3+cupsflourwhite whole wheat, whole wheat, unbleached, or a combo
1 ¼cupswarm water*
3/4cupactive sourdough starter75%-100% hydration (I prefer 75%)
Mix all ingredients together in the bowl of a stand mixer (or large mixing bowl) just until combined and then let sit for 15 minutes.
Using a dough hook, knead for 5 minutes. If making by hand, knead for 8 to 10 minutes. (TIP: You may add more flour as needed, a little at a time, to create a dough that's still clinging to the bottom of the bowl, but also clearing the upper part of the bowl. It should be tacky, but not cling to your finger.)
Transfer to a medium-sized bowl, lightly coated with oil. Cover with plastic and let rise for 3 hours, turning and folding the dough once or twice.
Remove dough, turn and fold again, and place it back in the bowl, seam-side up. Let rise for another 2 hours. TIP: I do this right over the bowl my hands oiled from the dough, which is usually enough - add more oil to your hands if needed.
After the second rise, place a square of parchment on a cookie sheet, sprinkle the dough with flour and gently shape the dough into a ball or oval (using lots of flour, as the dough is moist) and set on the parchment. Shape it in your hands right over the parchment. I often flour my fingers after setting on the parchment and use my fingers to push the edges under the loaf to get the shape I want and make it more compact. Make sure there's a good coating of flour on the top, as this will make slicing the top later easier. TIP: I often shape the dough in a small skillet to keep the edges from spreading as much as a cookie sheet.
To Bake with a Dutch Oven: While the shaped dough is resting, set an empty enameled cast iron dutch oven into a cold oven and turn heat to 450 degrees (alternately, you can use a baking stone), and set the timer for 40 minutes.
When the timer goes off, slash the top of the loaf with a serrated knife (in 2-3 places) and transfer it to the hot pot (or stone) by holding the edges of the parchment to gently lower into the pot (the bread will bake while on the parchment).
Replace the hot lid and bake for 12-15 minutes. Remove the lid and continue baking for another 13-15 minutes, until golden brown.
To Bake without a Dutch Oven: After shaping the loaf on the parchment on the counter (or skillet), place either a baking stone, cast iron skillet, or cookie sheet into a cold oven and preheat to 450 degrees.Creating Steam: To try and get the crust we all love, you'll need to create some steam (that's what the dutch oven does - it traps the steam): put a pan with water on the bottom rack to heat while the stone heats OR spray the dough with water right before putting in the hot oven to bake and see which you like best. Also, if you have any deep lid that will fit over the dough and allow to rise, you can add that OR try tenting aluminum foil over the top.Baking: Slash and use parchment corners to transfer dough to your hot stone and bake 15 minutes, turning the dough halfway, and then bake until done, another 15 to 20-25 minutes.
Remove to a wire rack to cool at least 30 minutes before cutting.
*You may need less or more if your starter is dryer/wetter- the 1 1/4 cups works for a 100% hydration starter, fed an equal ratio of flour to water. Adjust yours accordingly.**The honey is optional, it helps with coloring and gives a bit more boost to the wild yeast.Slicing Tip: if you don't have a good serrated knife, try using an electric knife to easily slice through crusty artisan bread. It works like a charm and even cuts through warm breads without squishing the crusts like regular knives do.