This bread is a crusty French-style loaf with a bit of milk and butter added for flavor. Because it is made with a sponge, it keeps well for a couple of days at room temperature.
This is my son’s absolute favorite bread. He even eats the crust! I love making this bread because he loves to eat it. Plus it is a great dough to work with. Because I am so familiar with the recipe, I am easily carried into the “Baking Zone” where I so often find contentment.
1 cup warm water
1 ½ tablespoons instant yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup warm milk
1 3/4 cups unbleached bread flour
¼ cup whole wheat or kamut flour
1 tablespoon salt
3 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
3½ to 4 cups unbleached bread flour
For the Top
Egg glaze: 1 egg + 1 tablespoon milk
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
Combine sponge ingredients in the bowl of a mixer and beat vigorously for 1 minute. Cover and allow the sponge to rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk (about 1 hour)
Add salt, butter and 1 cup of the flour to the sponge. Beat for 1 minute. Add the remaining flour (½ cup at a time) until a soft dough forms. I almost never use the full amount of flour as I prefer to work with a very soft dough.
By hand for about 5-7 minutes on a lightly floured surface. OR
By machine for about 5-7 minutes using the dough hook.
Place the dough in a greased bowl or deep pot. Cover and allow it to rise at room temperature until doubled or tripled in bulk (1-2 hours).
Shape the Loaves:
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into three equal portions. Shape each portion into a fat oval. Pinch the ends to form a taper. Place the loaves on a greased or parchment lined baking sheet.
Optional: Lightly dust clean tea towels with flour, roll them tightly and place them between the loaves to form a baker’s couche. This encourage them to rise upwards instead of outwards and hold their shape.
Cover the loaves gently with plastic wrap and allow to rise at room temperature for about 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.
Prepare the Oven:
About one hour before baking, preheat the oven to 425°. If you would like to use a baking stone or pizza stone, place it on the lowest rack of the oven. Place a heavy pan on the oven floor.
Prepare the Loaves:
Use a serrated knife to decoratively slash the tops of the loaves with three parallel gashes — about 1/4 of an inch deep. Mix the milk and egg. Lightly brush the top of each loaf with the egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Place the baking sheet on a rack in the center of the oven or on the baking stone. Toss ½ cup of ice cubes into the pan on the oven floor and quickly shut the door. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375° and bake for another 25 to 30 minutes or until the loaves are golden brown. They should make a hollow sound when tapped with your fingers. Transfer the loaves to a rack for cooling.
Eat with glee! (and lots of butter…)