I found a recipe for Ciabatta on the Internet, and this one had a biga (or sponge ) that used a long fermentation time. There were also some hints on how one can handle very wet dough. The hydration of the bread worked out to be between 85% to 89%.  I’ve always had difficulties handling such wet dough, but the method looked promising! After baking a successful ciabatta, I wondered if the recipe would work with baking a Rustic white boule! I gave this a try and here are the results! A artisan, rustic bread boule! 

The two loaves cooling on a metal rack

One of the loaves sliced to show the open crumb.

For the Sponge or Biga.
1 cup of water
1/4 tsp dried yeast
200g bread flour

Leave at room temperature, 20 hours.

For the dough after 20 hours of biga fermentation
All of the Biga.
1 cup water
350g bread flour
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp olive oil to oil the bowl.
Rice flour for dusting bannetons.

The wet dough after 20 hours of fermentation at room temperature.

Preparing the floured work space and flouring the bannetons with rice flour.

Resting the dough a few minutes after shaping them before transfering them into the bannetons.

Make the Biga a day before you want the bread. Use a medium size bowl. Stir the yeast into the water and add in the flour. Mix till you get a smooth batter-like consistency. Cover with a plastic wrap and leave this at room temperature for about 20 hours.

After 20 hours on the next day, add in a cup of water to the biga and use a spatula to gently separate it from the sides of the bowl, till the biga floats in the water. Pour this into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.
Add in the rest of the ingredients, the flour and salt, leaving out the olive oil.

Beat on speed 1 for 1 minute, then increase to speed 2 for another minute , and then increase the speed up one more notch and beat till the dough starts to come off the sides of the bowl. Takes about 4 minutes.

Place the olive oil in a large bowl and coat the sides with the oil. Transfer the dough with a scraper into this oiled bowl, and cover this with a plastic wrap for 45 minutes.

Using a well-oiled scraper, gently fold the dough over onto itself and then cover again for 45 minutes. Repeat this step the third time and let the dough rise for the final 45 minutes. Meanwhile, dust your bannetons generously with the rice flour.

Transfer the dough on to a very well floured work surface, being very gentle with the dough, letting it slide out onto the work surface. Dust the surface of the dough, and using a well floured metal scraper, cut the dough into equal halves.

With very well floured hands, gently fold and shape the dough halves each into a boule. Then transfer these into bannetons that have been well dusted with rice flour. Let the dough proof for a further 20 to 25 minutes.

Meanwhile fire up the Dutch ovens in your oven to a temperature of 235˚C.
Cut parchment paper so that you can transfer the dough from the banneton and trim the end of the parchment to allow you to lift the dough and gently lower this into the hot Dutch ovens. Before transfer the dough into the dutch oven spray them lightly with water. Bake for 25 minutes and then remove the dutch oven lids to brown the loaves for another 10 to 12 minutes.

I prefer to remove the loaves and continue to bake and brown them on my baking stone inside the hot oven. Transfer the loaves onto a metal rack to cool.

Proofing in the bannetons for about 20 minutes. During this time, the dough will not rise much, but it will when it’s placed in the hot oven and the gasses inside the dough expands.

To transfer the dough into the Dutch Oven, a parchment paper is cut to shape and placed over the top of the dough while in the banneton. Using a flat tray or pizza peel, flip the banneton over to place the dough on the parchment.

The dough transferred into the very hot Dutch oven, by lifting the dough by the ends of the parchment and gently lowering the dough into the oven. Just mind you fingers do not touch the sides of the oven!

This is how the dough looks like after baking at 235˚C for 20  to 25 minutes. The risen loaf is pale in colour. Continue baking with the Dutch Oven lid off for 10 to 12 minutes, or take the loaf out and place it on a hot baking stone.

The two loaves browning on my hot baking stone. Before the end of the browning process, I open the oven door a little to allow the hot steamy air to come out in order to dry the crust of the loaves to crisp. It takes about 4-5 minutes. Then remove the loaves and cool them on a metal rack.

“Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.”
James Beard