I have taken to baking sourdough at home on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. After reading Michael Pollan’s Cooked I quickly became interested in trying to reproduce artisanal whole wheat sourdough boule loaves (french for “ball”). The dough, a “wet” dough, is actually quite forgiving and the process is broken down into stages which makes “active time” for the recipe quite manageable and minimal. First you need to keep a sourdough. Sunrise Flour Mill helps with this instructional link. Pollan’s recipe also provides a sourdough starter recipe. Then its soaking the whole wheat flour, the key to getting it to rise. The grain flour becomes partly broken down and more “accessible” to the micro-organisms responsible for leavening and such. The next day its mixing the soaked flour and the levain or starter and then the ensuing bulk fermentation. Simply an overnight affair if left in the fridge. After this shaping the dough in the boule and then another short ferment while the oven preheats to a nice hot temp. Baking takes 45 minutes.
The key to producing a nice artisanal looking loaf is using a heavy duty dutch oven such as a Le Creuset or Staub with a heavy lid. The loaf is baked inside the vessel for first the first half of cooking. The dutch oven mimicks a professional steam-producing bread oven. It also gives the crust a little touch of darkened crust.
These loaves are rich and hearty do a lot more to fortify someone one on a cold upper midwest winter morning. But if that’s not reason enough to make it, its also apparently a mimi-rage in cafes in SF to serve thick slabs of toast with different delicious toppings. So I guess that means be on the look-out at all your pour-over places.
I should mention that Pollan interviews and details the baking process of Chad Robertson, owner of Tartine bakery in SF. The result is some wonderful reading and an adapted recipe form the breadmaster, himself.