Produces one 1Â½ pound loaf
1 cup fully active sourdough culture
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
1 cup water
1Â½ teaspoons salt
1. In a large bowl briefly combine sourdough culture, flour, water and salt. The consistency should be very firm and shaggy. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and proof 12-18 hours at about 70Â° F. At 70-75 degrees the bread leavens well and has the distinct sourness and flavor of sourdough. At more than 75 degrees the dough becomes too acidic which inhibits the wild yeast and leavens poorly. At much less than 70 degrees the dough leavens well but has a mild flavor.
2. After the 12-18 hour fermentation this is very sticky dough. Use a plastic spatula to ease it away from the edges of the bowl onto a lightly floured board. Sprinkle the surface with additional flour and let the dough rest 15 minutes or so.
3. With minimal handling and additional flour (not more than Â¼ cup) form a ball which is placed directly in the baking container to rise (or placed between cotton cloths as described by Lahey) and proofed until ready to bake, double in bulk (about 4 hours). The baking container can be almost any small covered pot (avoid willow baskets since the sticky dough is difficult to remove).
4. Bake the dough in an oven and container both preheated to 450Â° for approximately 1 hour. To obtain better oven spring place the risen dough in its container in a cool oven, set the oven at 450Â°, turn it on and bake for approximately 1 hour and 10 minutes.
I placed my dough into a cold Dutch oven and put it into a cold oven at 450* for about 1 hour.