There are all kinds of myths and theories about starting a yeast culture: Put organic grapes into the flour and water, or purple cabbage. You can only develop a true sourdough in the Bay Area. So-and-so’s grandmother’s 400-year-old starter has amazing complexity and distinction. Nonsense. Sourdough is the world’s oldest leavened bread and it’s all more or less the same, with the variations depending on climate, amount of hydration, how often you feed the starter, and so on. The distinction of sourdough is the level of sour you bring to it. The French tend to make milder sourdoughs. Generally, the looser the starter, the less sour it will be. This boule is tangy but not super sour.
- Yield: 1 round loaf
- 3 cups +1½ tsp (424 g) All-purpose flour
- 0.12 tsp (0.5 g) Instant yeast
- 14.2 ounces (403 g) Liquid Levain
- ¾ cup (181 g) Water, at 75°F/23.8°C
- 2 tsp (12 g) Fine sea salt
To mix the Dough
- Spray a large bowl with nonstick spray. Place the flour and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook and give it a quick mix on the lowest setting to distribute the yeast evenly. Make a well in the center, add the levain and water, and pulse the mixer (to prevent the flour from flying out of the bowl) to begin incorporating the levain and water, then mix on low speed for 3 minutes. Sprinkle the salt over the top and mix on low speed for 1 minute to dissolve the salt. Continue to mix on low for 20 minutes. Fermentation
- The dough is now in the fermentation stage. Set a timer for 2 hours. Using a bowl scraper, release the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured board. Pat, stretch, and fold the dough and place in the prepared bowl. Cover and set aside. (This dough is not folded again during fermentation.) To Shape the Dough
- Line a large bowl, about 11 inches across at the top, with a linen cloth, trying to keep the folds as flat against the surface as possible. Flour the linen.
- Use the bowl scraper to release the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured board. Gently pat the dough into a round, removing any large bubbles and adding flour only as needed to keep the dough from sticking to the board. Trim the dough to a weight of 1 kilogram/2 pounds, 3.2 ounces. Let rest for 40 minutes.
- Shape the dough for a boule. Invert and place in the lined bowl. To Proof the Dough
- Set a sheet pan on the top of the bowl or cover with a plastic tub or a cardboard box and let proof for 3 hours, or until when the dough is delicately pressed with a finger, the impression remains. Meanwhile, set up your baking stone and kit and preheat the oven to 425°F (standard). To Bake the Bread
- Using the linen, move the dough to the oven peel, tail side down. Score with a square cut.
- Transfer the bread to the baking stone. Immediately spray water onto the steam generator (rocks and chain). Quickly shut the oven door and bake for 30 minutes, or until the bread feels lighter than you’d expect for its size and the internal temperature is 200° to 210°F/93.3° to 98.8°C.
- Let cool completely on a cooling rack.