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hours before mixing your dough, feed your sourdough starter, leaving it out on the counter. (See notes for extra sour). OR, if you keep your starter in the fridge and fed it in the last 7 days- it is OK to use straight from jar, cold, without feeding. Best to use starter after it peaks, when it is “hungry”.
PLEASE use a kitchen scale if this is your first loaf. Weigh the flour in a medium bowl (***zeroing out the weight of the bowl). Then add salt, spices, seeds. Mix starter and water in a small bowl until cloudy and well mixed. Pour starter-water into flour incorporating all the flour using a fork or wood spoon. It should be a thick, shaggy, heavy, sticky dough. See video. Mix for about 1 minute using the wood spoon– it will be hard to mix, sticky, shaggy. Don’t worry about tidy dough here, just get the flour all mixed in and cover with a wet kitchen towel and let rest 15 minutes. It will loosen up as it rests. (Alternatively, mix starter and water in the bowl first, then add the salt and flour-like in my 3rd video- either way, works.)
(See the 1st video in post) With one wet hand (put a bowl of water next to you) pull the dough from one side and stretch it upward, then fold it up and over to the center of the dough. Turn the bowl and repeat, stretching and folding from the side, up over the middle, repeat for about 30 seconds or until the dough gets firm and resists. This helps strengthen the gluten. Cover, rest, and repeat the process 15 minutes later. Wet hand, stretch and fold, for 30 seconds until the dough gets firm. Then turn the dough over in the bowl. Yes, you could do this a couple more times if you would like to build the gluten, but not imperative. 🙂
Proof overnight, at room temp. Cover with plastic or wax wrap or a damp kitchen towel (to keep the moisture in) and place it on your kitchen counter for 8-12 hours. (see notes on temperature) 68-70F is the ideal temp. (If it is warmer, check at 6-8 hours. If it is cold, it may take up to 18 hours in winter.)
Check the dough in the morning. The dough should have flattened, expanded, with a slight springy dome to the top. It won’t necessarily double in size ( maybe 1.5 -1.75 times bigger) but will have expanded. Do the POKE TEST: With a floured finger, poke into the dough. If it indents easily, and mostly springs back to original shape, it has probably risen enough. If it feels firm or very hard to indent, let it rise longer. If it feels loose, runny, or indents too easily and doesn’t spring back, it is most likely over-proofed (bake it anyways).
This brand of parchment does not stick to the bread- but if you are unsure about yours, spray oil your parchment lightly before putting the dough in it. (If you are a seasoned bread baker, you do not actually need parchment -this is only for easier transport only, bread will not stick to the inside of a dutch oven.) I like using a high-sided medium-sized bowl versus a flat or shallow bowl to help shore up the sides. You can also use a rice-floured Banneton (bread proofing basket) if you have one.
(Watch 2nd video -Stretch and Shape video). Loosen the dough from the all edges of a bowl with using your wet fingers, a wet spatula or wet plastic dough scraper, sliding down the sides of the bowl. With both wet hands, carefully pull the dough straight up, in the middle and lift it, stretching straight up in the air- about 1-2 feet (see photo) and place it back down, gently folding it on top of itself. This first stretch, the dough may feel quite loose and runny. This is OK. It should firm up as it stretches and folds. (Note: If your dough breaks here, it is probably over-proofed, bake it anyways. If your dough won’t stretch like the photo and feels too tight or firm, it needs to proof longer). After the first stretch, give the bowl a quarter turn, wait 30-60 seconds, wet your hands again and stretch it up high again, folding over itself in the bowl. Wait 30-60 seconds. (You could repeat this one more time, 15 minutes later). Then, the third time you lift and stretch, you will lift it all the way into your parchment-lined bowl,folding over itself like you’ve been doing. (Alternatively, lift it into your floured proofing basket seam side up. ( If seam up, pinch the seam closed). Sprinkle top with seeds and flour (get the sides too) gently rubbing it to even coat –and add seeds if you like. If using a banneton, sprinkle the seeds in the banneton before adding the dough.
and PREHEAT OVEN: Place the bowl in the refrigerator for one hour uncovered which will firm up the bread, make scoring easier and help boost “oven spring”. It won’t rise in the fridge. (You could also keep it in the fridge for 3-4 hours if you want to bake later.) Preheat the oven (for 1 FULL hour) to 500F with your dutch oven inside and lid on (see notes). If you have convection- use it. You can also bake the bread at 45oF or 475F. You want your oven as hot as possible here– so don’t skimp on the preheat. I usually preheat for 1 full hour.
When ready to bake, place dough by the stove. Pull out the dutch oven, close the oven, remove lid. Score the bread in the bowl, using a very sharp knife, lame, or razor blade, score the dough swiftly and deeply, at a 45-degree angle, 3/4- 1-inch deep. One deep slash is just fine. Or criss-cross, or crescent shape. (Or feel free to add other designs, for ideas -google “scoring bread”). Oiling the knife helps as well as using a lame. You want to score where you want the dough to puff out from. You can also cut with kitchen scissors. Carefully lift the parchment by the corners and place both bread and parchment directly into the dutch oven. Cover quickly. It is OK if parchment peaks out. You want to score and transfer as quickly as possible. (Alternately, if using a proofing basket, cover the basket with parchment, carefully flip the dough into the parchment in the palm of your hand and then center the parchment and dough into your dutch oven, then score).
. Place in the middle of the oven for 20 mins with convection on, 25 minutes w/no convection (or 28 minutes at 450F). Remove lid and it should be puffed and just lightly golden. Lower heat to 450 F, Continue baking 10- 15 minutes until deeply golden and internal temp reaches 202- 208F. No pale loaves please, let them get golden! (For a less “crusty” loaf, increase covered baking time, lower uncovered baking time. You can play with this for desired results.)
It will smell heavenly. Remove from the dutch oven, let it cool 1 hour on a rack or tilted up on its side, before slicing so you don’t let the steam out and don’t smash it- be patient. This is the hardest part. 😉. Take a picture! Feel proud. You did it!
This type of bread is always BEST, served toasted! Then lather it with butter, ghee or olive oil. Add mashed avocado and salted tomatoes, almond butter, honey or jam. A piece of toast can turn into great meal. See this Mushroom Toast!
Store the bread wrapped in a kitchen towel for the first day or two to keep the crust nice and crispy, then move it to a zip lock bag to keep it moist for longer. Bread can also be sliced and frozen. Make sourdough croutons with leftover bread- great in salads and soups!