Sour Dough Starter Day 1
Sour Dough Starter Day 2
Sour Dough Starter Day 3,4,5,6
Sour Dough Starter Day 7
Maintaining Sour Dough Starter
Now that your starter is ready it is time to actually bake a loaf of bread.
There are two things I must emphasize before we get started.
1) Sour dough bread takes a bit of time. Do not bake on a day when you are out running errands. Plan baking on a day when you are home. There are a few rise times involved so baking this bread is great for days when I am home cleaning or doing laundry.
2) This is an artisan bread. If you want to bake a plain loaf then you can certainly bake this like you would any other dough, but it truly is best when you bake it artisan style. For this you will need a hearth-like oven. You can accomplish this by baking on a stone if possible and adding steam. Placing an empty cast iron skillet on the very bottom rack of your oven will work. You will add some water to that skillet just as you start baking the bread and the steam will create an authentic artisan loaf.
Let's get started!
Sour Dough Bread or Pain au Levain
5 C all purpose flour
3/4 C whole wheat flour
1 3/4 C water
2 1/2 C starter
2 1/2 tsp salt
Combine the flours in a bowl. The whole wheat flour gives the starter a little extra nutrition!
In another bowl combine the starter and the water. Add the flours and mix until combined but not smooth.
Cover with plastic wrap loosely and let rest 20 minutes.
Add salt to the dough and knead until it's smooth. Try not to add flour, you want the dough to be slightly sticky. Adding too much flour will ruin the texture of your bread.
Cover loosely with plastic and let rest 1 hour.
Gently turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface.
Gently flatten the ball of dough out with your fingers. Be gentle so that you do not push all of the air pockets from the dough.
Now that you have a flatter piece of dough, you want to fold it up. Fold one side over, then the opposite side. Repeat with other two sides until you have folded your dough. Be gentle:-)
Your dough should look something like this. Now return it to the bowl, keeping the seam side down. Allow to rest and rise for an hour. Cover loosely with plastic wrap.
Now it's time to take the dough and form a ball. Gently turn the dough out and fold the sides under until it's a ball shape. Be gentle and do not stress too much about the shape:-)
Now the dough needs a final rise. You can allow it to rise on a lightly floured surface or you can place it in a bowl to rise. The advantage to a bowl is that it will keep a more rounded shape. I use a brotform bowl, which is a bowl made up of bamboo. Before I had the brotform I would line a bowl or basket with a floured tea towel.
Which ever method you use, you will need to flour the surface. Now the dough will rest for 2 hours. It's time also to prep your oven . Place a cast iron skillet on the bottom rack so that you can place water in it later. Preheat oven to 450.
Turn your dough out onto a piece of parchment paper. You will need to place two slits across the top of the dough. Be quick and decisive and try not to smoosh the dough. These slits will allow the dough to rise and expand while baking.
Allow bread to bake about 50 minutes. This is a large loaf and will turn a nice rich color when finished.