By the next morning, the mixture of flour, water, and starter from the day before should look something like this.
You can see that it’s gained a lot in volume. That’s a good sign because it means the yeast is producing a lot of gas! To tell if the starter has fermented enough overnight, you do something called the float test. Put a small spoonful of the starter into a bowl of water. If the starter floats, then that means it’s fermented enough overnight to continue. Here’s what a successful float test looks like.
In the next step, called autolyse, you mix the remaining flour (1000 g) with a portion of the remaining water. You can let this go anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours. Since the starter doesn’t actually get used for another 30 minutes to 2 hours, if your starter didn’t pass the float test the first time, then it should by the time the autolyse is finished.
Here’s how to make the autolyse. Mix 1000 g of flour with 750 g of water until a shaggy mass forms. A wooden spoon works great for this!
I didn’t take a picture of the next step because by the time I thought about it, both of my hands were covered in dough, but here’s what you’re supposed to do (then I’ll tell you what I did, since I messed up a little). Add 200 g of the starter to the autolyse, and pinch in the starter with your thumbs and pointers. While you are doing this, you can be flipping the dough over so that the starter gets fully incorporated. This is also when you can incorporate any remaining dry flour. Next, add 20 g of salt over the dough and pour 50 g of water to dissolve the salt. Pinch again to incorporate the salt, rotating as before.
Here’s what I did accidentally. I forgot to add the water at first, so I just pinched in the 20 g of salt without adding any water. Then I added 50 g of water after pinching in the salt. I mixed the dough with a wooden spoon to make sure the water was all incorporated.
The next step is called slap and fold, which I also didn’t take a picture of because both hands were covered in dough and I have no way to mount my phone. You can look up what that looks like if you want. Essentially, you are picking up the dough and throwing it down on the table. Before you pick it back up, you want to fold the dough over itself so that as you’re throwing it down the next time, it’s kind of in one compact mass. Keep doing this until the dough gains some structure and becomes less slack.
Next, is the “you have to wait just long enough to watch an episode of a show but not long enough to go be productive” step. After slapping and folding, put the dough into a large bowl. Every 30 minutes, give the dough a series of folds. Lift up the dough from the center, and kind of let it fall onto itself. Do this a few times, and then turn the bowl 90 degrees. Do this 6 times (so this step should take 2.5 hours).
In the next step, you divide the dough into two halves using a bench scraper (try to be as precise as possible, but it’s not a huge deal if one piece is slightly bigger than the other). Try to coax the dough into a rough circle, then sprinkle a little flour over the tops of them. Then cover the two masses of dough with a clean towel and let them rest for 10 minutes. You’re doing this because you just stretched the gluten, so you want to give the strands a chance to re-form.
After the dough’s had a chance to rest, you want to flatten it out by tugging on the outer edge of it. Fold the part furthest away from you in towards the center. Then fold the right, then left parts of the dough in towards the center. Then fold the bottom part up. Pinch along the seam you created (called stitching) and flip the dough over seam side down so it seals.
Then place the dough into floured proofing baskets seam side up (the bottom is pointing up), and let rest in the fridge covered with a towel overnight. Mine will end up being in there around 19 hours, so we’ll see how they look when they come out of the oven later. Here’s what mine looked like before I refrigerated them.
That’s the end of day 2! The next day (which is actually today), it’s finally time to bake them!