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rustic italian bread (sponge method)

a recipe by
Garrison Wayne
La Quinta, CA

This Rustic Loaf is easy to make in your Dutch Oven. It is made in one day instead of overnight, as most Dutch Oven recipes are. It does require some kneading, so it is not a no-knead recipe. It is baked, starting in a cold oven. I find that a lot safer than preheating the pot to 450 degrees. With the addition of Olive Oil, this bread has a moist and soft texture. The process of making a sponge (starter) also lends a hand in creating a tender loaf. I use Bread Flour, but feel free to use All Purpose, though the bread may not rise quite as high. This is a really nice all purpose White Bread

serves 12
prep time 4 Hr
cook time 1 Hr 5 Min
method Bake

Ingredients For rustic italian bread (sponge method)

  • 1 1/2 c
    bread flour
  • 1 tsp
    instant yeast
  • 2 tsp
  • 1 c
    warm water
  • 1 1/4 tsp
    instant yeast
  • 2 c
    bread flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp
  • 3 Tbsp
    olive oil plus warm water to measure 2/3 cup liquid measure
  • flour for dusting

How To Make rustic italian bread (sponge method)

  • 1
    About 4 hours before you want to bake the bread, make the sponge (starter). Place all the ingredients for the sponge in a large bowl. Stir to combine. Cover with lid or plastic wrap. Let sit about 2 hours. It should be quite bubbly.
  • 2
    After the sponge has processed, start adding the rest of the ingredients. Sprinkle the 1 1/4 tsp yeast on top of the sponge. Then sprinkle (most) of the 2 cups Bread Flour. (hold back several Tbsp of the flour to incorporate as needed). Add the liquid mix of Olive Oil and Warm Water. Mix as well as you can with a large spoon. Working in the bowl, use hands to bring the dough together. This will take a few minutes. Continue kneading in the bowl, or transfer to a board to knead a few more minutes, incorporating some (or all) of the reserved flour. The dough should be smooth and elastic.
  • 3
    Place the dough in a clean bowl and coat the dough ball with little Olive Oil. Cover with lid or plastic until doubled. If you have used the right temp of warm water this should happen rather approximately an hour, give or take.
  • 4
    When the dough has doubled, punch down and knead for a minute or so. Use hands to form a nicely shaped ball.
  • 5
    Place a piece of parchment paper in the bottom of a 5 qt. Dutch Oven. Sprinkle some flour on top of parchment. Place dough ball, centered, on floured parchment. Make three slits on top of dough, not too deep. I do this with scissors. Sprinkle some flour on top of dough. Cover with lid or plastic until doubled. That should take just a little less than an hour.
  • 6
    This bread is baked by starting in a cold oven. The oven should not pre-heat.
  • 7
    When bread is ready to bake, place lid on Dutch Oven and place in a cold oven in the lower 1/3 of oven. For non-black pot, turn oven on to 450 degrees. For cast iron, turn oven on to 425 degrees. Set the timer to bake 65 minutes.
  • 8
    At 55 minutes, remove lid from Dutch Oven. Continue baking, uncovered for the remaining 10 minutes.
  • 9
    Remove bread from oven. Plop loaf out onto a rack. Thump the bottom of loaf. It should sound hollow. If so, place top up on rack to cool thoroughly before slicing, about 1 1/2 hours. If the loaf does not sound hollow, you may finish it up by placing it back in the oven for several more minutes, baking directly on the oven rack (no pan).