Disclaimer: This is an old sourdough recipe (March 2013!) that has been somehow overlooked. This was how I first learned sourdough, but I have since moved on to the Tartine recipe, which I now recommend. I post it now for completeness.
I have a love-hate relationship with sourdough. Mostly, actually, it’s love–especially because I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. The hate part only comes in when I try to make sourdough myself, and fail. I can, at last, say that I have successfully made a sourdough that I would consider as good as San Francisco sourdough. The yield isn’t quite there yet–I’ve had only a couple batches that I would consider AGASF (as good as San Francisco)–and it’s not as healthy as I’d like–I’ve only really had success with up to about 20% whole wheat–but it’s been a few months since I’ve used any commercial yeast, and we’ve had pretty good bread (on average) for the duration.
The sourdough starter we’ve got was, like all sourdough starters, a gift from a friend. I don’t have instructions for the creation of the starter, but the maintenance is pretty simple: 60g water and 60g white flour, twice a day. Well, twice a day is the ideal, it usually works out to be once a day in practice. The starter can be kept in the fridge indefinitely, as well–I recommend feeding and waiting about 12 hours before use when taking it out of the fridge.
The recipe comes in three stages: making the sponge, making the dough, and baking, with about 12 and 24 hours between each. Here are the details:
225g white flour
Combine all ingredients and mix until evenly distributed. Allow to sit for 8 to 12 hours at room temperature. If you’re not ready to use it after 12 hours, put it in the fridge at that point (for up to a week, probably).
all the sponge
567g white flour
Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix (with bread hook) on slow speed for 5 minutes. Wait 10 minutes, then mix 5 more. Repeat until there have been a total of four mixings, then divide into two oiled bowls, and put them in the fridge for at least one and at most seven days.
Take the dough out of the fridge two to four hours before baking. After one or two hours, shape the dough into a boule (a mound) on a well-floured pizza peel. Preheat the oven with a bread stone and a water pan (regular baking pan works fine) to 500 F. When ready to bake, make sure the dough isn’t make stuck to the peel and then quickly slide it onto the baking stone. Pour about one cup of water into the water pan, set the temperature to 450 F, and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the internal temperature is 190 F. Allow to cool, and enjoy.
As I mentioned above, I’ve had success with limited amounts of whole wheat–about 200g and it still rises fairly well. Above that, I’ve tried increasing the water as well, with mixed success.