1 cup (225 grams) natural yeast starter,; preferably made of durum
1 flour, or biga (biga recipe at end; of recipe)
3 cup warm water
3 3/4 cup (500 grams) durum flour
Makes 2 large loaves
Sponge: Mix well and let rise until soupy,frothy, and bubbly, 2 to 3 hours, If you use a biga, let rise about 1 1/2 hours.
Dough: 2 1/4 cups (300 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour 1 Tbsp sea salt
In a mixer with the paddle attachment mix the flour and salt into the sponge and beat 1 to 2 minutes. Change to the dough hook and knead at medium speed 4 minutes. The dough never comes away from the sides or bottom of the bowl. Sprinkle 2 to 3 Tbsp flour on a work surface and pour the dough out onto it. Sprinkle another Tbsp flour on top of the dough. IT is very, very soft, moist, and floppy to work with initially, with a velvety smooth texture. Use a dough scraper to help knead it briefly so it becomes malleable.
First Rise: Set in an oiled container, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and leave to rise until doubled, 3 to 4 hours, depending on the strength of the starter. If you use a biga, the dough takes about 2 hours to rise.
Shaping and Second Rise: Pour the dough out onto a floured work surface, lightly sprinkle it with a bit more flour, and divide into 2 pieces. You will see many bubbles under the surface and hear them pop under your fingers as you shape the dough into 2 fairly long ovals. Set 2 pieces of parchment paper onto pizza peels, wooden cutting boards, or cookie sheets, sprinkle them with durum or regular flour, and set the dough onto them, seam side up. If you are nervous about the eventual problem of inverting such a wet dough when it is time to bake it, simply flour the parchment paper and strew flour lightly over the top of the dough and leave it to rise.
Cover well with towels and let rise and spread until doubled, about 1 hour.
Baking: About 30 minutes before you are ready to put the bread into the oven, set baking stones in place and turn the oven on to 450. Just as you are ready to bake, sprinkle the stones with cornmeal to keep the bread from sticking. You may just slide the floured loaves onto the stones right on their paper or you may carefully turn the bread over onto the stones so that the flour-veined surfaces are up. If some of the parchment paper sticks, trim it so it doesn't hang over the edges of the baking stones, and peel it off 20 minutes later. Bake until the bottom rings hollow when tapped, about 35 minutes.
Biga: Makes 2 1/3 cups, 1/4 tsp active dry yeast, 1/4 cup warm water, 3/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp water, room temperature, 2 1/2 cups (330 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour, preferably organically grown. Stir the yeast into the warm water and let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
Stir in the remaining water and then the flour, 1 cup at a time. Leave this covered with plastic wrap to rise at room temperature 6 to 24 hours.
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