I thought this might be a good thing to put up on our blog, so that I don’t have to explain it too often, and if I forget, I’ll be able to refer back. Much of this recipe and technique is taken from the Cheeseboard: Collective Works: Bread, Pastry, Cheese, Pizza Sourdough Master and City Bread recipes. I’ve tweaked their proportions a bit, and I’ll let you know where.
If you have a Sourdough Starter, feed it one night before baking day and let it sit overnight at room temperature. If you don’t, please refer to “How to make a Sourdough Starter.”
In the morning, put 1 1/4 cups of cool water into a large mixing bowl.
Add to that 4 cups of all-purpose or bread flour:
Using either your hands or a wooden spoon, mix them until it has all been combined.
After it’s all combined, let it rest for 10 minutes. While it’s resting, go and measure out your starter.
This is what my starter looked like in the morning. Note the bubbles on the top that tell you that the starter is “awake”.
If you have a kitchen scale, put a small bowl or measuring cup on your scale and tare it.
Measure out 8 ounces of starter. Depending on the hydration of your starter (how “watery” it is), the volume that 8 ounces occupies will vary. It’s about 1 cup. If you don’t have a scale, 1 cup of starter will do fine.
Measure out 1 tbs salt. (CB recipe calls for 1 tbs + 1 tsp, or 4 tsp)
Add salt to flour mixture.
For this next part, you may want to have a damp towel near by (it gets a bit messy). Using your hands, mix the flour mixture with the salt and the starter. do this by “folding” the liquid into the flour. At this point you’re not only adding moisture to the flour, but you’re also beginning to stretch out the gluten in the flour. After about 5-8 minutes of folding, the mixture will begin to form up and have more of a dough-y consistency. At this point, you can begin to knead the dough. When it is more solid and less liquid, transfer it to a lightly floured surface:
Knead the dough by stretching it out, folding it over, and turning it a 1/4 turn. If you want to watch a video on kneading, click here. Keep kneading it until the dough looks smooth, adding flour (1 tbs at a time) if it sticks to the kneading surface. If it gets too tough to work with, cover it with saran wrap or a damp towel and let it rest for a few minutes:
To test if the dough is ready for rising, you need to do a “windowpane test”. This tests the elasticity of the dough. To do this test, pull out a chunk of the dough that is about the size of a walnut.
Take that piece and stretch it out as much as you can, taking each edge and pulling it out (like you would a pizza dough) until you can see light through it when you hold it up to sunlight or to a light bulb:
**NOTE: if you are using a stand mixer: Combine the flour and water and mix until combined. Add the starter and the salt and mix on medium high until the dough passes the window pane test.
Knead the dough a little more until you get a nice, smooth, round dough:
Lightly oil the bowl that you used before (using olive oil or baker’s spray), place your dough ball in the bowl, cover tightly and place in a warm place.
After the dough has roughly doubled in size, take it out of the bowl and transfer it to a lightly floured surface. Shape the dough ball into a round, or a “boule”:
Transfer it to a baking sheet or a floured peel, and let it rest, covered by a damp towel, for about another 30 minutes to 1 hour, or until it has risen again by 1.5x. Preheat oven to 450°.
Just before you put the bread in, place a baking pan or roasting tray in the bottom of your preheated oven and pour about 1 1/2 cups of cold water into the tray (it will be steamy, so be careful). Take a sharp knife and score the top of your loaf 2 or 3 times (if you feel creative, you can make a pattern). Gently and quickly slide the loaf from the peel onto a baking stone if you have one. If you don’t, place the entire baking sheet into the oven.
Bake the bread for about 45 minutes (replacing the water after about 10) , or until a thermometer reads the internal temperature at 195°.
Take the bread out of the oven and place it on a cooling rack. If you can stand to wait, let the bread cool for about 45 minutes to 2 hours before cutting.