The most classic yet artful of loaves; the sourdough stands out among all others because of its flexibility, diversity and soul. A sourdough is any loaf that uses a diverse and terroir driven range of cultivated bacteria centered around the omnipresent lactobacillus. The shape, size and end product can truly be anything from focaccia to challah and beyond.

The general term, however, tends to refer to a round or oblong loaf that has a crunchy and rustic crust with a fluffy, airy and slightly sour center. The most famous among home bakers over the past decade or so is the sourdough from the California bakery Tartine, popularized by New York Times food writer Mark Bittman in 2007. Although his article drew fame to the no-knead method, I still prefer the knead method and have had great success after slowly developing the recipe and methods outlined below. This loaf is 70/30 bread flour to whole wheat and with a nicely developed starter, it has a solid sour and rustic flavor. The crust develops nicely and caramelizes easily while still leaving a very light yet chewy crumb. Toasting this by the slice is deadly-delicious. The overnight rest in the fridge really helps to add some flavor to this loaf so although it's not required, it's worth it. If you decide to skip this step, just make sure you get a full double rise before you jump to the next step and proof it.

Yields 1, 1000g loaf - Time Required: 24+ hours
350g bread flour
150g whole wheat
325g water (65%)
165g sourdough leaven at 100% hydration (33%)
10g salt (2%)
Learn more about bakers percentages here, it's so helpful!

Hour 0 - Use your starter to make 165g of 100% hydration leaven. Make sure to make enough extra to save 50g to continue your starter. My typical routine involves adding all 50g of my starter from the fridge plus one big spoonful of whole wheat flour then I use all purpose flour to make up the rest of the flour by weight, then add a equal parts water. Example: 50g starter (100% hydration) + 75g flour + 75g water = 200g leaven at 100% hydration, enough to reserve 45g for next time. Let this sit in a warm dark place until it has risen high, is full of air and smells fruity.

Hour 8 - My house is cool so 8 hours is usually about how long it takes my leaven to be roaring and ready to go. At this point you will add 165g of it to your mixing bowl then add in the 325g of warm water (nothing above 100F). Mix the leaven in so it's nice and soupy then add the flours. Mix them until they just come together and let them autolyse for 30 minutes.

Hour 8.5 - Knead the dough until it is elastic and springy. It is okay if the dough is still fairly sticky, do not add more flour. I use my KitchenAid these days (for about 8 minutes on knead) but kneading by hand is just as good, it may just take longer. Once the dough feels ready, move it to a clean container and cover the top loosely with plastic wrap or better yet put the dough in a reusable container like this, just don't lock the lid - gotta let the CO2 out!

Hour 22 - Remove the dough from the fridge and let it rise until doubled, if it hasn't already. This can sometimes take a few hours, so plan accordingly.

Hour 24 - Gently knock down the dough and shape it into a ball or a very fat log shape. It is very important that you form a tight skin around your loaf so that it holds its shape as it proofs. This is something that takes a good deal of practice but centers around the idea that you'll be attempting to stretch the outside of the dough ball and pinch the excess while you push it back into itself. Think of mushroom and pretend you're pushing the cap in on itself where the stalk comes out. Not sure that's the most sane analogy but youtube is a good resource for this. Once you've formed your dough ball or log (boule or baton), let it sit on lightly floured parchment paper in a warm place with a towel over it. If your loaf loses too much of its shape after 30 minutes, gently reform it without breaking its current skin.

Proof this loaf for 1-2 hours depending on all the usual factors, quality of rise, temperature, humidity, etc. A good way to check if the proof is ready is to gently poke it! If the depression stays, it's over proofed, if it comes back too fast it's not quite ready but if it returns slowly, you're good to bake.

I recommend using the dutch oven method to bake this loaf but a pizza stone and a vessel for hot water work just as well. For the dutch oven method; preheat it inside your oven at 500F and let it go an extra 10 minutes or so after the ready alarm sounds. Once you're ready, gently transfer the loaf to the pan and score it about half an inch deep with a line or three. Cover the pot and return it to the oven for 20 minutes. After the time has elapsed, remove the lid and see how it looks! Ideally there was a nice oven spring (rise) from using the preheated dutch oven and the slashes helped the dough to expand up, not out. Bake for another 5-15 minutes or until it is a deep golden brown. If you're using a pizza stone the same temperatures and methods apply, except you'll need to add a container of boiling water to the oven for those first 20 minutes and also spray the sides of the oven a few times with water to ensure a humid baking environment.

Please, oh please, let your bread rest for a while, honestly until cool if you can. I know warm and fresh baked bread is amazing but you'll love some of it's lasting power and crust if you cut into it too early. This bread also toasts extremely well so enjoy it for days with a variety of toppings!