Sunset's Sourdough French Bread
|Warm water||2 Cup (32 tbs)|
|Sourdough starter||1 Cup (16 tbs)|
|All purpose flour||8 Cup (128 tbs)|
|Cornstarch||1 Teaspoon, stirred with 1/2 cup water|
|Water||1⁄2 Cup (8 tbs), stirred with cornstarch|
In a large bowl, combine the 2 cups warm water, starter, and 4 cups of the flour; stir until smooth.
Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let stand at about 85°F until very thick, bubbly, and spongy looking, 6 to 8 hours or until next day.
Stir in salt, sugar, and about 3 cups more flour or enough to form a very stiff dough.
Then mix in 1 of the following ways.
With a heavy-duty mixer and dough hook.
Beat in about 1 cup more flour until dough pulls cleanly from sides of bowl.
Measure 1 cup more flour and spread part of it on a board.
Scrape dough out onto board and knead until smooth and elastic, 10 to 12 minutes; add more flour as required to prevent sticking.
Place dough in a greased bowl and turn over to grease top.
Cover dough (mixed by either method) with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Punch dough down and knead briefly on a lightly floured board to release air.
Divide dough in half.
Knead each piece gently just until smooth.
(If you have only 1 oven, wrap 1 piece of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate.) Shape each piece of dough into a smooth log by rolling it back and forth, gently elongating loaf to about 14 inches.
For each loaf, sprinkle a piece of stiff cardboard (about 7 by 18 inches) with 3 tablespoons of the cornmeal and set loaf on top.
Cover loaves lightly with plastic wrap; let rise in a warm place until puffy and almost doubled, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Remove plastic wrap.
Adjust oven racks to the 2 lowest positions.
Place a 12- by 15-inch baking sheet on top rack as oven preheats to 400°.
Just before bread is ready to bake, place a 10- by 15-inch rimmed baking pan on lowest rack and fill with about 1/4 inch boiling water.
Meanwhile, in a 2- to 4-cup pan, bring corn-starch-water mixture to a boil, stirring; let cool slightly.
With a razor blade or very sharp knife, cut 3 or 4 (1/2- inch-deep) slashes in top of each loaf.
Brush loaves evenly with cornstarch mixture, making sure to moisten sides.
Slip each loaf from cardboard onto baking sheet in oven.
Bake at 400° for 10 minutes; then brush each loaf evenly again with cornstarch mixture.
Continue to bake until loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped, 20 to 25 more minutes.
Let cool on racks.
(If you have only 1 oven, when you put first loaf in oven, remove second piece of dough from refrigerator and shape as above; it will take slightly longer to rise.
Bake as directed.)