We have all had this experience, I'm sure. The happy circumstance where you do something, not intentionally, and despite all the indications of failure... it actually works out. So here's what happened. But first a little background to fill you in. I read a lot of cookbooks as you might imagine. All kinds but especially baking books. No biggie there. And, everything I read seems to have the same message and that is... if you want to be a real bread baker, you've got to make/bake sourdough. I'm not sure I buy this argument, but it's out there for sure. What everyone calls artisan/sourdough bread today is what my grandparents called 'bread'. It was all sourdough made with a poolish starter (very wet, often 100% hydration) or a biga (basically dough allowed to ferment before you knead it in with the rest of the dough). And, yes, you can be a purist and only use wild yeast which happens to be floating in your kitchen, or give it a boost with a minute amount of commercial yeast. All in order to get the distinctive sour taste and chewy crust of sourdough bread.
So this bread is a little of both born by accident. Here's what happened. I started a poolish (1 cup AP flour + 1 cup water + a pinch of commercial yeast, and left it covered, at room temperature for 8 hours. The problem is I forgot about it and went to bed and left it overnight. Then I got really busy and left it another day. By the time I got to it, it was 48 hours later!! it was bubbling away very, but very vigorously. I almost threw it out. But am I glad I didn't. The bread I made is so good, with the chewy crust and tight but soft crumb, I will surely make it again. This one is a keeper. Accidental sourdough.
Here's What You'll Need: (for the starter)
1 cup AP flour
1 cup warm water
a pinch of yeast
Mix to make a very wet slurry, like a thick cake batter, then cover with plastic wrap, and let stand at room temperature, for 48 hours!
1 cup AP flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup rye flour
1 1/4 cup warm water
1-2 Tbs. sugar
1/2 tsp. instant yeast
11/2 tsp. salt
Mix it all together, along with the starter to make a ragged dough. Finally add the salt and knead for about 10 minutes (6 minutes in a mixer) until smooth and only slightly sticky. Place in a lightly greased bowl, turn to coat, then cover to rise until doubled in volume. This will take quite a while since there is only a little yeast, maybe 3 hours.
Finally shape the dough into a boule, being careful not to deflate the dough, and place on a baking sheet covered with baking paper (or a baker's peel), cover and let is rise until doubled again.
About 30 minutes before baking time preheat the oven, with a baking stone, to 450F (220C). Just before placing the dough in the oven, slash it with a sharp, serated knife, and spray the loaf and the oven with water.
Bake for 30-35 minutes until it is a very dark brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
Cool on a rack.