This recipe calls for mature sourdough starter. Ask for it at your local bakery or build your own. (In this recipe, we used a 100% hydration sourdough starter; it was fed at regular, successive intervals with equal parts by weight water and flour — a 50:50 blend of wheat flour and bread flour, in this case.) If you don’t have sourdough starter, a poolish, which uses active dry yeast, may be substituted for the levain in the Dough recipe, although the bread will have a slightly less complex flavor. To make the poolish, stir together 225 grams (7 7/8 ounces) (about 2 cups) Ruby Lee Wheat Flour, 280 grams (10 ounces) (about 1 1/4 cups) warm water (90°F), and 1/2 gram (1/48 ounces) (1/8 teaspoon) active dry yeast in a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap; let stand at room temperature until poolish is bubbly and passes the float test, 10 to 14 hours.
24 grams (about 7/8 ounces) (about 2 1/2 tablespoons) fine sea salt
60 grams (about 2 1/8 ounces) (about 1/2 cup) white rice flour, plus more for stenciling
Make the Levain
Ask your local bakery for sourdough starter or build your own. In this recipe, we used a 100% hydration sourdough starter; it was fed at regular, successive intervals with equal parts (by weight) water and flour — a 50:50 blend of wheat flour and bread flour, in this case.
Stir together warm water and sourdough starter in a medium bowl until evenly incorporated and mostly dissolved. Add Ruby Lee Wheat Flour, and stir well until no dry bits of flour remain. Cover with a kitchen towel; let stand at warm room temperature (78°F to 84°F) until increased in volume, 2 to 4 hours.
Levain is ready to be used in the Dough recipe when it passes the float test: Scoop gently (as to not de-gas) about 1 teaspoon of levain, and drop it into a glass of warm water. If the levain floats, it’s ready. If it sinks, let it rest an additional 30 minutes, then repeat the float test.
Make the Dough
Stir together Ruby Lee Wheat Flour and 535 grams (18 3/4 ounces) of the Kansas White Wheat Flour in a large bowl. Place levain and 700 grams (about 3 cups) of the warm water in a separate large glass bowl. Using your hands, stir levain and water together until evenly incorporated and mostly dissolved; add flour mixture. Using a claw motion with your hands, mix together until no dry bits of flour remain and all clumps are broken up. Do not knead. Cover bowl with a kitchen towel, and let rest for 30 minutes.
Uncover bowl, and sprinkle dough with salt; add remaining 75 grams (about 1/3 cup) warm water. Using a grabbing/squeezing motion with your hands, incorporate salt and water into dough mixture. Dough will initially separate into clumps but eventually form a homogenous mixture. Do not knead. Using a spatula, scrape down sides of the bowl (leaving dough in bowl). Cover bowl with a kitchen towel. Let rest at warm room temperature (78°F to 84°F) for 4 hours, turning dough every 30 minutes. To complete 1 turn of the dough- grab the dough on the farthest side of the bowl (using wet hands to prevent dough from sticking), and stretch it up (almost to the point of tearing), and then fold it back over the rest of the dough. Repeat 3 times, giving the bowl a quarter turn between each stretch. This series of stretching and folding is considered 1 turn. The dough will become progressively smoother, softer, and more extensible over the 4 hours.
Turn dough out onto a very lightly floured work surface and divide into 2 equal pieces (about 1 kilogram or 2 pounds, 6 ounces each). Incorporating as little flour into the dough as possible, shape each dough piece into a taut ball: Fold 1 dough piece in half so that the floured underside of the dough is now wrapped around the outside. Using a bench scraper, pull the dough across the work surface, rotating as you drag it, to develop tension and form a taut ball. Repeat process with remaining 1 dough piece. Place dough balls at least 4 inches apart on a lightly floured surface. Cover with a kitchen towel, and let rest for 30 minutes. During this time the dough balls will relax and spread slightly into flatter circles.
