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In Search Of The Perfect Rustic Loaf

in quick and easy whole grain dairy free gluten free overnight guaranteed classic


In Search Of The Perfect Rustic Loaf  Recipe

We've all had it at least once. It has a crisp crust, a chewy interior, large, irregular holes and a slight tang. When toasted, it soaks up butter like nobody's business. In short, it's leavened perfection.

French bakers Lionel and Max Poilane have mastered this bread. The rustic bread has become upper crust, but its roots are peasant. Its many names reflect this: rustic bread, farm bread, country bread, pain de campagne and hearty country loaf. Although it requires time, this bread thrives on long periods of "neglect", making it ideal for busy farm (and city) kitchens.

But can this bread be made in the bread machine? We weren't sure until good friend and freelance food writer Marcy Goldman, sent us a recipe she'd developed for her bread machine. After following her formula and tasting her delicious rustic loaf, we concluded that this bread can indeed be made with the help of a bread machine.

Watching friend and local restaurateur Rebecca Cunningham turn out her near-perfect, Poilane-inspired loaves by hand made us even more eager to take up the challenge of making a bread machine version. So, with thanks to Marcy, and after experimenting with different proportions of liquid to flour, as well as alternate rising and baking methods (which you'll find detailed in the notes at the end), here's a loaf the Poilane family would be proud of.

At a glance

1 large loaf, about 24 hearty servings
Nutrition information


Choose your measure:

The Sponge (begin the night before)

The Dough


  1. To make the sponge: Place all of the sponge ingredients in the bucket of your bread machine. Program the machine for dough or manual, press start, and let the machine run until everything is thoroughly combined. Close the lid, cancel the machine, and let the sponge rest at room temperature overnight, or for 8 to 12 hours.
  2. The next day, add all of the dough ingredients to the sponge in the bucket. Program your machine for dough or manual, and press start. As the dough begins to mix it should form first a soft mass, then eventually a ball that's soft, but not overly sticky. Adjust with additional flour or water as necessary.
  3. When the cycle is complete, remove the dough from the machine. Cover it and let it rest for 30 minutes. If you want to leave the dough all day, place it in a lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl, and refrigerate it.
  4. When you're ready to work with it, deflate the dough gently and form it into a round ball, Place the ball, seam side-down, on a cornmeal-dusted baking sheet.
  5. Cover the dough lightly. Let it rise a second time until it's puffy and about 30% to 40% larger, about 1 hour (or longer, if the dough has been refrigerated). Don't let it rise too much, since it rises some more in the oven and, if it's over-proofed initially, it'll collapse as it bakes.
  6. Preheat the oven to 475°F. Make several 1/4" to 1/2" slashes or crosshatches in top of the loaf. Using a clean plant mister, spritz the loaf with water. Spray some water into the oven, and place the bread on the lowest rack.
  7. Spritz the oven walls every few minutes for the first 15 minutes of baking. Lower the heat to 425°F (this reduction in heat mimics the "falling oven" used by brick-oven bakers, and will give your bread an incredible crust), and continue to bake until well-browned, about 35 minutes. The interior temperature of the bread should register at least 190°F on a digital thermometer.
  8. Remove the bread from the oven, and cool it on a rack before slicing. Store, cut side down, on a counter (do not cover). Yes, this really works; your bread will remain fresh but not soggy for several days. (See "tips," below).

Nutrition Information

  • Serving Size 1 slice (47g)
  • Servings Per Batch 24
Amount Per Serving:
  • Calories 87
  • Calories from Fat
  • Total Fat .2g
  • Saturated Fat
  • Trans Fat
  • Cholesterol
  • Sodium 267mg
  • Total Carbohydrate 18g
  • Dietary Fiber 1g
  • Sugars 1g
  • Protein 3g

* The nutrition information provided for this recipe is determined by the ESHA Genesis R&D software program. Substituting any ingredients may change the posted nutrition information.