Boule is French for “ball” or "round" and describes the shape of these loaves of tangy, chewy bread.
Serves: 16Hands-on: 30 minutesTotal: 10 days 10 hours 30 minutesDifficulty: Medium
- 4 cups water, divided
- 7⁄8 tsp. active dry yeast, divided
- 4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 4 cups bread flour
- 2 Tbsp. cornmeal
- Combine 1 cup water, 1⁄8 teaspoon yeast, and 1 cup flour in a ceramic or glass bowl. Stir to combine, cover loosely with damp cheesecloth or towel, and set aside at room temperature. Stir this mixture once a day for the next 4 days. On Day 5, add 1 cup water and 1 cup flour. Stir well, cover again, and set aside at room temperature for another 4 days, stirring once a day, as before. On the tenth day, again add 1 cup water and 1 cup flour. Mix thoroughly. Let stand at room temperature loosely covered for 6 hours, or until the starter foams and doubles in volume. The starter is now ready to use.
- Combine 1 cup starter, 1⁄2 cup water, and remaining 1 3⁄4 teaspoons yeast. Stir to dissolve and let stand 5 minutes. Add remaining 1 cup all-purpose flour and beat 1 minute. Cover and let stand at room temperature 8 hours.
- Add 1⁄2 cup water, salt, and enough bread flour to make a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured work surface and knead 8 to 10 minutes. Add flour only to reduce stickiness. Return to bowl, dust with flour, cover with plastic, and rise at room temperature until doubled in volume, about 1 1⁄2 hours.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment, and sprinkle with cornmeal. Turn risen dough onto a floured surface and divide into 2 equal portions. Roll into balls and place on prepared pan, seam-side down. Dust generously with flour, cover again with plastic, and rise until doubled, about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 475°F.
- Using a serrated knife, slice decorative slash marks into the surface of the dough, about 1⁄2 inch deep. Place a pan of cold water at the bottom of the oven to create steam. Bake until golden brown and hollow sounding, about 30 to 40 minutes. Cool completely on a rack.
- To keep your starter alive, replace the quantity that has been used with an equal amount of water and flour (for every 1 cup used, replace with 1⁄2 cup water and 1⁄2 cup flour). Keep covered, stir it every day, and feed it every 5 days by removing some starter and again replacing it with an equal amount of water and flour. If you do not wish to feed it, but want to keep it, cover, airtight, and refrigerate indefinitely, taking it out and repeating the process (removing and replacing 1 cup as before) for 10 days before using it again.