Stir together equal parts Kansas White Wheat Flour and white rice flour (about 60 grams each) in a small bowl. Lightly dust 2 (8 1/2-inch) round linen-lined proofing baskets with the white rice flour mixture; set aside. Discard remaining flour mixture, or store in freezer in an airtight container for up to 6 months to use for dusting proofing baskets next time. (Rice flour works exceptionally well at preventing high-hydration doughs from sticking to proofing baskets. It also has a high tolerance to heat, making it is less likely to scorch. On its own, however, rice flour can leave a grainy residue, which why it’s mixed with wheat flour for dusting.)
Working with 1 dough piece, lightly dust the top of the dough with Kansas White Wheat Flour. Using a bench scraper, flip dough (maintaining the round shape), so that the floured side is now underneath. Gently stretch the right side of the circle to the right about 6 inches, and then fold it up and over the center of the dough. Repeat process once with the left side, once from the bottom side (the side closest to you), and once from the top side (the side farthest from you), each time stretching and folding the dough over the previous folds.
Grab the top right corner with your right hand and the top left corner with your left hand, and pull the top right corner down and across to the left at a diagonal, about 2-inches; press lightly to secure. Repeat with the top left corner, pulling it down and across to the right at a diagonal; press lightly to secure. Repeat crosshatch fold across the center of the loaf and across the bottom of the loaf. Roll the bottom half the dough up and over the top so that the seams are sealed inside and the smooth underside is now the top. Pinch the right and left sides to seal. Using a bench scraper, pull the dough across the work surface, rotating as you drag it, to develop tension and form a taut ball. Let the boule rest on the work surface (to help seal the bottom seam) while repeating this shaping process with remaining 1 dough piece.
Using a bench scraper to lift the dough, 1 at a time, carefully invert boules into the prepared proofing baskets so that the smooth, rounded sides are facing down and the seam sides are facing up. Cover the baskets with kitchen towels; chill at least 12 hours or up to 18 hours.
Preheat oven to 500°F with oven rack in the lower third of oven. About 20 minutes before baking, place a bread pan (10-inch diameter or larger) with lid or cast-iron Dutch oven (5 quart or larger) with lid in oven to preheat.
Once bread pan is fully preheated, invert 1 of the boules (so that the rounded side is now on top) onto an 11-inch square of parchment paper. (Leave the second boule covered in the refrigerator until ready to use.) Using a pastry brush, dust excess flour off of inverted boule. Using a small spray bottle, lightly mist the top of the boule with water. Place a stencil on the center of the boule, and sprinkle with an even dusting of white rice flour. Carefully lift stencil. (Stenciling is purely decorative and can be skipped, if desired. To make your own stencil, print a design (no larger than a 5-inch square) onto heavy cardstock. Using a very sharp, thin blade (such as an X-Acto knife), carefully cut out the design, ensuring that each cutout piece has a point of contact with the background.)
Using a lame, score a diamond pattern onto the boule around the stenciled design. When scoring, use decisive and swift movements to prevent dragging the dough and creating jagged tears. Hold the lame at a 45-degree angle with the blade pointed toward the center of the loaf, and slice the dough (about 1/4-inch deep) using the corner edge of the blade.
Remove bread pan from oven. Remove lid from bread pan, and carefully transfer parchment paper with the prepared boule to the bread pan. Re-cover bread pan, and return to oven. Reduce oven temperature to 450°F. Bake, covered, until loaf has increased in volume, opened up at the scores, and turned a shiny pale-light brown, about 26 minutes. Remove lid, and continue baking the loaf until deeply caramelized and a thermometer inserted in center of loaf registers 200°F, 26 to 28 minutes. Transfer loaf to a wire rack; remove and discard parchment paper.
Repeat Steps 7 through 10 with remaining dough.
Let loaves cool completely, about 3 hours. Slice and serve.
A poolish, which uses active dry yeast, may be substituted for the levain in the Dough recipe, although the bread will have a slightly less complex flavor. To make the poolish, stir together 225 grams (7 7/8 ounces) (about 2 cups) Ruby Lee Wheat Flour, 280 grams (10 ounces) (about 1 1/4 cups) warm water (90°F), and 1/2 gram (1/48 ounces) (1/8 teaspoon) active dry yeast in a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap; let stand at room temperature until poolish is bubbly and passes the float test, 10 to 14 hours.