- Autolyze the flour (pre-soak flour and water for one hour. Add the water to the dough and mix into a shaggy dough).
- After the pre-soak, add the salt to the dough and mix just enough to combine it. Add the starter and mix thoroughly to combine into a smooth bread dough. Mixing the sourdough into the pre-soaked flour is the challenging part of the process. It can be done by hand or mixer. By hand, pinch and turn the dough. Using a mixer may necessitate stopping the mixer and stirring the pre-soaked dough and starter together. This may need to be done a few times while continuing to mix.
- When mixed into a smooth bread dough, place the dough in a large mixing bowl and cover for a several-hour bulk ferment. This will depend on the temperature of the room. If it is 70 degrees or more, it will grow to double in size in a few hours. If it is less than 70 F, it will take longer. Keep an eye on it.
- Once it about doubles in size, stretch and fold by grabbing the dough and pulling it up and toward the center for four stretches at 90 degrees each – top, left,bottom, right.
- Cover and repeat the stretch and folds in twenty minutes (the dough needs this much time to relax between stretch and folds). The number is up to you. Anywhere from 2-5 is common. The dough will get stronger with each.
- Divide into two equal portions and place in bannetons (seam side up) or bread pans(seam side down). Cover with a plastic bag and place in refrigerator for 12 hours. Leave air in the bag to allow room for rising.
- Heat oven and Dutch oven (if using) to 425-450 F for at least 30 minutes.
- Place dough in heated dutch oven, slash with a razor blade or lame, cover and bake 30-35 minutes. For a darker crust, remove the cover after 20 minutes.
- If baking in a bread pan, place the dough-filled bread pan in the oven, reduce the heat to 350 F and bake about 40 minutes. (If the top is getting too brown, cover with a foil tent).
- At the end of bake time for either method check the inside temperature of the bread with a stick thermometer. It should read 195-205 F when done.
- For pan bread, remove the bread from the pan immediately and let cool on a rack to allow air to circulate under the bread.
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