbo or for mopping up the juices of barbecued shrimp. Or slather it with garlic butter and bake it for a fabulous garlic bread.
The sponge for this bread is proofed then refrigerated overnight, which enhances flavor. Let the sponge come to room temperature the next day, then add the remaining dough ingredients and knead by hand or with your stand mixer and dough hook.
I didn't use an egg wash on these loaves, but you could brush one on just before baking. See Egg Wash for Yeast Breads and Rolls.
- 2 1/4 cups bread flour, 10 ounces, plus 2 teaspoons (for sprinkling over sponge)
- 1 1/4 cups water (room temperature, 10 ounces)
- 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
- Remaining Dough:
- 3 1/2 cups bread flour (16 ounces)
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon water (room temperature, 6 1/2 ounces)
- 2 1/4 teaspoons salt
- Optional: 2 teaspoons sugar
Using the paddle attachment of a stand mixer or a wooden spoon, combine the sponge ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix well for about 3 minutes. Sprinkle with two teaspoons of flour, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for 4 to 5 hours. Refrigerate overnight.
Take the sponge out of the refrigerator 2 hours before you plan to start mixing the remaining dough.
Once the sponge has come to room temperature, add the remaining dough ingredients including the sugar, if using.
Mix slowly with a dough hook then knead on medium-low speed for 8 minutes, until smooth and elastic. If kneading by hand, knead for about 10 minutes. Add more flour, if needed to keep the dough from sticking to the work surface or bowl.
Leave the dough in the stand mixer bowl or put it back in the mixing bowl if kneading by hand. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until doubled in bulk.
Punch the dough down and shape into baguettes or round loaves. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise for about 45 minutes.
Score the loaves using a lame, razor, or very sharp knife.
Bake in a preheated 425 F oven for 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the size of the loaves. Spray a little water on the oven floor to create some steam 4 to 6 times during the first few minutes of baking.
The loaves will be golden brown and will sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. If using an instant-read thermometer, look for about 190 F.
Makes about 2 pounds, 10 ounces of dough, enough for 3 baguettes or 2 small round loaves.
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