This is the perfect dough for creative shaping, and the one used throughout France for many types of breads sold under various names. The additional grain gives the bread more character, and contributes to the brownish-gold, country-style crust.

3 cups pate fermentee
1 3/4 cups unbleached bread flour
1/3 cup whole-wheat or rye flour (I used both)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast
3/4 cup water, lukewarm
Semolina flour or cornmeal for dusting

  • Remove the pate fermentee from the refrigerator 1 hour before making the dough. Cut it into about 10 small pieces with a serrated knife. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let sit for 1 hour to take off the chill.
  • To make the dough, stir together the flour, salt, yeast, and pate fermentee. Add the water. Adjust the flour or water, according to need, so that the dough should be soft and pliable. Sprinkle flour on the counter, transfer the dough to the counter. Knead the dough as long as it takes to create a soft and flexible, tacky but not sticky, and all pre-ferment is evenly distributed.
  • Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
  • Ferment at room temperature for 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size. If the dough doubles in size before 2 hours have elapsed, knead it lightly and let it rise again, covered, until it doubles from the original size.
  • Gently remove the dough from the bowl and transfer it to a lightly floured counter, take care to degas the dough as little as possible. Divide the dough into 3 or more pieces. Shape the dough as you wish. I tried auvergnat (cap – left) and tabatiere (pouch – right) shapes, as seen on the photo above. Line two sheet pans with baking parchment and sprinkle with semolina flour or cornmeal and transfer the dough to the pans. Mist the dough with spray oil and loosely cover with plastic wrap.
  • Proof at room temperature for about 1 hour, or until the pieces are approximately 1 1/2 times their original size.
  • Preheat the oven to 500°F and make sure to have an empty steam pan in place.
  • Generously dust the sheet pan with semolina flour or cornmeal and very gently transfer the pieces to the pan. Pour 1 cup hot water into the steam pan and close the door. After 30 seconds, open the door, spray the side walls of the oven with water, and close the door. Repeat twice more at 30-second intervals. After the final spray, turn the oven setting down to 450°F and bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the pieces 180 degree, if necessary, for even baking and continue baking for 10 to 20 minutes longer if needed. The bread should sound hollow when thumped on the bottom.
  • Transfer the bread to a cooling rack. Allow the bread to cool at least 40 minutes before slicing or serving.

Source: The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart

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