Country Bread

by Shayla Ebsen

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I’ve spent the past few weeks perfecting this recipe and, let me tell ya, this country bread is a winner, winner, only bread for dinner type of loaf. Whole wheat flour and cornmeal create delicious texture while a lightly crusty exterior offers a bit of crunch. This is the perfect sandwich bread and also works well for breakfast when topped with a poached egg.

One of the biggest fears that people often cite when it comes to preparing homemade recipes is making bread from scratch. I felt the same way while preparing my very first few loaves. However, I quickly learned that bread-making really isn’t complicated at all. Seriously, of the countless complexities that life brings, bread making is pretty minor on the list. Just pay attention to the recipe details, be ‘at one with the dough’ so to speak and you’ll be fine. If your first loaf is a failure, assess what may have gone wrong and try, try again. With that mindset, you’ll be a bread-making pro in no time at all.

Finally, set aside the notion that homemade bread is too time-consuming. It really isn’t. Rather, each individual step in this recipe requires minimal effort. The dough rising time is the most time consuming part of bread-making but the loaf can rise to perfection while you go about the day’s tasks.

Alright, enough of my advocacy for homemade bread. On to the fun part…

Makes 1 large round loaf

Ingredients

Sponge:

  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup warm water

Final Bread:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour

Preparation

Sponge:

  • Combine the yeast, sugar, flour and water in a large mixing bowl. Stir swiftly for one minute until smooth. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rest for at least 4 hours.

Final Bread:

  1. After resting, the sponge will have risen and should be bubbly. Transfer the sponge to the bowl of a stand mixer and add the additional 1 cup water, cornmeal, salt and one cup of the all-purpose flour. Attach the paddle attachment and mix on medium for 2 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to low and slowly add the remaining all-purpose flour. When the dough comes together, replace the paddle attachment for the dough hook.
  2. Increase mixer speed to medium and slowly add the whole wheat flour a little at a time. You may not require all of the whole wheat flour so be sure to watch the dough carefully and allow the flour to fully mix into the dough after each addition. The dough should clear the sides of the mixer bowl while sticking to the bottom of the bowl.
  3. After adding the necessary amount of whole wheat flour, continuing mixing with the dough hook for 5 minutes.
  4. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead a few times by hand. Shape the dough into a ball and transfer to a lightly greased mixing bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 1 1/2 hours.
  5. After the dough is risen, transfer to a lightly floured surface and reshape into a ball. Transfer the dough ball onto a baking stone or an inverted baking sheet covered with parchment paper and sprinkled with corn meal. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and allow to rise for 30 minutes.
  6. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F during the final 10 minutes of rising time.
  7. Using a sharp knife, cut two diagonal lines in the top of the loaf to create an ‘x’, each cut should be about 1/8-inch deep. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown and hollow-sounding when tapped.
  8. Remove the bread from the oven and allow to cool completely before slicing.

Looking for desserts made with natural sweeteners? Check out my e-cookbook, It’s a Sweet Life. 31 recipes made with sucanat, stevia, coconut sugar and others that can be downloaded to e-readers such as the Kindle or iPad or directly to your computer if you don’t own an e-reader.

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