After Mark Bittman’s feature in the New York Times (November 8, 2006) on Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread, we received a lot of inquires about doing it with sourdoughs. It turned out to be no problem and the lactobacilli produce a far better flavor than commercial yeast. So you might ask “Why complicate it with 3 proofs?” The answer is simply because it makes a much better bread than just the no-knead process alone. Here we go.
Produces one 1½ pound loaf
The Culture Proof
Mix 1 cup of the fully active culture with 1 cup of flour and sufficient water to from a thick pancake batter consistency and proof it for 6 to 8 hours at 65-70oF if you prefer a mild flavor or at 75-85oF if you want it more sour.
The Dough Proof
In a large bowl briefly mix the flour, culture, water and salt. The consistency should be firm and shaggy. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and proof over night ( 10-12 hours) at room temperature (65-70oF) for a mild flavor or at 75-80oF in a proofing box for a more sour flavor.
After fermenting this is a very sticky dough. Use a plastic spatula to ease it to a lightly floured board and sprinkle the surface with additional flour. Let it rest for 15 minutes to relax the gluten.
With minimal handling and slightly more flour form a ball and transfer it to the baking container: any small covered pot works but avoid willow baskets since the sticky dough may be difficult to remove. It is a good idea to lightly grease the container to prevent sticking.
The Loaf Proof
The dough can be proofed at either room temperature or at 75-80oF until it has about doubled in volume or risen above the container wall.
Place in a cool oven, set the control for 375oF, turn the oven on and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
Note: In the above recipe I used our Original San Francisco culture.