Today I made three perfect loaves of sourdough bread. They were not too wet and not too dry. They easily shaped into loaves. They rose a little extra in the oven. They were crunchy on the outside and soft in the inside and tasted perfect.
I have finally gotten the hang of making great loaves consistently, so I wanted to share my recipe:
Mix 1/2 cup of sourdough starter with 1 1/2 cups of warm water until the starter is dissolved. Add a tsp. of salt.
Now the trick here is adding the right amount of flour so that the dough is stiff and fairly dry. I start with 5 cups of freshly ground whole wheat flour or about 3 cups of flour that has settled. I mix it with a wooden spoon until it is stiff and then use my hands. If you can see that the dough will still be wet, add the extra flour early on in the mixing process, otherwise the bread will be heavy. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
Let the dough sit overnight. I usually mix my dough between 6-8pm and start the next step between 8-9am.
Dump the dough out onto a silicon mat or a clean counter-top. Spread the dough out flat, then fold it in thirds and then in half, and work it into a long loaf that would fit into a loaf pan. Cover with the plastic wrap and let it sit for 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees and transfer it to a bread pan.
After the oven has preheated for 30-60 minutes, place the pans into the oven (or directly onto a pizza stone) and cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 30 minutes, then turn the oven down to 425 degrees and uncover the bread and bake for 15 more minutes. Put the loaves of bread onto a cooling rack and either freeze when completely cooled or eat fresh.