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This is the starter sponge for a number of awesome breads that I make. They take 2-3 days from beginning to end, but are totally worth it.
- Whisk the yeast into the water. Allow to sit for about three minutes. Add the flour, mixing for another three minutes. Place in a nonreactive bowl and cover. Allow to sit in a draft-free spot until it rises and gets thick and sticky. This will take about eight hours.
- Use a spoon to stir the sponge down before measuring for use in a bread.
- Once risen, refrigerate for up to three days. Allow to come to room temperature before using. If it goes beyond three days, discard all but 1 cup of the sponge and make the recipe, adding the reserved sponge with the flour. Stir for two or three minutes before using.
- For all of the breads based upon this sponge, allow two days since the doughs require overnight refrigeration.
- For the best results, use as little of the kneading flour as possible.
- To allow yourself to slide the loaves into the oven, form them on a baking sheet without sides or on the bottom of one with sides that is turned upside-down.
- If you do not have a stone or tiles, bake directly on the baking sheet(s) upon which you formed the loaves (be sure to use either cornmeal or parchment between the dough and the sheet).
- All of the breads based upon the sponge can be frozen for up to two weeks. Don't freeze until the bread has cooled thoroughly - then wrap in foil and freeze. When ready to use, thaw them, still wrapped, at room temperature overnight. Then, unwrap and warm at 350 degrees for 5 or 10 minutes. Alternatively, you could warm the frozen and wrapped loaves at 300 for 35 to 40 minutes.