- 3 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon active dry yeast (optional)
- 1 ¾ teaspoons salt
- ⅔ cup sourdough starter (see link to recipe below)
- 1 ½ cups water
- Coarse cornmeal, for dusting
1. Combine flour, yeast, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Whisk to combine.
2. Combine the sourdough starter and water in a large nonmetallic bowl or mixing cup and add to the flour mixture. Mix with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until you have a thoroughly mixed, wet, sticky mass of dough.
3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a lint-free cotton or linen tea towel (terry cloth will stick and leave lint on the dough) and let sit at room temperature for 12 to 18 hours.
4. After at least 12 hours have passed, your dough should be dotted with bubbles and more than doubled in size. Dust a clean work surface with bread flour and, using plastic dough scrapers or a rubber spatula, scrape the dough loose from the sides of the bowl and turn out onto the work surface in one piece. The dough will be loose and sticky. Dust the top lightly with flour and cover with plastic wrap or a clean lint-free cotton or linen tea towel. Let the dough rise for another 1 to 2 hours.
5. About 30 minutes before the second rise is complete, place a 3 ½ -quart cast-iron dutch oven (oval-shaped gives best results) on a rack positioned in middle of oven. Preheat oven to 450°F.
6. Once the oven has reached temperature, remove the pot using heavy-duty potholders. Sprinkle about ½ teaspoon of coarse cornmeal evenly over the bottom of the pot.
7. Uncover your dough and, using two plastic dough scrapers, shape the dough into a ball by folding it over onto itself a few times. With the scrapers, lift the dough carefully and let it fall into the preheated pot by slowly separating the scrapers. Dust the top of the dough with a little coarse cornmeal. Cover the pot and bake for 35 minutes.
8. After 35 minutes, remove lid from the pot, rotate, and continue baking for an additional 15 minutes, or until loaf is nicely browned.
9. Remove the pot from the oven. With a sturdy wood or metal spatula, nudge the loaf from the pot and transfer to a wire rack. Allow the bread to cool for at least 1 ½ hour before slicing. This cooling time completes the process and is marked by “singing,” the popping and crackling sounds bread makes shortly after being removed from the oven. If you cut open the bread prematurely, you’ll end up with a gummy loaf.
Excerpted from Bread by Mother Earth News: Our Favorite Recipes for Artisan Breads, Quick Breads, Buns, Rolls, Flatbreads, and More. Edited by Karen K. Will. Voyageur Press.