Make the sponge:
Put the water and yeast in the bread machine pan and let stand a few minutes. Add the flours. Set the machine on the dough program and let the kneading blade mix the ingredients into a batter-like glop, about 3 minutes, and then unplug the machine. (You can also mix the sponge in a bowl and then put it in the machine.) Let the sponge proof for 4 to 16 hours. It should look bubbly and smell yeasty.
Make the bread:
Add the 13 oz. flour, water, honey, salt, and yeast to the proofed sponge and reset the machine to the dough program. After the dough has been kneaded for 5 minutes check its texture; it should be soft and springy. (Be sure to keep your fingers out of the way of the blade.) If the dough is sticky, add more flour, 1 Tbs. at a time.
When the dough program has finished (the dough has risen once), remove the dough and put it in a greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours, or up to 12 hours in the refrigerator.
If the dough has been refrigerated, let it come to room temperature. Punch down the dough and shape it into a ball. Line a 10-inch-diameter basket or bowl with a floured dishtowel. Gently put the ball of dough inside, smoothest side down. Lightly oil the top of the dough and cover with a thin dishtowel. Let it rise again until the ball is puffy and almost doubled, which will take anywhere from 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 hours.
Heat oven to 450°F. Sprinkle a baking sheet with the cornmeal or semolina. Gently invert the ball of dough onto the baking sheet. If you like, slash the loaf with a razor blade and sprinkle it with some flour or bran flakes
Spray the oven with a few spritzes of water from a spray bottle and put the bread on the lowest rack in the oven. For the first 15 minutes of baking, spray the oven walls every few minutes. This seems tedious, but it will give the bread an incredible crust.
Reduce the heat to 425° and bake until well browned, about 30 to 35 minutes in total. The loaf should sound hollow when rapped on the bottom. Cool well on a rack before slicing.
nutrition information (per serving):
sat fat g
Photo: Martha Holmberg