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This bread will stay fresh longer than most loaves you'll make, due to both the olive oil, and the sourdough starter: breads higher in acid retain moisture better than less acidic loaves.
1 cup sourdough starter
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon active dry yeast or 2 teaspoons instant yeast
3 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil
6 to 8 cups (approximately) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
In a large bowl, mix together the starter, water, yeast and vital wheat gluten. Add 3 cups of the flour. Cover with a damp towel, and let this sponge sit overnight. At this point, you may let the sponge sit for as long as 24 hours; the longer it rests, the more sour your final bread will be.
Add the salt, oil, and enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough that cleans the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured or oiled work surface, and knead it, adding more flour as necessary, until it's smooth and resilient. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover it with lightly greased plastic wrap, and let it rise for 2 hours. The dough should double in size. Again, you may let the dough rise for as long as 12 hours at this point, to develop flavor.
Punch the dough down and divide it into two pieces. Knead each piece briefly on a lightly floured or oiled work surface. Form each piece into a round ball, and place each ball on a baking sheet that has been greased and sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover the loaves with damp towels or lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow them to rise for 1 hour (or more), or until they've just about doubled in size.
While the loaves are rising, preheat the oven to 375°F. Make three slashes in the top of each loaf (this helps the loaves to rise evenly in the oven). Bake the bread for 35 minutes, or until it's golden brown and sounds hollow when thumped, or until its interior measures 190°F to 205°F on an instant-read thermometer. Remove the bread from the oven, and cool completely on a wire rack. Yield: 2 large loaves.
Tip: Need some sourdough starter to get started? See our step-by-step directions for creating your own sourdough starter from scratch. Or, if you’re looking for a head-start, check out our classic fresh sourdough starter, a simpler path to fresh, ready-to-use sourdough starter.