It’s been a week, and you’ve got a sour-smelling starter bubbling away in your kitchen—time to make some bread.
For more authoritative recipes, take a look at Tartine’s Country Bread or the recipe at the Kitchn. Tartine Bakery in San Francisco is a renowned leader in breads and fermented goods. Their general cookbook, Bar Tartine: Techniques & Recipes is an invaluable source of information of fermentation, drying, and maintaining a living kitchen. So I’ve followed their recipe (giving some notes of my own), but it’s similar to many high-quality bread recipes.
This is a high-hydration bread, which means the ratio of water to flour is rathe high, or in other words, the dough is quite wet. This is necessary to achive that beautiful open-crumb structure that you see in artesional bread. The finished bread is nice and moist at first, and tastes quite sour.
Makes: Two loaves
Time: About 24 hours
- Dutch oven, stainless steel, or ceramic pot with lid.
- Proofing baskets or medium-sized bowls
- Dish towels
- Active sourdough starter
- 200g whole-wheat flour
- 1000g white bread flour
- Additional flour for dusting
- 20g sea salt
- Make the leaven* the night before. Combine 1 Tbsp. sourdough starter with 200g warm water, 100g whole-wheat flour and 100g white bread flour. Stir together and cover with a towel for 12 hours until the leaven has expanded and looks bubbly. Test the leaven by dropping a spoonful into some water; it should float (if it doesn’t, let rest a couple more hours).
- Make the dough: Combine 200g of leaven with 700g warm water and stir to incorporate (the remaining leaven can be kept as a new starter or mixed into an existing starter).
- Add 900g white bread flour and 100g whole-wheat flour and mix with your hands or a butter knife. The dough will be very sticky and ragged. Cover with a towel and let rest 25-40 minutes.
- Add 20g fine sea salt (seems like a lot, but remember it’s for two loaves; kosher works too) and 50g water. Stir again until dough comes together, it will look very wet, but keep stirring until you succeed.
- Cover the bowl with a towel and let rest for 30 minutes. Keep the dough in a warm place (yeast like to be comfortable!).
- Fold the dough by coating your hands in flour and reaching below the ball of dough. Imagine the dough has four sides, and pull each side (one at a time) up over the top of the center. Imagine folding a piece of paper in on itself from all four sides. Do this every 30 minutes for 2.5 hours. This is a very wet dough, but I found it necessary to add a sprinkle of flour each time I folded the dough to make it a little more manageable.
- Transfer dough to a work surface and dust with flour. Cut into two equal pieces and flip them over (flour-side down). Fold the cut edge of the dough in on itself so only the floured surface is exposed, work the dough into a loose round and cover with a towel for 30 minutes.
- Line two proofing baskets or bowels with towels and dust the towels with flour (Tartine uses rice flour, but it’s fine to use whatever is on hand).
- Flip your dough rounds over and fold all four sides in towards the center in a similar fashion to your earlier folding. Transfer dough to proofing containers, seam-side up. Cover with a towel for 3-4 hours.
- About 30-45 minutes before baking place a dutch oven or other oven-proof pot in the oven and heat it to 500 degrees F. If you have a pizza stone or baking steel, put that on the bottom rack to help regulate temperature and get the oven nice and hot.
- When ready, carefully remove your pot form the oven and prepare to transfer the dough into the baking dish. Dust dough (seam-side up) with a little more flour and flip it into the baking dish so the seam is facing down. Depending on how wet your dough is, this may be more of a pouring motion than a flip, but it will still turn out great. I assume with practice one gets a feel for it. Use a very sharp knife to quickly score the top of the dough a couple times to allow the dough to expand more easily. Carefully cover the dish with its lid and put the baking dish back in the oven. Reduce oven temperature to 450 and bake 20 minutes.
- Next, remove the lid and bake 20 more minutes until the crust is a rich golden brown.
- Remove the pot and transfer the bread to a wire rack (or similar surface) to let cool at least 15 minutes (though I’ve heard up to an hour to let the interior of the bread finish baking). The bottom of the loaf should sound hollow when you tap it.
- Clean out the pot and bake the second loaf.