Wrote lots of this post on Good Friday and am finally finishing it now!
So I always bake on Fridays. So much Catholic theology is wrapped up in bread. It is always a great mystery to me how you get this amazing colony of life giving yeasts going in your dough and then throw it in the oven and kill them all, and yet it comes out of its little tomb, risen and turned into this amazing thing to eat. . .
Also it is nice to have lots of bread for the weekend. But on to baking instructions. .
Okay, before you begin I would advise that you either get starter from another friend or order it. I have never had success with starter I have made myself. I think this is mostly because I am a horribly impatient person and I have heard it can take almost a month to fully develop a bake worthy starter.
I am far to sanguine for such endeavors and have three friends who bake with sourdough so I just asked for some (incidentally once you develop this passion you automatically have to make sourdough friends so they can babysit your starter if you are gone longer than a few weeks, or even give you some if you accidentally kill yours by baking it all----I've done both).
The more people making sourdough the less chance there is you will be without. (Kelly I could even mail you some in a pinch or send it with Ryan next time he visits you if that is feasible.)
Right. . . Anyway on Thursday morning I take my sourdough out of the fridge. Keep it in a small mason jar. I put it in a glass bowl(pottery and wood are fine too, just no metal bowls please. ). Then I add one cup white flour One cup water.
You want it to air on the very wet side. This is not a firm dough, just a sort of extra boost to your starter. stir. And let sit eight to twelve hours. ( this is flexible and can often vary in readiness according to the time of year and also your schedule. )
Now you have a sponge! When it is ready it will be sorta bubbly and puffy. If it smells alcoholic it has sat too long, It will probably still be okay and if there is a little watery stuff, you can mix this stuff back in or throw it out, your choice.
Once you get used to sourdough, you can tell the right smell. (Think about wine and vinegar. Both are fermented, but one is a little too acidic.)
Okay then BEFORE you mix your bread dough, put about 1/3 cup of starter back in your jar and feed it about 1/3 cup water and flour, stir and put the cap on and put it back in the fridge for next time.
then add about one cup or so of your sponge with six to seven cups of flour three cups of water and about two and a half teaspoons of salt.
If it is way too soggy add more flour. if stiff and dry moisten with water. it should be lumpy and air o the softer side.
Put in a bowl and let rise overnight or about eight to fifteen hours. This is very flexible. if you like a really sour sourdough let it go on the longer side.
When it is done rising gently deflate dough and form into two round balls on tea towels dusted generously with flour and dust the loaf on top. be careful not to handle it too much at this stage. Put the loaf seam side up because you will be flipping it out of this towel into your pan later. Cover and let rise for one to two hours.
While rising preheat oven to 475 and place a cast iron Dutch oven in the oven. Let the pot heat up for at least half an hour and then take it out of the oven and carefully turn your loaf into the pan from the tea towel so that it is ow seam side down. Place lid on pot and put it back in the oven. Let it bake for 25-35 minutes for a medium size loaf. CHeck it and make sure it is nice and brown.
take out of oven and out of pot and let sit for 20 minutes before slicing into it.