MAKING THE DOUGH
Combine sourdough starter, 5 C flour, and water in a bowl. Stir with a spoon just til combined, don't over-stir. Dough will be very sticky but form a loose ball. *When measuring the flour, always spoon flour into the measuring cup as opposed to scooping the flour from container with measuring cup. You will get a better measure and lighter dough.
Cover with a kitchen towel, and let rest for 20 minutes.
KNEADING THE DOUGH
Remove dough from bowl and turn out onto a floured surface, using the 1/4-1/2 C flour set aside for kneading. Use the bare minimum just to handle the dough without it being overly sticky. Knead the dough roughly 10-12 times, sprinkling in the salt as you go, and fold into a smooth ball.
Set dough back into bowl, and cover with kitchen towel. Let rise for an hour.
KNEADING THE DOUGH AGAIN
Remove dough from bowl and turn out onto a clean floured surface. Knead dough just four times. Folding from outside in, rotating 90 degrees until a full circle has been made.
Return to bowl, and let rise another hour.
PRE-SHAPE THE DOUGH
Remove from bowl and gently turn out onto a clean floured surface. Using a dough scraper or a knife, cut the dough in half gently shaping into two rounds. Cover with a towel (leaving on counter).
Now let rest another 20 minutes, after pre-shape.
Shape one final time into tight rounds, tucking a seam on the underside of the loaves.
Place each on a separate sheet of parchment paper, and cover once more with a kitchen towel.
Let rise for 2.5 hours. If you have a sourdough basket, this is when you can set the dough in for it's last rise, seam side up. I currently do not use a basket, and just leave it on the counter.
PREP THE BAKING AND DUTCH OVEN
30 minutes prior to baking, place a roasting pan on the lower rack of the oven and fill with 2 C water. Place dutch oven on middle rack to preheat with oven temperature rising. Preheat oven to 450.
BAKING THE BREAD
Carefully with oven mitts remove the dutch oven from the ovens middle rack. Lift one round by picking up the parchment and carrying to the dutch oven. Gently set both the parchment and the round into the dutch oven. *Alternately, if you do not have a dutch oven, you may set the parchment on a baking sheet, although you may not get the same rise and coloring when baking. The dutch oven is pretty magical!
Using a sourdough lame or a sharp knife, gently cut an x into the top of the round.
Place the lid back on the dutch oven. Return dutch oven to baking oven.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, and then remove the lid for an additional 10-15 minutes of baking or until the top of your loaf if crusty, and caramel brown and golden. Every oven is different. I do 30 with the lid, followed by 10 without the lid for a total of 40 minutes.
Remove an let cool on a baking rack for at least 30 minutes before wrapping in a flour sack towel, or other kitchen towel.
Ideally, wait 12-24 hours before cutting into your sourdough bread.