Randy's Vegetarian Cookbook

San Francisco Sourdough French Bread

1 cup sourdough starter
1 1/2 cups warm water
4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
  
2 to 2 1/2 cups additional all-purpose flour
1/2 to 1 tsp baking soda
  
Makes 2 long loaves or 1 large round loaf

Place sourdough starter in a crock or glass bowl, along with the water, sugar, salt, and the first portion of flour. Mix well, cover lightly with a towel or cheesecloth folded into several thicknesses, and let stand at room temperature for approximately 18 to 24 hours or until the dough has doubled in size.

Mix half of the remaining flour with the baking soda and stir this into the risen dough. Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead enough remaining flour into it to make a very stiff dough. Knead it for 5 to 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth. Shape into long or round loaves, place on a lightly greased baking sheet, cover, and let stand in a warm place for 3 to 4 hours or until almost doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 400F. Brush a little water on top of the loaves and make a few diagonal slits across the top with a sharp knife. For a crustier bread, place a shallow pan of water in the bottom of the oven. Bake for approximately 45 to 50 minutes or until the crust is a medium dark brown.
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