Making bread is so cool, because it’s ALIVE until you bake it. That means you can’t really make the same loaf twice, which I happen to think is a good thing. I make sourdough enough now that I want to share with you my current way of doing it. This recipe takes a lot of starter at 100% hydration, and I also hand knead my dough, which generally takes me about half an hour. I’ve tried using my kitchenaid, but it’s just not working for me yet. I can use the mixer to knead for a few minutes and then finish it off on the counter, but I’m usually making dough in the middle of the night and don’t want to wake anyone. Also, there was that one time I overmixed and over floured and ended up with a frankenloaf, but that’s a whole different story.
There are recipes out there that take way less starter, but I like this one. I always think I want to branch out and try new ways of doing things, but I really enjoy this bread so I haven’t yet. It also makes two loaves, and unless you freeze one of them the texture only stays optimal for a day or two. I end up giving the extra loaf away fairly often, which makes me the awesome friend, right?
Here we go.
16 ounces ripe sourdough starter. If you are lost, check out the kitchn’s tutorial for this here.
10 ounces water (I use cold brita pitcher water)
18.5+ ounces flour (make sure you have about an extra cup, more on this below. I use unbleached all purpose, usually gold medal or Pillsbury brand.)
1 tablespoon salt
Cast iron dutch oven(s)
Large mixing bowl
2 smaller mixing bowls
Mix starter and water in a large bowl. Stir with a wooden spoon to dissolve. Add the first 18.5 ounces of flour and the salt, and stir to make a shaggy dough.
If you need to leave this to sit for a few minutes just cover it with a towel, it will be alright.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured counter top. At this point, I keep a 1 cup measuring cup full-ish on the counter next to me, so I can add more flour as necessary while kneading. Before I start the kneading process I wash and dry the large mixing bowl, then film it with some oil so the bread can rise there later.
Start kneading the dough. It will start out crunchy and lumpy, this is normal. Add small pinches of flour to the dough if it becomes too sticky to work with. Be careful not to add too much flour, or it will stop sticking together. Depending on the flour I’m using and a whole bunch of other variables I don’t always understand I end up using anything between 1 pinch and the whole cup. This is something you really need to learn by doing, but it is definitely worth the trouble! It usually takes me about half an hour to knead the dough out completely, you want it to be smooth and mostly hold a ball shape in your hand. For me, the dough ALMOST passes the windowpane test, but I usually tire out before it is 100% “properly” kneaded. This goes much easier if you can turn on a podcast or some music.
Place dough in a rough ball shape in the oiled mixing bowl, turning a few times to coat the dough so it doesn’t dry out. Cover the bowl with a towel or plastic wrap. Leave in place until the dough doubles in size, about 1.5-2 hours depending on how vigorous your starter is, kitchen temperature, etc. etc.
After this rising period, turn the dough out onto the counter gently. Divide into two pieces, as evenly as you can. Shape each half into a boule. If you google, you can find tons of photo tutorials and youtube videos of the process, which I highly recommend if you’ve never made bread before. A properly shaped boule is much more reliable than a haphazard ball, I learned that one the hard way. Place each boule into an oiled smaller mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap (I tried to use a towel here once, but my dough dried out) and place in the fridge overnight.
In the morning, pull out the dough and put it on the counter. I leave mine in the bowl for this part. Put your cast iron dutch oven(s) in the cold oven, close the door and preheat to 450°f. I usually leave the dough on the counter for at least an hour before baking, and you want to make sure that your cast iron gets nice and hot. When you are ready to bake lightly flour the top of each dough loaf, then score with a lame or serrated knife (I use a serrated knife.) You can just do a few quick slashes or experiment with different patterns. The main objective is to make sure steam has a place to escape. If your loaves don’t look perfect, don’t stress. Just hope for the best. Oven spring, which happens before you take the lids off in the baking process, is an amazing thing. Definitely do not peek in the first 15 minutes of baking!
Pull out the dutch oven (I do this whole process one at a time so the iron doesn’t cool off too much, but I do have two dutch ovens. If you don’t- make sure you put the cast iron back in the oven to heat up for a bit between loaves) and sprinkle a little bit of cornmeal on the bottom. This isn’t strictly necessary, but it does help prevent sticking and burning of the bottom. Carefully plop one loaf in scored side up, cover, and return to the oven. Get both loaves in if you are doing two at a time. Set timer for 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes, turn temperature down to 400°f and remove lid from your dutch oven. Continue baking for about 25 minutes. I like to make sure my bread reaches an internal temperature of 205°f, but you can also tell it’s done by carefully tapping the bottom and listening for a hollow sound. Leave on a cooling rack to cool for at least one hour, if you cut into it before this the inside can turn gummy.
Hope you like it!