Step 1: Make your starter
In order to make sourdough, you first of all need to make a starter (see pictures above). For the starter you need a glass jar, and piece of cloth and an elastic band. Into the jar you put about 1/4 cup flour and 1/4 cup water and stir vigorously. From here you will cover with the cloth secured to the jar with an elastic band, and leave on the counter top. Each day you will add about 1 tbs flour and 1 tbs water and stir vigorously. Eventually after 5-7 days you should start to see bubbles on the top (see middle picture above). Once this happens your starter is ready for use. When my first starter was ready, I woke up in the morning to find it bubbled over the top of the jar and onto the counter top! A sticky mess, but I was delighted it was suddenly so active and obviously ready to be used.
Step 2: Make your proof
In order to make your proof, you are going to take some of your starter (maybe half depending on how much you have) and put it in another jar or I use a pyrex jug for this step. Add 3/4 cup flour and 3/4 cup water to the starter and stir vigorously. Cover with a cloth and leave for 6-12 hours until it is bubbly – see picture.
Step 3: Making the dough
Finally now you are ready to make your dough. Plan ahead because obviously this whole thing takes a minute! Add to a stand mixer 4-4.5 cups flour, 2 cups of water, 1 tbs salt and all of your proof mixture. The mixture should be on the wet side as you can always add flour but once it’s mixed it’s very difficult to add moisture. Your dough needs to be very sticky forming super soft dough. Once you have used the dough hook to knead it for 15-25 minutes, remove it from the mixer and put into a cast iron dutch oven – preferably just plain cast iron. Cover in a greased piece of cling wrap and leave to rise for 6-8 hours or overnight.
Step 4: Punch it down and re-rise, then bake
Punch your dough down (it should have doubled), and re-shape. Leave for a further hour or two until you see it has begun to rise again. With a very sharp knife cut a cross in the top. Put the lid of the dutch oven on, and bake in a preheated oven at 475 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce to 450 degrees and continue cooking with the lid on for 10 more minutes. Remove the lid and bake 20-25 more minutes. The bread will be dark brown and well risen. The loaf pictured center and right was made with organic wheat flour with wheat germ. The picture on the left below was made with my home ground wheat berry whole wheat flour together with the organic wheat flour, or it can be made with all whole wheat.