Rustic Italian Bread
2 cups bread flour
1/4 tsp instant yeast
1 cup water, room temp
3 cups bread flour
1 tsp instant yeast
1 1/3 cup water, room temp
2 tsp salt
For the sponge: Combine the flour, yeast and water in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook. Knead at the lowest speed until the ingredients form a shaggy dough, 2 t0 3 minutes. Transfer the sponge to a medium bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let stand at room temperature until it begins to bubble and rise, about 3 hours. Refrigerate the sponge at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours.
For the dough: Remove the sponge from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature while making the dough. Combine the flour, yeast and water in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook; knead at the lowest speed until a rough dough forms, about 3 minutes. Turn the mixer off and, without removing the dough hook or bowl from the mixer, cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap; let the dough rest 20 minutes.
Remove the plastic wrap, add the sponge and salt to the bowl, and continue to knead at the lowest speed until the ingredients are incorporated and the dough is formed. Increase the mixer speed to medium and continue to knead, about 1 minute. Transfer the dough to a large lightly oiled bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a cool, draft-free spot until slightly risen and puffy, about 1 hour.
Remove the plastic wrap and turn the dough. Replace the plastic; let the dough rise 1 hour. Turn the dough again, replace the plastic, and let the dough rise 1 hour longer.
To shape the dough: Dust a work surface with flour. Scrape the dough from the bowl and invert onto the work surface. Dust the dough and push the dough into a rough 8 to 10 inch square. Shape the dough into a loaf and transfer to a sheet of parchment paper. Dust with flour and cover with plastic wrap; let rise 1 hour. Meanwhile, adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position, place a baking stone on the rack, and heat the oven to 500 degrees.
To bake: Using a sharp knife, cut a slit 1/2 inch deep length-wise along the top of the loaf, starting and stoping about 1 1/2 inches from the ends; spray the loaf lightly with water. Slide the parchment sheet with the loaf onto the hot baking stone in the oven. Bake 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temp to 400 degrees and quickly rotate the loaf from front to back using the edges of the parchment; continue to bake for about 35 minutes longer. Transfer to a wire rack, discard the parchment, and cool the loaf to room temperature, about 2 hours.
These loaf slices are perfect for sandwiches!
Makes 1 large loaf.