(Recipe yields 1 loaf)
1/4 cup bubbly, active sourdough starter
1 1/2 cups warm water
4 cups bread flour
1 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
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The evening before:
In a large bowl, whisk together the active starter and warm water. Note: active starter is starter that you have fed within 4-8 hours before prepping this dough. It must be nice and bubbly, at its peak level of activity. This usually means it’s about doubled in size since you fed it. Add both the flour and salt, using your hands to form a rough dough (pro tip: the dough will be sticky so wet your hands to help prevent it from sticking to them). Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and let it rest for an hour. In the meantime be sure to replenish your starter with flour and water before storing.
After the hour is up, work your dough into a ball for 15 seconds then cover with the damp cloth and let it rise at room temperature overnight (between 8-10 hours). This is referred to as the bulk rise. The dough should double in size and have a few bubbles on the surface by the morning.
In the morning:
Remove the dough from the bowl and onto a floured surface. Dimple it all over with floured fingertips then gently shape it into a round and let rest for 10 minutes. While it rests line a proofing basket or bowl with a towel and dust it with flour.
Begin to shape the dough: starting on one side (left or right), stretch the dough outward and fold it over toward the centre. Repeat on the opposite side. Stretch and fold the dough from the bottom to the centre, then repeat from the top to centre. Using a bench scraper, flip the dough over. With the seam side down begin to gently cup the dough with your hands and move it around in a circular motion to tighten its shape. Now carefully place it into your bowl, seam side up. (tip: search "how to shape sourdough boule" videos if you're having a hard time visualizing this step).
Second rise: Cover and refrigerate your dough for an hour to set its structure (you can chill the dough for longer than this).
Bake: Preheat your oven to 500°F (260°C). Optional: If using a dutch oven you can place it in the oven to preheat. This will help trap the steam while the dough bakes, creating a beautiful crust.
Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit your baking pot. Remove dough from the refrigerator, place the parchment on top of the bowl, and invert the bowl to release onto the paper. Dust the surface of dough with flour and rub with your hands to coat. Using the tip of a sharp knife or razor (or bread lame) score the dough surface with an X or design of your liking. Bread dough rapidly expands when it is first placed in the oven and scoring controls this expansion. Use the parchment to carefully transfer the dough round into your pot and cover with lid.
Bake, covered, for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 450°F, remove lid, and continue to bake for 30 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 1 hour before slicing.
Store your loaf in an air tight container or bread bag at room temperature for up to 3 days.