White Bread with Sponge Starter
A lovely country loaf that doesn't require you being available at 1 hour intervals. The slow rising provides lots of flavor, but also allows large blocks of time for you to devote to other activities. Beginning to end, it will take up to 24 hours. But there is lots of flexibility in-between.
Combine the yeast and the water in a medium bowl and let stand until the yeast is dissolved, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and stir rapidly with a wooden spoon until you notice elastic strands pulling away from the sides of the bowl, about 2 minutes. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until bubbly and tripled in volume, about 6 hours. Or let the starter rise for about 14 hours (overnight) in the refrigerator.
Mix all ingredients together in a large mixing bowl, or food processor.
Divide the dough in half and shape each into a baguette or round, then place the shaped loaves onto parchment-lined baking sheets.
Preheat oven to 400°F [200°C]. If using an oven with a fan, heat to 375°F [190°C].
You may replace 4 ounces of the bread flour with whole-wheat (whole meal) or rye flour. I personally prefer rye. You can also make a hearty whole wheat version by substituting half of the bread flour with whole wheat bread flour.
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