Unbleached, unbromated bread flour, 600g
Whole wheat bread flour, 100g
Fine sea salt, 18g
-- If hand mixing: 82°to 84°F
-- If using a stand mixer: 65°F to 70°F
Liquid Levain (natural sourdough), 170g
Place the white and whole wheat flours into a medium mixing bowl. Add the salt and, using your hands, bring the dry ingredients together. Once blended, quickly form a well in the center of the mix. Scale the correct temperature (82°to 84°F) water and set it aside. Pour 1/3 of the premeasured water into a mixing bowl, tare the scale, and then pour the weighed levain into the water. Gently mix them together. Gradually pour all of the levain mixture and the remaining pre-measured water into the well in the center of the flour mixture, rotating the bowl with one hand while simultaneously mixing the wet ingredients into the dry with your hands. The dough should be soft, slightly wet, and extremely sticky. When the dough begins to come together, using your bowl scraper, scrape the dough out onto a clean work surface, taking care that you leave no dough behind. The dough will still be very, very sticky. Hold your hands, fingers facing up, at opposite sides of the dough mass that are closest to your body. Slide your fingers, still facing up, under the dough and lift the dough up about an inch or so from the work surface and squeeze your thumbs and index fingers together to form a tight OK sign into which you will pull a wad of dough. While holding the OK sign, continue to curl your thumbs and index fingers tightly together to pinch off a portion of dough. Start closest to your body and work up the dough mass. Working as quickly and smoothly as you can, continue lifting and pinching the dough mass using the same technique approximately five to seven times until you have gone through the entire mass. You should begin to feel the dough coming together. Turn the dough a 1/4 turn and continue lifting, pinching, and turning the dough until it begins to take an identifiable shape and is less and less sticky. The dough is sufficiently kneaded when it starts to hold its shape. You do not want a stiff, dry dough; you want a soft, pliable mass that still holds its shape. To form the dough into a ball, using both hands, lift it up from the front (the side closest to your body) and immediately fold it over and onto itself, quickly dropping it down to the work surface, approximately four to five times. Using your instant-read thermometer, take the temperature of your dough. The temperature should be between 72°F and 80°F.
Lightly dust a large glass (or metal) bowl with flour. Transfer the dough to the floured bowl, throw a light film of flour over the top to keep the plastic film from sticking, tightly cover with plastic film, and place in a warm (about 75°F to 80°F), draft-free place for 1 hour. Lightly dust a clean work surface with flour. Uncover the dough and place it on the floured work surface. Using cupped hands, pat the dough into a thick square. Lift the right corners up and fold past the center of the square, lightly patting the seam down. Lift the left corners up and fold them past the center of the square, overlapping the seams. Repeat this process with each of the top and bottom two corners. Return the dough to the bowl, seam side down, cover, and return to the warm (about 75°F to 80°F), draft-free place for another hour. After one hour, repeat the above process and again place the dough in a warm (about 75°F to 80°F), draft-free place to rise for an additional final hour. At this point the dough should have increased body and be less sticky.
Dividing and Shaping
Lightly dust a clean work surface with flour. Uncover the dough and, using a bowl scraper, scrape the dough onto the floured work surface. If the dough is very sticky, lightly flour your hands, but do not add additional flour to the dough. Using a flat hand, lightly press the dough into a thick rectangle. Pick up a corner of the dough and pull it to the center. Using the heel of your hand, press it down very lightly. Repeat this process taking care that you gently stretch the dough out without pulling and tearing it. When you have gone all around the edge of the dough, again, using your hands, gently pick up the dough to make sure that it is not sticking to the work surface. The dough should now be a fairly smooth almost round shape. Turn the dough so that the smooth side is facing up. Then, lay the dough so it is slightly leaning on its side to create tension on the round. Concurrently, place your hands in a triangle shape with your fingertips touching over the back side of the dough and the sides of your hands touching the work surface. Gently pull the now ball-shaped dough toward your body, simultaneously pressing the ball into an oval shape. In one quick motion, move your hands to the left side of the oval and round up the shape by pushing to the right side. Continue with this motion until each side of the dough has been pushed in this circular motion moving to the right. Pick up the dough and repeat the above process until the dough has become a tight, round, smooth ball that is sealed on the bottom. The ball should have a bit of a spring to it and exterior should feel as though it is covered in a fine, firm skin. Lightly dust a couche (or clean linen towel) with flour. Fold up one side of the cloth so that the dough can lean against it. Place the dough onto the couche so that it leans against the fold. (If making 2 small loaves, pull the couche up between them to separate). Pull the couche up against the opposite side of dough so that the dough is held in place. Fold the remaining couche over top of dough.
Place in a warm (about 75°F to 80°F), draft-free place for 21/2 to 3 hours or, alternately proof for 1 hour and then place in the refrigerator for up to 12 to 16 hours. If the dough has been refrigerated, remove and let reach room temperature one hour before baking. Using the stainless steel bowl method to bake the bread, about 30 minutes before you are ready to bake, move one oven rack to the lowest rung and the other to the highest. Place a large baking stone on the bottom rack and preheat the oven to 450°F. To determine if the dough is ready to be baked, uncover, and, using your fingertip, gently make a small indentation in the center. If the indentation slowly and evenly disappears, the bread is ready to bake.
Using a peel, transfer the loaf on the parchment paper, top side up, into the center of the stone, taking care that you do not touch the hot surface. Throw a light dusting of flour over the top of the loaf. Working quickly and using a lame or single edged razor blade, score the top of the loaf. Cut in quick decisive slashes, barely marking into the dough by no more than 1/8 inch. Quickly cover with the stainless steel mixing bowl. It should be tall enough to allow the dough to rise comfortably. Transfer to the oven and immediately close the oven door. Bake for 10 minutes; then, using the point of a small, sharp knife, pop up the bowl and, using oven mitts, carefully remove and set the hot bowl aside. Continue to bake at the same temperature for about 30 minutes or until the bread is deep golden brown. (It is a good idea to check after the bread has been baking for about 20 minutes to see if it is browning evenly. If not, rotate the bread). Transfer the loaf to a wire rack and let it cool for at least 1 hour before cutting into it using a serrated knife or wrapping for storage. Wearing oven mitts, remove the hot stone from the oven and place it on a heat-proof surface to cool thoroughly before storing.
Formulation courtesy of Lionel Vatinet, La Farm Bakery