Seven days before you want to make your bread, you need to make a starter. Sourdough starter should be made in a container, preferably plastic or glass that can hold about twice the starter you’re making. In this clean container, use a wooden spoon to mix 2 cups water and 2 cups of flour. You can add sugar if you prefer a sweeter bread.
Leave the starter on the counter, out of direct sunlight, for six days. Stir your mix every 12 hours. It should start developing a smell like yeasty cider or maybe a little like beer. It will separate a little; just mix it together. Your starter should start to bubble on its own. On the seventh day you can use your starter in bread. If your starter develops a funky rancid smell, or mold, discard it and start again. It may have been too warm in the place you put the starter, try somewhere a little darker and cooler.
FOR THE BREAD – Pour ½ cup of warm water into a dish, add a pinch of sugar, and the yeast. Stir to dissolve and allow the yeast to activate for at least 10 minutes.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, mix together the sourdough starter, the rest of the water, sugar, melted butter, salt and 3 cups of flour. Set the mixer on medium, beating your mix until smooth. Add the yeast mixture and beat for 1 minute.
Turn the mixer down a little and add the remaining flour, ½ a cup at a time, until you have a shaggy ball of dough that just barely clears the sides of the mixer bowl.
Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead by hand until the dough is smooth and elastic. It will spring back when you poke it.
Dribble oil into a bowl and add the dough, turning it over a couple of times to coat. Cover with a tea towel or plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise at room temperature for an hour to an hour and a half or until it’s doubled in size.
Deflate the dough by gently pressing your fist into the center of the dough (this is also known as punching down the dough).
If you wish to make sandwich loaf shaped bread, lightly grease two bread pans, then sprinkle the bottoms of the pans with cornmeal. If you are using the Napoleon Pizza Stone
to make bread boules, skip the greasing step. Turn the dough out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface and divide it in two. Shape the dough into the desired shape, (placing the loaves into the greased bread pans if using), cover again with a tea towel for about an hour, until the dough has once more doubled in size.
About 20 mins before you’re ready to bake, preheat your grill, with the Pizza Stone
if you’re using it, to about 350°F. Use the two outside burners on medium low, with the stone over the middle two burners, which should remain off.
When the grill is up to temperature, sprinkle the stone with cornmeal and place the bread boules on top. If you’re using bread pans, just place them over the unlit burners. Bake the bread for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped.
Remove the finished loaves from the grill and onto a cooling rack. Allow them to cool completely before you slice. I know it’s hard, but you can do it.
To maintain your starter, after baking the bread, feed your starter 1 cup flour and 1 cup water (can now be tap water), mixing well. Seal the container, but not airtight, and keep it in the fridge. Feed it once per week, and remember to stir it a couple times per week too. When you want to use more, remember to pull the starter out at least 12 hours ahead to come to room temperature.