I like complicated bread recipes as much as any other crazy baker, but life gets busy and I don't always have time to plan, purchase unusual ingredients, etc. My fall back approach to our weekly bread baking is the following simple approach to sourdough.
1. I made my own starter a couple of years ago, following the directions in Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads. His "pineapple juice solution" really helps avoid common problems in getting a starter underway. I think the directions will appear also in Reinhart's new book, Artisan Breads Every Day, which is due to hit stores later this month. Once a week (or at least once every two weeks), I pull out about 2-3 oz of starter (a big spoonful), and mix it with approximately 2 c flour and 1 c water. You can see the consistency in the photo above - just a little wetter than final bread dough. Depending on how much flour I scooped up, I will have between 12-16 oz of starter. I put it in a bowl with a loosened lid on the kitchen counter for 4-6 hours and then punch down, cover tightly, and refrigerate. During the week, I may open the lid a couple of times to give it some air.
2. I then take the rest of the previous week's starter (10-12 oz, more or less), and mix it with flour, salt, and water, according to how many loaves I want. For two sandwich loaves, I put about 5-6 cups of white or wheat flour, 1-2 cups other flours (chickpea, rice, fava, coconut, oat, etc), 2 t kosher salt, and other stuff if I feel like it (e.g., a handful of nutritional yeast). Then, I start with 2 c water, and begin kneading, adjusting with flour or water as necessary to get a soft, supple, slightly sticky ball of dough. Put the dough in a greased bowl, cover, and let it rise on the counter for at least 6 hours. The long rise is necessary due to the lack of commercial yeast, and contributes to a strong sourdough flavor. I work half-days on Fridays, so I set the dough to rise before I leave and continue when I get home.
Punch down the risen dough, put into greased loaf pans and let rise for 90 minutes to 2 hours, or whenever it looks ready to go. Bake at 350 F for about 50-55 minutes. I usually leave one loaf out for us, and freeze the other one, so it stays fresh for later in the week. It's good bread, and simple.
Note: Both of the Reinhart books above are vegan-friendly. There are certainly some non-vegan recipes, but many vegan ones and many others that are easily veganizable. I tested for Artisan Breads Every Day and made almost all the recipes. I was very happy to find that his challah recipe veganized with ease. The rye bread is the best I've ever had outside of a NYC Jewish deli (and it could give some delis a run for their money). The wild rice and onion bread is delightful and perfect for autumn. If you enjoy baking, don't miss it!