Mark Furstenberg's White Bread 6.000

Len Spoden for The Washington Post

Apr 30, 2008

Expert bread baker Mark Furstenberg says a bread flour with approximately 12 percent protein is best to use for this recipe.

Store the loaf cut side down on a cutting board without wrapping. It is best eaten within 3 days.

Servings: 6

Yield: Makes 1 1/2-pound loaf

  • For the white sponge/starter
  • 48 grams white bread flour, preferably King Arthur (1/3 cup)
  • 52 grams cool water (1/4 cup)
  • 1 gram instant yeast, such as Fleischmann's RapidRise (about 1/3 teaspoon)
  • For the dough
  • 450 grams white bread flour, preferably King Arthur (about 2 3/4 cups)
  • 350 grams cool water (1 3/4 cups)
  • White sponge/starter (see above; about 1/2 cup)
  • 5 grams instant yeast, such as Fleischmann's RapidRise (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 13 grams fine sea salt (2 teaspoons)
  • Rice flour, for dusting
  • Rolled oats, for the baking receptacle

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For the white sponge/starter: Combine the flour, water and yeast in a medium mixing bowl; stir just to combine. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature for 6 to 10 hours, or refrigerate for later use. (If refrigerated, after several days the sponge will sour. But that's okay.)

For the dough: Combine the flour, sponge/starter, water, yeast and salt in a large mixing bowl. Cover and let sit at room temperature for 6 to 12 hours, or refrigerate for up to 1 day. The dough should resemble a thick batter with lots of different-size bubbles. (If refrigerating, it may be necessary to let the chilled dough come to room temperature so its bubbles can emerge.)

If the bubbles become too fat or collapse, the bread will not have a light interior, but the dough can be used to make flatbread, or it can be used instead of a sponge for your next round of baking.

Spray the inside of a large bowl with nonstick oil spray, or dust a bread proofing basket heavily with rice flour.

Spray a work surface with nonstick cooking oil spray and pour the dough onto the prepared surface. Use a wet plastic scraper or wet hands to lift the edges of the dough from the work surface and fold them onto the center of the mass of dough. Repeat 4 to 6 times, slightly rotating the dough as you work to keep it from sticking to the work surface. Wet your hands and the scraper often.

Place the dough in the bowl or basket; cover with a clean dish towel, being careful not to let it touch the dough. Let it sit at room temperature for 90 minutes or until the dough has nearly doubled in size. The dough's texture should look lighter. You will see bubbles beneath the skin of the dough.

About 30 minutes before the dough is finished proofing, preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Ten minutes before the bread is to be baked, heat a medium-size (4-quart) Dutch oven with its lid on. (The dough should fill the Dutch oven about halfway; if the Dutch oven is too large, the loaf will bake flat.)

When ready to bake the bread, work quickly. Transfer the heated Dutch oven to the stovetop (off the heat). Sprinkle rice flour in the bottom of the heated Dutch oven. Turn the dough into the hot pot. Use a lame (special tool used to slash marks in the dough) or a razor blade to make several quick, clean, assertive strokes, about 1/2 inch deep, creating diagonal slashes on the top of the dough. (This may be hard to do because the dough is quite wet.)

Re-cover the pot and place in the oven; immediately reduce the heat to 450 degrees. After 25 to 30 minutes, check the look of the bread; it should begin to pick up color. Remove the lid and bake for 10 minutes, until the loaf looks deep golden brown. The bread will be done when tapping your fingers on the bottom of the loaf produces a clearly hollow sound, as opposed to a dull thud. Transfer the loaf to a wire rack to cool for at least 60 minutes.

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From Mark Furstenberg.

Tested by David Hagedorn.

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