This bread has a really great flavour it has just the right balance of salt and a good crust, the flavour of this bread benefits from the fact it is made using a "sponge & dough", method which encourages a good ferment using just half the flour and all the liquid to create a batter, prior to adding the remaining flour and salt after the fermentation is well advanced. So, take note the flour is added in two separate parts and in total this bread will prove 3 times. Baked on a combination setting with steam in the oven this bread is well worth the effort, this bread has no fat in it, not that that means anything because you will want to spread lots of butter on this wonderful tasty and crisp bread. It is not quick to make and needs a few of hours, but it is simple and very practical. To achieve that familiar cylindrical French Stick shape, you need have French Bread tray which is a half round in shape and has small holes to give that familiar French Sticks shape, but we didn't have these trays on our vessel and as you see our French Sticks come out just fine on a flat tray. Our Night Baker discovered these French Sticks bake even better in the 1/1 gastronome steamer trays with small holes in, it helps to crisp the bottom too. Egg and milk wash are optional and we have had good results with both plain unwashed loaves and egg washed. I find just plain unwashed gives the best colour finish in my ovens, both egg wash and milk give a darker colour to the finished bread, so I would recommend baking the bread without milk or egg wash. If you don't have a Combination Steamer place a container of water in the bottom of your oven to create some steam.
Place 1400grams of your flour in a mixing machine bowl and add the yeast and sugar and just mix in well by hand to disperse the yeast and sugar evenly.
Place the bowl on the machine with a dough hook and add all the water and mix on medium speed scraping down the side of the bowl half way through the mixing. All we are doing at this stage is mixing to a creamy consistency. This creamy liquid is our sponge, we are going to leave this to prove in the bowl covered with cling film, to do this remove the bowl and hook from the machine.
Leave the mixing bowl in a warm area for the yeast to develop.
The time needed to develop your sponge ferment is all depends on the degree of heat in your galley, a cool well ventilated galley will cause the ferment to be slow, and a warm galley will accelerate the fermentation, but this process can take a couple of hours, so when you are first trying this recipe be patient as it may take some time to ferment.
When the sponge has fermented it will have doubled in size and look frothy with lots of bubble clearly evident, when it looks like this your sponge is ready.
Mix together the other 1500 grams of flour and the salt, then add this to the sponge return the mixing bowl to the machine with a dough hook fitted and knead the dough to a smooth elastic dough is achieved.
I find that this dough is on the sticky side and you really need to have a plastic scraper to hand otherwise it is hard to handle, the dough is also very soft.
Take a plastic bag and oil the inside so that the inside of the bag is fully greased then remove your dough from the mixing bowl and place the dough inside the bag, and tie a loose knot in the top of the bag. A plastic bag work perfectly for proving the dough if you don’t have a proving cabinet.
Place the dough in a warm place and allow to double in size, again this is depends on the temperature of the surrounding area.
While the dough is proving grease 6 shallow Gastronome trays.
When the dough has doubled in size in the bag remove the dough from the bag and divide into 12 equal pieces at approximately 430grams each and mould each piece into a long French stick shape, about 40cm long placing each stick onto the greased tray. Each of your stick will look quite thin, but when the bread is baking it will double in size.
Allow the bread stick to prove once more until almost double in size
While the bread sticks are proving for the final proof, set your combination oven on 100% steam setting. (If you don't have a combination oven place a tray of water in the bottom of your oven and set it to180°C
Milk wash (Optional) and place in the oven on 100% steam for 5 minutes, then without opening the oven change the setting to combination moist & dry setting and bake at 180°C for 25 minutes.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool on wire racks.