Before I started graduate school, I worked at an artisan bakery here in Philly called Le Bus. It was definitely the best job I’ve had – or at least the one I enjoyed the most. Every day the kneaders would line both sides of a very long table, working their magic on the dough. They were mostly Haitian and I would listen to their melodic creole, watching their hands dance in rhythm. They loved teaching me how to shape the various loaves, and I still remember the softness of their perfect round boules.
This recipe is a very simple take on sourdough, using only 3 ingredients: water, flour and yeast. I’ve obviously had to omit the salt, which provides most of the flavor, so this will be a much blander bread than commercial sourdoughs. It is however a wonderfully crusty loaf, great with butter or olive oil, and a perfect accompaniment to winter soups and stews.
Yields one loaf.
SODIUM CONTENT: 22 mg per loaf
2 1/4 t. dry active yeast
2 c. warm water
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
3 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. warm water
1 c. sourdough starter
To make the starter, measure yeast into a clean mixing bowl. Add water (make sure water is warm NOT hot – it’s better if it’s just about lukewarm) and stir to mix. Whisk in flour. Cover and leave in a warm place for 4 days.
After the 4 days have passed, make the dough. Measure the flour into a clean mixing bowl. Add the water (remember lukewarm is good, hot will kill the yeast) and sourdough starter. Stir until a thick dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a clean, lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Butter a large bowl and place dough inside. Cover bowl (I use plastic wrap with a rubber band to keep it snuggly in place), place in a warm spot and allow dough to rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
Once dough has risen, punch it down and turn bowl out onto a clean lightly floured surface. Knead dough for 6 minutes, then shape into a round loaf. Butter a baking sheet and gently place dough on top. Place in a warm spot and allow to rise again until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly dust the top of the boule with flour and then score an X on top of the loaf with a sharp knife. Place on middle rack in oven and bake 30 minutes. Remove from oven. Bread is done if you hear a hollow noise when you tap on bottom of the loaf.
NOTE: The sourdough starter can be reused – simply add a handful of flour to the mixture after use and stir to combine. Can be left out for several days or refrigerated for about a week. If it’s been refrigerated, it must be brought back to room temp before use.