This bread looks complicated, but it’s really not. It is, however, not something you can throw together at the last minute. This baby takes time. (But not 9 months).
Recipe makes 2 large loaves – each fit for a 6L Dutch oven.
Full disclosure: I’ve used lots of sourdough and artisanal recipes. One of the best primers I know comes from the Zero Waste Chef, Anne Marie Bonneau. Her sourdough recipe, though, takes time and babysitting. This does not. Mine is also not as full of holes as sourdough from the store, unless it is made with 100% white flour…something I rarely do.
You’ll need a kitchen scale. I have experimented dozens of times and a scale is the very easiest way to get a good result. You’ll also need a large dutch oven with a lid, and some parchment paper. I have a stand mixer, but otherwise you can stir the dough with a wooden spoon. If you have sourdough starter, you can use that – skip the sugar and yeast. Use about a cup, keep the flour and water proportions the same.
700g lukewarm water
5ml maple syrup (or other sweetener, even molasses
5ml salt (I used salt with cumin seeds in it…go wild. You can get away without the salt, too).
900g mixed flours – for this loaf I used mainly whole wheat (about 550g), some chickpea (100g), white (50g), and rolled oats, large flake (200g).
Here’s the method. Put the water, yeast, sugar and salt in the bowl of your stand mixer, or another large bowl. Honestly, your hands are excellent tools, or a wooden spoon. Let stand for 5 minutes in a warm place.
Add the flours, and mix with the dough hook, your hands, or a wooden spoon, just until there are no dry bits. No longer. It will be messy.
Cover the bowl with a tea towel and let it rise for 2 hours or so. It will puff and then lose some volume. NOW: refrigerate all day (if you’re starting in the morning) or overnight. It depends on when you want to bake it, you’ll need to reverse engineer this. But this step really, really makes it easier to work with.
When you’re ready to bake, put the empty, covered Dutch oven in your cold oven and heat it to 450F. Meanwhile, get your dough out. Dump it on a very lightly floured surface (I like a large wood cutting board). Cut it in half with a serrated knife or a large dough scraper. Put half back in the fridge for later in the week. You can make more bread, or a pizza…whatever!
Dust the dough lightly with flour and use your hands to just delicately tuck the ends under until it is a ball. You just need enough flour to keep it from sticking to you – that’s the flour’s only purpose. Don’t press. Don’t lose the bubbles. Do whatever you can to preserve the air, you just want a round shape. Put it on a large piece of parchment (45cm square or so) and let it rise half an hour (your Dutch oven will be heating during this time).
When the oven comes up to heat, give it another 20 minutes to be sure it is good and hot. Make sure you have a board or trivet to sit the lid on when you take it off the Dutch oven, so you don’t burn something. Wear really good oven mitts. It will be HOT! Now, slash the top of your loaf 2 or 3 times with a serrated knife. Open the oven, pull the rack out so you can get at it, and remove the lid. Use the parchment as a sling, and put the loaf, parchment and all, into the Dutch oven (no worries about sticking this way, and it makes the bread easier to lift out). Pop the lid back on.
Push the whole thing back into the oven, shut the door, and bake for half an hour to forty minutes, until it looks very crusty. It will often get much darker than this loaf, especially with more white flour. Don’t worry. It will be great.
Remove it from the Dutch oven right away, and let it cool completely on a rack (or at least until it is only a little warm) before slicing. It will freeze if you won’t use it all within a couple of days.
Your remaining dough that’s in the fridge will keep for a couple of weeks but I can’t imagine you’ll let that happen…
Experiment with your flours. Add seeds or nuts. Try it with raisins and some cinnamon. Or sundried tomatoes and herbs. Or…you get the idea!