NCDR (not cloth diaper related)
First I watch Brian Lagerstrom's video and I follow it for concepts. No affiliation:
YOUR FIRST SOURDOUGH (Sourdough Bread For Complete Beginners)
Now that I understand the concepts, I do my own thing to minimize mess and make it work for me. Sourdough is much more forgiving IRL than the internet makes it seem.
I don't really measure. Yes, I'm a rule-breaker. I just open a full one pound bag of organic all purpose flour from nuts.com which is just under 500 grams. The empty bag weighs 10 grams. I think the flour is 460- 470 grams.
I add 1 cup of water (yes, I am supposed to weigh it, I know. If flour is 460 grams then water should be 230 grams which is .97 cup of water, close enough)
If I have softened butter in the butter dish, then I add up to 2 tablespoons of butter because I like the flavor and cut back a smidge on the starter to compensate for the additional moisture of the butter. Sometimes the butter dish is empty so I skip that.
¼ to 1/3 overflowing cup of bubbly starter (I just dump it and estimate, to skip yet another utensil to wash) I watched one video that showed making sourdough with one drop of starter. It took longer but it worked! That proved to me that measuring isn't vital. I just get the consistency manageable and it works.
Into the bowl it all goes, water and starter mixed first, flour second.
Smoosh it up and leave it a while, about an hour or whenever I get to it. (called autolyze, means let the flour have some time to soak in the water, I think)
Work in 1 or 2 teaspoons of salt (that’s less than most recipes call for but it is enough to do the job for me and it seems to help to wait to add it after the first hour. If I'm in a hurry, I add the salt right away but I find that it comes out better if I add the salt after the autolyze. Do you what works for you.)
Then I do the stretch-pull-the-corners-in thing like in Brian’s video a bunch of times. I dust some extra flour on the sides of the bowl so it doesn’t stick to the sides of the bowl as it rises.
Turn on oven for 1 minute and turn it off to give it a warmer place to rise. I put the bowl with a lid on it in the oven to rise I get around to it.
If I think of it, I’ll do the pull-the-corners-to-the-center-folding-thing again in hour or so, and then let it rise for a long time. Sometimes I forget that step. If I start it at night and put it in the fridge, then I don’t do that second folding thing at all but it does get more time. Either way works.
Then I do another folding-thing and I stretch out the outside of the dough with my hands pulling it up and around with my hands in the air and call that a boule. It works. I put it into a smaller bowl since I don’t have a banneton basket. I just flour the bowl and I don’t use a cloth. It works fine. Cover and leave it a while, probably 2 hours or until it looks almost ready. I use fresh bowl so that it clean and floured to make sure it doesn’t stick. The first bowl has some sticky parts on it so the clean bowl works.
Ta da! No messy floured counter, but still plenty of that folding-to-the-center-thing going on and I can still stretch out the dough to form the boule right in the bowl or in the air with my hands.
Unscrew lid handle and remove it from the Le Creuset pot. I use the screw to plug the hole in the lid. I take off the handle so the plastic handle doesn’t melt in the hot oven. If you miss that step, the plastic smells bad and that's terrible.
I preheat just the bottom of the pot in the oven at 450. I don’t preheat the heat the lid because I don’t want to burn myself dealing with it, especially without a handle. When the pot is fully hot, I need to somehow get the dough out of the bowl into the hot pot without deflating it nor burning myself.
I dump out the dough out into my hand by placing the edge of the bowl upside down on the edge of the counter (to support the bowl between the counter and my body my body and gravity does most of the work while I gently pry it out with my fingers if it doesn't flop right out.
If I used a cloth in the bowl, I could lift it out. I haven’t managed to wash and rinse a new cloth yet. The one I had been using for a while, but it got used by other family members to mop up melted snow from the floor a few weeks ago. Yes, thanks for getting the snow off the wood floor but still, that made me sad that my super-clean and rinsed special baking cloth got completely dirty. I lost the energy for using a cloth. So I’ve been doing this 'dump-it-out method' instead and I like it better. By not using a cloth, it is one less thing to deal with. Maybe at some point I’ll wash up another cloth to super-clean. I certainly have enough of them (Cloth-eez Birdseye Flat Diapers size one-size).
I do not use parchment paper. I never do. It is coated with something (silicone or quilon, so it has something on it). I don't want that to my food. The point of doing this is to make organic healthy food so I want to keep it completely clean. It's not needed anyhow. It doesn't stick if you preheat the pot.
Then I place the dough very carefully, so I don’t burn myself, into the hot pot, slit the top while it is the pot (carefully - the pot is hot!), cover and bake. I turn it down to 425 and let it bake for 20 minutes. Then I turn the oven down again to 365, keeping it covered and let it bake for 35 more minutes. I then uncover it and decide if I want to let it bake uncovered for 5 more minutes or not. I wait for it to cool to cut it.
I sort of follow Brian’s instructions. I don't do anything at all with steaming the oven. I skip that entirely. It's not needed because I have a good pot that keeps the moisture in nicely.
I’m not a fan of having to do all the measuring in grams so the full one pound bag of flour and dump method is great, and the flour itself is organic and yummy.
I also don’t want to deal with flouring the counter and the fabric, so I skip all that too since I just pull it and fold it and get the top stretched over, right in the bowl, using my hands. This works and accomplishes the same thing with the dough with a lot less mess and fuss. This won’t win any Instagram awards, but it sure tastes good and my family eats it up every time.
It's much cheaper when I can find a 10 pound bag of organic flour at our local co-op. When I can get that, I fill in one-quart jars ahead of time. A full quart jar holds about 500 grams flour. I can quickly dump and bake from the jar without measuring and adjust the water up accordingly by feel to about 1 1/4 cups.
Sourdough, once you get used to it and figure it out, is a little bit of happiness and accomplishment in the day.