So hello there sour dough crazies. This email may be longer than you or I really want, but so much information is about to be laid on you to make the perfect loaf.
Is your starter out of the fridge? Are you now feeding it daily. Forget about amounts, just feed the bastard, I'm shaking in about 1/4 cup of all purpose flour and a good splash of water and mixing. I'm not pouring any out because I want the mixture to get real sour.
You need to start to get the feel for what your looking for and what the dough should look like, its a texture thing, its a wetness thing, its a thing. But, in the following recipe I will give you exactly what I did and how much, yeah for you.
When your ready to make bread, START IN THE EARLY MORNING, or you will have bread at 9pm like I did. This process takes time, if started early like around 7am, you may have bread for dinner.
Does your starter float? Remember the last email, drizzle some starter on top of cold water, if floating, it has lots of fermentation and is ready to be used, if sinking totally, put it in a 100% oven for a bit and check again.
I use a Kitchen aid mixer to mix my dough:
Take 1 1/4 cup starter put in the mixer bowl
add 1/4 cup warm water
add 1 cup BETTER FOR BREAD FLOUR (what, not all purpose flour? Better for bread flour has more gluten in it, look it up, using better for bread flour here will hold the dough stiffer and does magical stuff)
Mix until it looks like the attached picture, yep, it cleans the sides of the bowl.
ok, now turn the mixer off and let the dough sit there for 1 hour, it was suppose to be 45 minutes but I went to my hot tub and lost track of time, so 1 hour it is. (pssst, whats this doing, it is letting the moisture and flour and gluten do some stuff)
NOW, add 1 1/2 tsp iodized salt (blah blah on the sea salt, use my exact recipe now, you can mess with it next time) and beat it in a few minutes.
Hey, remember the email about salt, watch what happens when you beat the salt into the dough, it changes the consistency.
Scrape into a bowl and cover with a kitchen cloth then put into a preheated 100% oven, turn on the oven light and turn off the oven.
It is winter up here in the Sierras so this is crucial, if its summer where your at, leave it on the counter, or just put it in the damn oven like I said..sheesh..
and now clean up your mess, oh yeah, flour on the counter, flour on the floor, mixer covered with dough, now sink covered in dough, just do it before your wife or husband gets up, trust me on this
Every 1/2 hour, FOR FOUR HOURS, wet one hand and shove it down one side of the bowl and under the dough, pull the bottom up to the top, we are basically turning the dough and moving around a lot of things. Keep noticing the texture, it changes around the 2 hour mark and continues to change. Feel it , try to understand it. The dough around 3 hours feels lighter, WHAT. It is getting fluffy, turn it gently.
Even at the end of four hours, gently turn it one more time.
NOW, empty the dough out onto an UNFLOURED surface, crazy huh, oh no it is going to stick, ahhhhh just follow direction will you.
LIGHTLY flour the top of the dough then flip it over with a bakers spatula.
USING bakers spatula at a 45 % angle, jamb it into the sides of the dough, medium hardish, all around the dough to form your ball. What the heck are we doing here. Watch closely what is happening when you jamb the dough, the bakers spatula is pulling the top of the dough and shoving it to the bottom. The top is stretching to form a tight top and we are getting a round shape, jamb harder, jamb less hard, get the feel for this, it is invaluable in shaping our loafs from now on.
Let rest right there , covered for 30 minutes, have a drink, you deserve it now.
ok, this will make no sense, but were now going to fold a package. See, thats just crazy talk.
ok, try this first, take both your hands and pull down your bottom lip, im serious, this action is what were about to do to the dough, do it.
ok, did you feel what you did, now do that to the bottom edge of the dough ball closest to you. Pull it down and out a bit, not pull it up 3/4 way towards the top edge of the dough ball, push it down a little to secure. Now do the same for the right side, and fold it 3/4 ways over to the left side and push it down a little to secure, now do this with the left side, remember, stretch it out like your lip and then fold it over to the right side.
Now pull up and out the top and bring it all the way over past the bottom a little, maybe even rolling the dough towards you a little.
Whew, its done and who cares if you did it exactly the way its suppose to be done. This folding makes unicorns and fairies in your dough, I told you it was magical. Or, it creates layers, and stretching of gluten again, and movement of gas..
Using bakers spatula, jamb it at the dough using a 45 % angle again, all the way around forming your ball, pulling that top so it looks so pretty, dont over do it here, once the top is formed, your done. well almost. In 4 hours we need what will become a tall fluffy loaf, to slide off of this surface and onto a 500% hot pan. HMMMMM....I used rice flour all around my dough ball and shoved some under it and pushed my dough ball around to make sure it would slide like a hockey puck. Regular flour might work here also, or even corn meal or polenta(which is finer corn meal), but im uber cool and used rice flour, sprinkle some on top of the ball also.
COVER and let rise, right there, I went 4 hours again because my wife used the oven. You could probably put it in a 100% oven and rush the time if you want, but I did 4 hours on the bread board.
As it rose and spread, I GENTLY pushed it around with the bakers spatula to make sure it will slide.
get out that dutch oven, or heavy pot with heavy lid.
put dutch oven in oven and preheat to 500%
when it hits 500% take out the smaller part of the dutch oven (the lid), be really careful , use heavy gloves, watch your wrists and arms, this is hot stuff.
CAREFULLY slide your risen dough ball onto this hot lid, score the top of your dough ball with a razor or something really sharp, maybe a serated knife. Go slow and gentle, the ball will deflate a little, a lot if your a brute.
Now get the other part of the dutch oven out of the oven and close it over the dough ball...its really hot remember be careful..
put this into the oven and close the door, reduce the heat to 450% and bake for 20 minutes.
WOW, WHAT IS HAPPENING HERE: We have created the ultimate bakers oven. We have trapped in the moisture and hence steam from our dough ball, it is a perfect thing where bread is concerned.
After the 20 minutes, remove the top part of the dutch oven, the big part, and bake 20-25 more minutes, until deep darkish brown. Did you see that loaf, isnt it a beaut clark. (christmas vaction reference)
remove from oven and place loaf on a cooling rack.
shhhhhhh....listen closely to your bread as it cools, it is crackling.
cut into the beast when it is cool. It is crunchy on the outside, chewy and soft on the inside, look at those air bubbles that formed, you have made the perfect loaf...if you didnt.....try again and stop screwing up...
p.s. the next day the outside of the loaf will have softened, its really nice...and is really good on the second day also, and then it is all gone...
p.s.s. by the way, this recipe makes one perfect loaf. Im usually making 2-4 loaves because all the recipes say to use 3-4 cups of flour, the neighbors like it, but it wears me out.