Italian Baguette


Sponge Ingredients:
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup lukewarm (non-chlorinated) water

Sponge Directions:
Combine the flour and yeast in a mixing bowl. Stir in the water. The mixture will be very thick. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 4-12 hours (or overnight not to exceed 12 hours).

Dough Ingredients:
¼ cup lukewarm water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

Baking Directions:
1. Add the water and salt to the sponge.
2. Stir in the flour, and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.
3. Place the dough in a greased bowl and loosely cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in size, about 1-1/2 hours.
4. Punch the dough down and divide in half. Shape into two rectangles. Roll one rectangle from the long side to form the baguette shape and pinch the seam together with your fingers. Roll over so the seam is down, and place on a greased cookie sheet. Repeat with the other rectangle.
5. Cover loosely with plastic wrap for 30 minutes.
6. Gently lift each loaf slightly and stretch slightly before replacing it on the baking sheet. Sprinkle the loaves lightly with flour. Cover again and let rise 20 minutes.
7. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
8. Using a serrated knife, cut three or four evenly spaced diagonal slashes about 1/4-inch deep across the top of each loaf.
9. Bake approximately 20 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool 15 minutes before cutting.

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