In order to make sourdough bread, levain or sourdough starter is needed. This takes the place of the yeast in making bread. Levain is easily made by mixing two ingredients: flour and water when letting these sit at room temperature for at least 12 hours. The wild yeast and bacteria that live in the flour and air will begin to grow causing the mixture to ferment. This fermentation process causes gases to form, which in turn, will cause the dough to rise and give it flavor. We will use a small amount of the starter to add to the dough recipe below instead of using commercial yeast. The remainder of the starter can be fed on a daily basis to propagate the culture.
Step 1. Mix sourdough starter, water, and flour, and let sit in a bowl for approximately 30 minutes and up to an hour.
Step 2. Add salt and mix by hand until completely dissolved.
Step 3. Shape into a ball and add it to an oiled mixing bowl. Cover with clean linen towel.
Step 4. Set it in warm place with no draft and let it rise for 2 hours paying attention to the transformation in the dough. Look for bubbles forming in the dough. The dough will take on a soft "pillowy" feel and its size will approximately double in size.
Step 5. When the rising process is complete, remove the dough from bowl and place, seam side up, onto a surface that has been lightly floured. In order to shape the dough grab edges and stretch gently upwards then tuck edges in center of circle. Repeat process and work your way around the parameter of dough. Turn dough seam side down and continue to shape it, rotating the dough as you continue.
Step 6. Cover dough and let it rest for 30 minutes until dough appears to be spreading out (or taking on a relaxed look).
Step 7. Reshape by repeating step 5.
Step 9. Pre-heat dutch oven at 450 degrees for at least 20 minutes.
Step 10. Place dough, seam-side down, into dutch oven, over parchment paper.
Step 11. Score dough with scissors or knife (serrated) and cover.
Step 12. Bake for twenty minutes until lightly brown. (Remove lid to check; this will also allow it to vent.)
Step 13. Continue baking for another 20 to 25 minutes rotating it to ensure even baking.
Step 14. Remove and cool on wire racks.