This oversized sourdough boule is designed to fully utilize all of the space available in your Challenger Bread Pan. At just over 1300 grams of finished dough, this loaf makes a statement as a centerpiece on any table, an impressive surprise gift for friends, or a great way to fill out a week’s worth of school lunches for the kiddos. The Challenger team loves to serve one of these on a large wooden board, surrounded with cured meats, various cheeses, fresh and dried fruits, jams, pickled items, and toasted nuts. Round it out with a couple bottles of wine, and you’ll have a perfect meal meant for sharing with family and friends.Print
At just over 1300 grams of finished dough, this loaf makes a statement as a centerpiece on any table, an impressive surprise gift for friends, or a great way to fill out a week’s worth of school lunches for the kiddos.
507 g King Arthur Flour bread flour
168 g freshly milled hard red spring wheat OR King Arthur Flour whole wheat flour
486 g room temperature water
135 g mature liquid levain
13 g kosher salt, or any non-iodized salt
In a large bowl, mix both flours and water until no lumps or dry flour remains. Cover and set aside for 1-2 hours.
Add the salt and levain to the bowl, sprinkling the salt across the dough and then smearing the levain over the dough’s surface. This will be much easier to do with damp hands, so keep a water source nearby. Use the pads of all of your fingers (but not your fingernails) to push the levain down into the dough, over and over again, until the leaven is fairly well worked into the mix.
From here, place your thumbs on one side of the dough and other fingers on the opposite side, as if you were going to squeeze the whole mass of dough, and pinch your fingers together over and over to mix the dough from the outer edges to the middle, rotating the bowl as you go to make sure you mix the whole mass. You will likely find that the dough stiffens up and becomes difficult to mix; if this happens, let the dough rest for about 10 minutes before continuing to mix to allow it to relax and avoid tearing. It’s perfectly fine if you have to mix in a few sessions with a few minutes of rest in between each. Your dough will always tell you what it needs, and if it’s starting to tear, it’s telling you it needs to relax a bit before continuing. Once the dough is fairly cohesive, let it rest for another 10 minutes before moving on to the next step.
Once the dough has relaxed enough to allow you to stretch it without tearing, perform one to two rounds of stretch and folds to smooth out the dough. Move your dough into a clean bowl or bulk bin (preferably clear glass or plastic to allow for a good visual on fermentation later, but if you don’t have anything clear, that’s ok) and cover loosely for bulk rise.
During the first hour of bulk rise, perform 3 strong stretch and folds 20 minutes apart, starting 20 minutes after bulk rise begins. These stretch and folds should be strong enough to strengthen the dough, but not so extreme that the dough tears.
Let the dough rest until you just begin to feel gas building up inside of the dough (this took about 2 hours after the last stretch and fold for us) and then perform 2 rounds of gentle coil folds. Leave the dough to rise for another 2-3 hours or until proofed to your level of comfort, but do not push proof to its limit. The next photo will show what our dough looked like from below when we pulled it from bulk to begin shaping.
If you are letting the dough rise in a clear container, you can lift the bowl up and view the dough from the bottom to gauge the proof. The dough should be populated throughout with air pockets. This is a strong sign that the dough is ready to shape. Shaping such a large piece of dough can be tricky, especially for bakers with smaller hands, so quick and gentle handling is important here to avoid deflating the dough. This is why we advise using a moderately proofed dough here—it’s less gassy and less fragile than a proofy dough, and, therefore, less likely to deflate during shaping. As you gain more confidence with shaping this amount of dough, you can push bulk rise further for a more open crumb.
Gently dump the dough onto a lightly floured work bench. Take stock of your dough: if it feels a bit tight from removing it from the bulk bin (meaning that it doesn’t stretch out enough easily enough to shape without tearing), let it rest on the bench for a few minutes before shaping, but not for so long that it starts to lose its shape and flatten out. If it’s easily workable straight out of the bulk bin, move straight into shaping by gently stretching the dough into a circle, taking care not to deflate the dough. Looking at the photo above, take note of the plastic bench scraper included for scale; that’s roughly what you want your dough to look like sizewise next to a standard plastic bench scraper.
With your dough on the bench in front of you, fold the left side up and over toward the right, then fold the right side over (it will look like you’re folding a piece of paper into thirds, except this is round). With each fold, press down on the dough, gently enough to not degas it but firmly enough to help it stay put. Repeat the same steps with the top and bottom flaps of dough.
Gently flip the dough, seam side down, and perform a couple of gentle French pulls by cupping your hands around the base of the dough with your pinkies gently resting on the work bench and then pulling the dough towards you, rotating the dough a bit as you go to bring the dough into the classic rounded boule shape. For a dough of this consistency, this is an effective way to seal the seams leftover from the first steps of shaping and increase surface tension, which translates into a tidier shape and cleaner score later on. Let the dough rest on the bench for about 5 minutes, then place into your flour-dusted (and towel-lined, if you’d like) banneton, seam side up.
Final proof/cold proof
Let the dough rest in the banneton at room temperature for 1-2 hours, then move to the refrigerator (covered or uncovered) to retard overnight.
Score and Bake
The following morning, load your Challenger Bread Pan into the oven and preheat to 450°F / 230°C. Once the pan is fully preheated, remove the lid, lightly dust the baking surface with cornmeal or rice flour, then load the dough into the pan, straight from the refrigerator. Score the dough, cover with the lid, and bake for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for 15 minutes more. Remove the loaf from the pan and set on a cooling rack to cool for at least 2 hours before slicing, though we won’t blame you if you can’t help but tear into it while it’s still hot from the oven.
Once sliced, store the loaves cut side down, uncovered and at room temperature, on your favorite cutting board. The bread stays fresh for a few days, then moves into perfect toast territory for up to a week. In the unlikely event that you have any left after that time frame, croutons and breadcrumbs are our favorite ways to make sure not a crumb goes to waste.
Nicole Muvundamina is a freelance baking instructor and recipe developer specializing in sourdough and freshly milled whole grain baking. Armed with a tabletop stone mill and a pantry overflowing with grains, she is on a mission to introduce people to the fantastic flavors and characteristics that come along with fresh, whole flour. To see what grain-based tomfoolery she is getting herself into each day, follow her on instagram at @nmuvu.
Fermentation times: Though we will always give time ranges for fermentation, remember that sourdough is alive and will behave slightly differently from kitchen to kitchen. It’s fairly common for bakers to find that their fermentation times do not align with those printed in the formula they are following due to the variables that exist in this style of baking, including flour brand and type, temperature of ingredients, room temperature, water source, humidity, starter health, and other factors. All of these things bring their own unique characteristics to your loaf, so take advantage of that uniqueness by using this recipe as a guideline that you can tweak and make totally your own.
Proofing bowl: Your choice of proofing vessel will have an immense impact on how well your loaf fits and fills your pan. Do a quick check to make sure that the lip of your banneton isn’t larger than your pan is wide, or your loaf will spill out of the pan the moment you load your dough into it to bake. The easiest way to check is to remove the lid from your pan, flip your banneton upside down, and see if it fits the pan’s baking surface. Ideally, it will just barely fit; if not, any bowl or basket that fits the width criteria and will hold this amount of dough will work beautifully, so long as you have a good towel or other liner for it that you can dust with flour to prevent any problems with sticking dough.
Keywords: sourdough boule, sourdough bread, proofing, sourdough