From Julie Van Rosendaal
This is a classic, chewy loaf you can tweak to make it work for you – experiment with whole grain flours, or roll the unbaked loaf in seeds, as they often do at Sidewalk Citizen Bakery. Because starters made with wild yeasts aren’t fast acting, they need more rising time, which also allows a more complex flavour to develop in the finished loaves. Baking them in a cast iron pot traps moisture, giving them a crisp, crackling crust.
5 c. unbleached all-purpose flour 1-1/2 c. lukewarm water
1 c. sourdough starter 2 t. salt
In a large bowl, combine sourdough starter and water, stirring to break up the starter. Add 3 cups of the flour and beat by hand for a minute. You are trying to get the consistency of thick pancake batter; you may need to add a little less flour or more water to achieve this. Cover with a tea towel and let rest on the countertop for 4 hours, then refrigerate overnight.
Add the remaining flour, 1/4 c. at a time, and the salt. Add only enough of the flour to keep the dough manageable while you knead. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. Cover with a tea towel and let rise for 2-6 hours, until doubled in bulk. Divide in half, then gently pull and fold each into a rough oval. Place each on a well-floured tea towel, cover with the sides of the towel and let rest for another couple of hours, until it has risen again – don’t worry if it starts to spread out too much, it will rise more in the oven.
About a half hour before you’re ready to start baking, put a heavy cast-iron pot (like Le Creuset) into the oven and preheat it to 450°F.
Turn one piece of dough into the hot pot, cut a slash in the top, cover and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for another 20 min- utes, or until deep golden and hollow sounding when tapped. Repeat with the remaining dough. (Or bake both at once, if you have two pots.)
Cool to warm before slicing.
Makes two loaves.