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"Many recipes for sourdough breads include some active dry yeast to spped up the process, the sourdough starter included mainly for flavor. We recommend beginning sourdough bakers start with this bread before moving on to the Classic Sourdough Bread which follows. This version makes a quicker loaf with a slightly different texture and taste, and is a good introduction to the sourdough process." cornmeal to sprinkle on baking pans Making the Sponge: In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the sugar and yeast in the warm water. Let this sit for 10 minutes or so until bubbly. Add the starter and stir. Gradually add 3 cups of flour, stirring until well mixed and smooth. Cover this sponge and set it aside in a warm, draft-free place for 4 to 5 hours. Making the Dough: Stir down the sponge. Stir in 1 cup of flour, the salt and oil. Gradually add flour until the dough no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead for 3 to 4 minutes. Let the dough rest while you clean and grease your bowl. Continue kneading another 3 or 4 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Add only enough flour to the board to keep the dough from sticking. Place dough in the greased bowl and let rise until doubled in bulk, 1 to 2 hours. Shaping & Baking: Knock down the dough and shape it into two long French- or Italian-style loaves. Place them on a cornmeal-sprinkled baking sheet and let them rise for another 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Toward the end of the rising period, place a baking pan on the oven bottom (or on the lowest rack) and preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Just before baking, slash the tops diagonally every couple of inches, about 1/4" deep, and brush with cold water. Pour 2 or 3 cups of water into the pan, put the loaves on the rack above the steaming water, and bake for about 25 minutes. The crust will be very hard when you remove the bread, but in 5 minutes it will be soft and chewy. To make the crust crisp and chewy, turn the oven off and leave the bread inside for an additional 5 minutes. From: King Arthur Flour Posted by: Debbie Carlson - Cooking Echo
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