Preview: This Crusty Bread Machine Recipe starts life with a simple sponge mixture the night before. Complex yeasty flavors and a crusty exterior are your rewards for thinking ahead.
Are you looking for bread to dip into olive oil or sop up the tasty juices from your entree? Do you want rustic bread that won’t require you to knead by hand? What if it only has five ingredients?
This rustic bread recipe may be just what you need.
The texture is soft and absorbent for dipping. You can make it in a bread machine-no kneading by hand is necessary. No fancy ingredients or starter is needed. All you need is water, flour, yeast, and salt. A touch of sugar is optional.
This recipe utilizes a two-step process that slowly develops a delicious yeasty flavor while you sleep or work. First, make the sponge the night before, then assemble, shape, and bake it 8-16 hours later.
What is the result of this extra step? The pay-off is a better-tasting Tuscan-style loaf with a deliciously chewy texture and a close crumb. It takes a little more time but not much additional effort.
Please note: You won’t get big holes and spider web texture with this recipe. It’s not that kind of bread. If that’s what you’re after, check out my Ciabatta Bread for a bread machine.
The recipe is for a bread machine, but you can also make it in a stand mixer or by hand. (See recipe notes.)
What makes this bread especially tasty?
This crusty bread starts life as a “sponge,” also referred to as a biga.
A “sponge” sounds kinda gross, but this mixture does look like a sponge after it rests for several hours. Don’t you think?
After the sponge has developed for 6-8 hours (or overnight), add the remainder of the flour, water, and salt to make the dough.
Ingredients and substitutions:
- ALL-PURPOSE, UNBLEACHED FLOUR: You can substitute all-purpose unbleached flour or bread flour. Weights will remain the same.
- YEAST: I prefer instant, bread machine, or rapid-rise yeast. They’re interchangeable.
- WATER: Spring water is my first choice. If you don’t have it, tap water is fine.
- SUGAR: Although this is optional, I always add granulated sugar. The crust is prettier.
- SALT: Use table or sea salt. If you want to use Kosher salt, add 1/4 teaspoon extra.
FAQ about this Crusty Bread Machine Recipe for a bread maker:
I mix and knead the dough in a bread machine, then bake it in my conventional oven for a superior loaf. If you don’t have a machine, it can certainly be made by hand or with a stand mixer. I posted those directions in the notes of the recipe.
I don’t recommend it. The texture will not be nice and even (as you see in the picture below). The bread machine does not get hot enough to make a crusty, tender bread with a crust that tastes good.
Of course, you can’t make a round shape since all bread baked in a bread machine has to be the shape of the pan. Also, it would be difficult to slash the top. Furthermore, the top would likely be uneven when baked in a bread machine.
Because there are no preservatives added to this bread, it’s best to eat or freeze it within three days. Wrap the baked bread in two layers of protective wrapping to prevent freezer burn. Eat within a month.
I prefer to spray the surface I use for shaping the dough with water. Traditionally, people use flour. However, this dough (or any sticky dough) can absorb a lot of flour.
If you are a newbie, you can quickly add too much flour, which causes your bread to be dry and dense. Instead, try spritzing your hands and work surface with water. If your hands get dry, re-spritz or dip them into a bowl of water.
The crust will stay crispy until you put it into a plastic bag. Then, on the day you make it, you can try placing the cut side down on your cutting surface or board.
What’s left after the first day should be stored in a plastic bag or bread box. However, the crust tends to soften when you enclose the bread.
How to make the dough and form this Crusty Bread Recipe for a bread maker:
Make the sponge the night before the day you want to bake this bread. Add the water, flour, and yeast as specified in the recipe.
Mix for one minute on the DOUGH cycle. Turn the machine OFF. Use a small spatula to make sure all the flour gets mixed into the sponge mixture.
Try making this bread the next time you find yourself with several hours at home. Yes, it requires a little more time than most homemade bread. But it’s not so much hands-on time. The yeast needs time to do its thing.
Your patience with the process will be repaid with flavor and a crusty exterior.
More recipes and tips for your bread maker:
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Hope to see you again soon!
p.s. Questions or suggestions? Please email me: Paula at saladinajar.com.