Well, I finally did it!
Today I baked the sourdough bread I've been looking for ever since starting this odyssey. It has a crispy crust and a stretchy, holey crumb. And it's easy. As I told a couple of friends earlier, "...it's reproducible, if the weather stays exactly how it is today."
I'm not suggesting that this could be anyone else's ultimate sourdough, but it sure is mine, at least for right now. Thanks to all who have helped me over the past year or so, even unwittingly. It continues to be great fun. The recipe is below.
Susan's Ultimate Sourdough
Starter is made the way Peter Reinhart suggested to us in class: 1:3:4 (starter:water:flour)
A single small boule, made by hand:
25g whole wheat flour
225g hi-gluten flour (All Trumps, to be exact)
5g salt (I use Kosher)
Mix starter and water, mix in flour. Rest a few minutes, then re-mix. Dump into a greased bowl, let rise until doubled, about 8 hours. Turn the very soft dough onto your counter and pat it out, then sprinkle salt over the top. Roll it up, then gently knead a few times to distribute the salt. Let relax. Do the following until the dough is hard to fold: round up, let the dough relax, stretch and fold. Round up, let relax, shape, and put it in a banneton for proofing 3-4 hours in a warm spot.
The oven was preheated for 30 minutes at 500F, and reduced to 450F after I put the loaf in. It was baked on a tray, covered, for 18 minutes. The cover was then removed and the loaf baked until dark brown, about another 8 minutes.