It's not a college course on bread making. It's my simple, go-to recipe for delicious, oven-fresh wild yeast (a.k.a. sourdough) bread. Some days, yes, I scour Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice for the challenge of perfecting one of his loaves, each ingredient precisely weighed so all ratios will be as exact as one flawed human can make them. But most often I haven't the time for that; I need bread for dinner, or sandwiches, or a gift to take to a meal at someone's home - and I need it without the fuss of a cookbook or kitchen scale or a potential undesired outcome.
So it's 3:1:1:1.
Three cups flour.
One cup sourdough,
One cup water.
One teaspoon salt.
Combine the four ingredients in a bowl, and then knead for five minutes. Even easier, use a stand mixer with a dough hook a mix for about two minutes. Cover the dough and allow it to double in size - this usually takes about two or three hours. Then, you have options. Wrap the dough in plastic and store it in the refrigerator for up to three days (the dough will continue to rise, though slowly; you'll want to make sure it's well wrapped, or you can use a freezer bag or bowl with a lid, as long as you make sure there's room for expansion). Or, shape the dough into a freeform boule (or whatever shape you'd like), place it on parchment paper and cover with a damp towel or oiled plastic wrap, and allow it to proof for another two to four hours. I also have a banneton basket I sometimes use for proofing instead.
Preheat the oven to 550 degrees Fahrenheit, or as high as your oven goes. Place a baking stone on the oven rack set to the middle position, and an empty broiler pan on the bottom rack. Gently transfer the dough to the baking stone; I slide it into the oven still on the parchment paper as I've never had much success using a peel. Then I score the top of the dough three or four times with a serrated knife. I don't score when using the banneton, though (for some reason, I've found it degasses too much); I simply turn it out from the basket directly onto the stone.
Add a cup of water to the broiler pan and quickly close the oven door. Lower the oven temperature to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. I don't like my bread too brown, so I bake it for about 20 minutes, then remove the parchment paper and loosely tent with foil. Then bake for about 10-15 minutes, until the internal temperature of the bread registers between 195-205 degrees. Yes, I do use an meat thermometer.
Remove bread from oven and allow to cool for 45 minutes before slicing.