For the sponge:
- 1 cup fed sourdough starter*
- 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
For the dough:
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 2 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 2 cups bread flour
- 1 tbsp. water (optional)
- 1 egg white lightly beaten with 1 tbsp. water
- Water in a spray bottle
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In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the starter, water, and all-purpose flour. Mix together with a fork or wooden spoon until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 4 hours.
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Transfer the bowl to the refrigerator and chill overnight, at least 12 hours.
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Remove the bowl from the refrigerator and add the sugar, salt, and bread flour to the sponge. Mix until a ball of dough begins to come together. If some of the dry ingredients will not incorporate into the dough, add the additional 1 tablespoon of water to moisten them. Continue kneading the dough (on low speed if using an electric mixer) until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5-6 minutes. Form the dough into a ball and transfer to a large lightly oiled bowl, turning the dough once to coat in the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm spot until doubled in volume, 3-4 hours.
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Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Transfer the dough ball to a lightly floured work surface and gently deflate the dough. Divide the dough into two equal portions. Working with one piece of the dough, press gently into a rough rectangular shape. Make an indentation along the length of the dough with an outstretched hand. Press the thumb of one hand along the indentation while pulling the upper edge of the dough down over the hand to enclose the thumb. Tightly roll the dough towards you while forming into a rough torpedo shape, about 6 x 8 inches. If there is a seam, pinch it shut. Place seam-side down on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat shaping with the other half of the dough. Transfer the shaped loaves to the prepared baking sheet. Cover loosely with lightly oiled plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until nearly doubled in volume, about 2-3 hours.
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Place a baking stone in the oven and preheat the oven to 425˚ F. Allow the stone to preheat for at least 20 minutes. Just before baking, lightly slash the top of each loaf three times diagonally using a sharp serrated knife. Brush the exposed surface of the loaves with the egg wash. Spray the loaves lightly with water. Slide the entire baking sheet onto the baking stone. Bake the loaves about 28-32 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking, until the crust is golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the loaf reads at least 190˚ F. Transfer the finished loaves to a wire rack and let cool at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving.
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*Fed sourdough starter should have a portion removed, new flour and water added, and then be allowed to sit at room temperature for about 5-8 hours. Because of the timing of this particular recipe, I find it works best to feed the starter in the morning, proceed as directed with the sponge and overnight chill, and finish baking the loaves the following day. The various rests are essential to help develop the proper “sour” flavor of the loaves.
**I like to store any bread we don’t use right away in the freezer. I slice the loaf before freezing, store in a freezer bag, and then thaw a slice or two at a time as needed.