I started baking bread with storebought baker’s yeast more than 40 years ago. Over the last year, my leavening has changed to sourdough. After all, wild yeasts and sourdoughs raised breads for humans for thousands of years before baker’s yeast was introduced in the 1800’s.
The switch to sourdough has meant learning much new information, always enjoyable. But the real reward is delicious bread. The bread website Breadtopia has been most helpful. Our shelf of baking books (Laurel Robertson, Peter Reinhart, Jim Lahey, Ken Forkish, and Jeffrey Hamelman) has been regularly consulted too. And I owe a debt of gratitude to Nana of Nana’s Best for giving me a jumpstart.
Here is an adaptation of Breadtopia’s Artisan Sourdough No-Knead Bread for a long loaf baked in an oblong clay baker from Breadtopia.
Of course I have the oblong brotform proofing basket too.
The quantities in this recipe are scaled a little higher than Breadtopia’s original recipe since the oblong clay baker can accomodate more dough than the round baker.
The slow overnight fermentation of the sourdough starter and the flour creates a gluten network just as kneading does. Baking the bread in the clay baker means the natural steam released as the bread bakes makes the crust nice and crisp.
1 1/4 cups (177 grams) whole wheat flour
3 1/8 cups (390 grams) white bread flour
2 teaspoons (114 grams) fine sea salt
1 7/8 cups (425 grams purified water
1/3 cup (87 grams) cold unfed starter
Mix together the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
Dissolve the starter in the purified water in another container such as a quart Pyrex measuring cup.
Add water and starter to the dry ingredients and stir until the liquid is incorporated.
Cover the bowl with plastic and let sit 10-14 hours at room temperature (~68-72°F).
Use a plastic scraper to remove the dough from the bowl and turn onto a floured surface. Gently fold the dough into an oval about the length of an oblong proofing basket. Cover loosely with plastic and rest for 15 minutes.
Spray the inside of the oblong proofing basket with olive oil spray. Sprinkle the sides and bottom liberally with wheat bran (or cornmeal or flour). (This dough is wet enough that it will stick to even a well-floured cloth liner. You could use a parchment paper sling if you prefer.) Transfer dough to the proofing basket. Cover with damp towel or plastic bowl cover. Let rise for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
About half an hour before rising time is up, place empty covered oblong clay baker in oven. Preheat oven to 500°F for about 35 minutes.
Take the clay baker out of the oven. Carefully turn the dough from the proofing basket into the clay baker (or lift your parchment paper sling into the clay baker). Slash the loaf with a bread lame. Replace the top and put the clay baker back into the oven.
Bake for 25 minutes at 500°F. Remove cover, reduce heat to 450°F and bake 15 more minutes.
Let bread cool completely on rack. Try to resist the urge to eat it until it has cooled for at least an hour. Enjoy!