2c. bread flour
10 tbsp. water
3/4 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. starter (will get to that soon)
This loaf showcases my #1 stunna scoring technique, which yields the charming bushtit-like appearance of the loaf. I was trying to replicate the layer-cake look that some specialty loaves have, but I think part of my scores were at too much of an angle to really work. I made a kind of spiral over the top of the loaf, the idea being that each inner layer rises a little more than the one before it, because it has to support less weight (and may benefit a little from the layer around it). Next time I'm going to try concentric circles and see what happens, especially when I score directly perpendicular to the surface of the loaf, rather than at the usual bias.
So anyway, this loaf was baked from a roughly 60+% hydration white dough. You can knead it until it gets like a silk balloon (the trick to kneading is, as mentioned before, to remember that you're stretching and folding an ergodic mass into what should ultimately be an onion-like arrangement of many sheets of taut gluten—try not to tear your gluten sheets; this means letting the dough rest when it looks like you're bursting through them).
After that, I let this dough go through 2 preliminary rises, first to double its volume, then to triple, punching them down each time, before shaping it into a slightly oblong boule and making my clumsy little spiral score. I highly recommend playing with scoring techniques. Just remember that in general the loaf spits at the score, so it moves both up (as it rises) and perpendicular to the length of the score (as it splits). Maybe you want to double the recipe, then split the dough into two and practice two opposite scorings on identical loaves to see the difference. Maybe you want to drop everything, a metaphor, and live without lying forever.
My spread for this one (anticipating a sour loaf, after the 8hr 1st rise, 3hr 2nd rise, and 1.5hr final post-shaped rise), was cinnamon-ginger butter. For some reason I think cinnamon goes really well with sourdough. The loaf didn't turn out sour, but then, I'll die someday anyway, forgetting all I know about baking, and I made this spread a tad to sweet to compensate.
1/2 c. butter
1 tbs. fresh ginger, minced
a few pinches of cinnamon—you should play this by ear; it's very easy to overdo.
a couple tsp. brown sugar—also easy to overdo; you don't want the sugar to overwhelm the saltiness of the butter, which will bring out the sourness (and different kind of sweetness) in the dough. Very delicate stuff.
Mix it all up! Since my loaf wasn't very sour, I'm considering adding a little lime or apple-cider vinegar (or just apple-cider) to the butter. Lime will tilt it to the tropics, apple-cider to Americana. Very delicate stuff.