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The day that you’d like to make your bread, feed your starter. I like to feed mine the morning before I plan to make my dough or at least a few hours before. Your starter will be ready to use when it is at its peak and before it starts to shrink back down in size.
To make your bread dough, measure out your active sourdough starter into a medium mixing bowl.
Add the water, and stir well with a fork to combine well.
Add the flour and salt, and use the fork to combine the mixture well. It will won’t look like like bread dough yet; just stir it well to combine and that’s good enough.
Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel, and let rest for 1 hour at room temperature.
After an hour, use your hands to gently pull the edge of the dough near the side of the bowl and push it down into the middle of the bowl. Do this, rotating round the bowl, until the dough starts to look like bread dough and comes together in more of a ball. This should take about a minute of going round the bowl 2 to 3 times pulling and tucking into the center.
Cover the bread dough with a damp kitchen towel and let it rise for 8 to 10 hours at room temperature. This is known as the bulk rise. I typically let mine rise overnight.
After the bulk rise, gently remove the flour from the bowl onto a lightly floured surface. Tuck the edges of the dough into the center and work around the edges until you’ve tucked them all in. Flip the ball dough over. Let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
Using your hands, gently pull the dough ball towards you, letting its grip on the counter pull it into a tighter ball. Rotate the dough slightly and repeat around the edges until you’ve formed a tight ball (if this is confusing, watch the video on the post where I demonstrate how to do this! It’s not hard once you see it done once).
Prepare a bread proofing basket by dusting it well with flour (if it’s new, you’ll need to season it by spraying it with a little water and then adding the flour so it sticks), or you can use a medium mixing bowl (about 8 inches across). To prepare the mixing bowl, you’ll want to coat it generously with cooking spray and then flour very well, or you can line it with a kitchen towel and dust it very well with flour.
Place your dough ball, smooth top down, into your prepare basket or bowl, and cover with a damp towel.
Let the dough rest for 1 to 2 hours, at room temperature, or until it’s spread out a bit and looks puffy.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Gently turn your bread dough out onto a piece of parchment paper (I like to put my parchment paper on top of a thin cutting board, put the paper and board on top of my bread basket, and turn it over gently).
Remove the dough from the bowl. Score the top with a lame, or sharp knife (serrated knife works, too).
Use the corners of the parchment paper to lift the dough into your dutch oven. Place the lid on the dutch oven.
Place the dutch oven in the hot oven and cook for 30 minutes.
Remove the lid and put the dutch oven back in the oven, uncovered, for another 20 to 30 minutes.
The bread will be very dark and sound hollow when tapped when it is done.
Remove the pan from the oven, and then remove the bread from the pan and let it cool on a wire rack for 1 hour before slicing and serving.
Sourdough bread is best eaten the day of, though leftovers make great toast or grilled sandwiches.