This bread can be made over a period of two to five days depending on your schedule and how much flavor you want to develop. To bake this bread, you create a “wild yeast starter” by mixing a small amount of your mother starter (the one you have been keeping in the refrigerator) with yeast and water and let it sit sit for six or seven hours, until it grows to 1 1/2 its size. The final dough requires an overnight or longer retardation in the refrigerator to develop it’s great flavor. Go for it! Try making sourdough!
San Francisco Sourdough
A few words about the mother starter.. in this case, the mother starter is a 60% water to flour ratio (e.g. 6 oz water for every 10 oz of flour by weight). I wouldn’t go crazy over this (even though I do sometimes). If you maintain a 100% ratio starter, you can always adjust the the recipe to make up for this. While kneading the bread, just add a bit more flour to get to the consistency you want, or take some of the starter out and feed it at a 60% ratio to create your mother for this bread. It took me a while to realize that I could relax about this.
To bake this bread, I use the Lodge Combo Cooker. It helps the bread create its own steam, and you can place the lid on the bottom to make turning the dough into it and slashing it much easier. Just be careful, as it is very hot.
Wild Yeast Starter
57 g of fed and active 60% mother starter (see note above about percentages)
227 g unbleached bread flour
142 g room temperature water
The wild yeast starter
1 3/4 C lukewarm filtered water (95 degrees F or thereabouts)
567 g unbleached bread flour
18 g salt, preferably kosher
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast (for a more purist method, this bread can also be made without this additional yeast. Give the dough an additional 2 hour rest before refrigeration)
Make the Wild Yeast Starter
- Mix the mother starter, bread flour, and water with a spoon or the dough hook of a stand mixer for about 2 minutes, until all of the ingredients are incorporated.
- Place the starter in an oiled bowl or dough rising bucket and allow it to rise, about six hours, until it reaches 1 1/2 times the original size. If you are going to postpone making the bread dough, place the starter in the refrigerator for up to three days. If you are planning on making the dough the same day, let the dough rise an additional hour.
Make the Dough
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the starter and the water and stir with a spoon or dough whisk until fully incorporated. If your starter is cold, cut it into pieces first.
- Add the rest of the ingredients.
- With the dough hook, mix at the lowest speed for two minutes, then let the dough rest for five minutes.
- Mix on medium low for about five minutes, adding water or flour as needed to get a slightly sticky dough.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, form it into a ball and let it rest for 10 minutes, uncovered.
- Do one “stretch and fold,” taking the dough from each of the four “sides,” stretching it, and folding it over itself like an envelope.
- Flip the dough over, and let it rest, covered with plastic wrap, for 10 minutes.
- Do another stretch and fold, divide the dough into two pieces (or leave in one piece if you are doing a large loaf), form the dough pieces into balls, and cover and refrigerate in a lightly oiled container with enough room for the dough to double in size. Refrigerate over night and up to three days.
- Two hours before baking, remove the dough from the refrigerator and shape into a boule. You can place it seam side up in a floured brotform, or place it seam side down on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and allow it to rise for about two hours, until it grows to about 1 1/2 times it’s original size.
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F with a cast iron dutch oven placed on a rack on the lower third of the oven.
- Carefully remove the Dutch oven from the oven, and place the dough seam side down into the pan. Slash the dough, cover, and place the pan back in the oven.
- Bake for 20 minutes, uncover, and bake for 10 to 25 minutes more (possibly even more for a three pound loaf), until a deep rich color and the interior has reached 200 degrees F.
- Cool completely on a wire rack.