I cannot tell you how AMAZING this bread is. 3 loaves were gone in under a day and a half! It is crunchy on the outside, soft and moist on the inside and filled with all these lovely bubbly craters! I replaced the milk with water and just baked on a greased and floured baking sheet and it was still wonderful. I cannot rate this recipe highly enough. I served with olive tapenade and caprese salad for appetizers and it was wonderful. My fiance and family could not get enough of it! They beg for it EVERYDAY. Will certainly make again and again and again!
First, the sponge is amazing. Tastes just as good after only sitting for a few hours as it does after 24+. I made it once and left it for 24 hours in a cool place and that made nice fluffy bread without many air pockets. The second time i made the sponge I left it right next to a warm stove top and it rose very quickly and made these HUGE air pockets in my finished product. I only left this for 4 hours but the taste and texture were FANTASTIC and the sponge almost spilled over the rim of the bowl! It was a bit difficult to get out of the bowl because of its stickiness but that was to be expected. For those that thought the sponge needed water, it doesn't. It will look just like a clump of dough in the beginning but if you leave it you'll be pleasantly surprised with a bubbling, frothy, sticky sponge.
Secondly, I made this recipe cautiously because I expected it to be very difficult to handle, but it was not.