Preparation time: 3 days
Makes 2 loaves
75 g bread flour
75 ml water
1 tbs sourdough starter
Mix the ingredients in a bowl with a spoon, cover the bowl and leave it to mature overnight (at least 12 hours).
700 g bread flour
450 ml water
2 tsp salt
Add water to the bowl with the leaven and mix. Add the flour to a large bowl for kneading and pour the water/leaven mixture over the flour. Knead, cover with a clean cloth and leave it to rest for one hour.
This process is called autolyze. Enzymes that are naturally present in the flour, start to break down the starches into simple sugars which helps with gluten formation. This makes the dough more extensible, it also shortens the time of kneading and makes the bread more flavorful*.
Some people do the process of autolyzing without leaven, while some do it with the leaven. I use the latter.
After an hour, add salt and knead the salt into the dough. Cover the bowl with a cloth and leave it to rest for half an hour.
The next step is called slap and fold. Place the dough onto a clean surface. When baking sourdough bread, avoid adding extra flour. Grab the dough with both hands from the side, lift it and slap it against the surface while also slightly folding it. Moisten your hands with water if the dough sticks to them. Repeat the movements until the dough becomes smooth and compact and doesn't stick to the surface anymore. With the slap and fold technique, you let the air get into the dough, the good bacteria are evenly distributed, and gluten comes alive making the dough smooth and stretchy.
Place the dough back into the bowl, cover with a cloth and leave it to rest for half an hour.
Then start with the technique called stretch and fold. Grab the dough with your fingers at the edge of the bowl, pull it up and fold it over the rest of the dough. Repeat this until you get to the starting point. Leave the dough to rest for half an hour. Repeat this procedure three times in half-hour intervals.
After the last stretch and fold, cover the bowl with foil and leave it in a fridge for 24 hours. We call this procedure cold fermentation because, due to lower temperatures, bacteria reproduce more slowly, leading to the development of more complex flavors. The first fermentation is also called bulk fermentation.
The next day, you will see the dough has risen and developed bubbles. Place the dough onto a clear surface and split it in two. Make two loaves helping yourself with the slap and fold and stretch and fold techniques. Place them into a basket lined with a kitchen cloth and coated with flour.
Your loaves are now ready for the second and the last fermentation. Leave the baskets in a fridge for 24 hours.
The next day, preheat the oven to 250°C. Place a ceramic pot filled with water on the bottom of the oven. The water will slowly evaporate and thus moisten the air. Having a convectomat makes it even easier. It is advised against baking with ventilation. Place the flat baking tray into the oven while the oven heats up. If you don't have a completely flat tray, use the one with an edge, but turn it upside down. You can also bake the bread on a baking stone, only it will have to heat for a bit longer.
Bake the loaves separately. Place the first loaf onto the baking sheet just before putting it into the oven. Use a sharp knife or a razor to carve a pattern into the dough and then place the dough onto the baking tray using a dough scraper. Cover it with a ceramic pot large enough to cover the loaf without touching its edges (dutch oven).
Bake for 10 minutes at 250°C, then lower the temperature to 220°C, remove the ceramic pot and bake for another 45 minutes. When the loaf is baked, place it onto a wire rack to cool. Repeat the process with the second loaf.
*based on Dr. Raymond Calvel's research who first introduced the process of autolyzing in 1974