Baking Sourdough With Your Starter
Last week, I introduced the sourdough starter process to you. If you began your starter then, you're about a week or so away from actually having leaven for your first loaf. If you already have active starter, you can jump right in! Or if you're interested in making bread with some of my starter (we call it the Emerson starter because I put it together the same week my daughter, Emerson, was born), get in touch and I can mail some your way.
900 grams all purpose or white bread flour (Trader Joe’s recommended)
100 grams whole wheat flour, plus more for dusting
20 grams fine sea salt
Some rice flour (under 100g) for dusting proofing baskets
~350 grams leaven
This recipe calls for ~350 grams of leaven, so ensure you’ve mixed enough starter about 12 hours beforehand.
Make the dough: In a large bowl, combine 360g grams of leaven (up to 400g) with 700 grams of warm water and stir to disperse. Stir thoroughly, enough that all sentiment in the bottom is dissolved.
Add 900 grams of white-bread flour and 100 grams of whole-wheat flour to bowl and use your hands or the Kitchenaid to mix until no traces of dry flour remain. The dough will be sticky and ragged. Cover bowl with a towel and let dough rest for 25 to 40 minutes at room temperature.
Add 20 grams fine sea salt and 50 grams warm water. Use hands or Kitchenaid to integrate salt and water into dough thoroughly. The dough will begin to pull apart, but continue mixing; it will come back together.
Cover dough with a towel and transfer to a warm environment, 75 to 80 degrees ideally (like near a window in a sunny room, or inside a turned-off oven). Let dough rise for 30 minutes. Fold dough by dipping hand in water, taking hold of the underside of the dough at one quadrant and stretching it up over the rest of the dough. Repeat this action 3 more times, rotating bowl a quarter turn for each fold. Do this every half-hour for 2 1/2 hours more (3 hours total). The dough should be billowy and increase in volume 20 to 30 percent. If not, continue to let rise and fold for up to an hour more.
Transfer dough to a work surface and dust top with flour. Use a dough scraper to cut dough into 2 equal pieces and flip them over so floured sides are face down. Fold the cut side of each piece up onto itself so the flour on the surface remains entirely on the outside of the loaf; this will become the crust. Work dough into taut rounds. Place the dough rounds on a work surface, cover with a towel, and let rest 30 minutes.
Line two 10- to 12-inch bread-proofing baskets or mixing bowls with towels. Use some of the rice flour mixture to generously flour towels inside the bowls.
Dust rounds with whole-wheat flour. Use a dough scraper to flip them over onto a work surface so floured sides are facing down. Take one round, and starting at the side closest to you, pull the bottom 2 corners of the dough down toward you, then fold them up into the middle third of the dough. Repeat this action on the right and left sides, pulling the edges out and folding them in over the center. Finally, lift the top corners up and fold down over previous folds. (Imagine folding a piece of paper in on itself from all 4 sides.) Roll dough over so the folded side becomes the bottom of the loaf. Shape into a smooth, taut ball. Repeat with other round.
Transfer rounds, seam-side up, to prepared baskets. Cover with a towel and return the dough to the 75- to 80-degree environment for 3 to 4 hours. (Or let dough rise for 10 to 12 hours in the refrigerator. Bring back to room temperature before baking.)
About 30 minutes before baking, place a Dutch oven or lidded cast-iron pot in the oven and heat it to 500 degrees. Dust tops of dough, still in their baskets, with rice-flour mixture.
If you have parchment paper, flip the dough from the proofing basket onto a sheet of parchment paper. Use a bread lame or sharp knife to score the top of the dough now.
Very carefully remove heated pot from the oven. If you put the loaf on parchment paper, lower the loaf on the paper into the pot. If not, gently turn 1 loaf into pan seam-side down. Use a lame (a baker’s blade) or razor blade to score the top of the bread a few times to allow for expansion.
Cover and transfer to oven. Reduce temperature to 450 degrees and cook for 20 minutes. Carefully remove lid (steam may release) and cook for 20 more minutes or until crust is a rich, golden brown color.
Transfer bread to a wire rack to cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing. If transporting or storing, try to keep it in a breathable place until it cools down completely, as humidity contained in airtight or low-flow bags will make the loaf soggy. The bottom of the loaf should sound hollow when tapped. Increase oven temperature to 500 degrees, clean out pot and repeat this process with the second loaf.
Once you cut into the bread, you can use a piece of tinfoil to cover the exposed bread without crust to keep it from going stale.
Modified from the NYTimes.