I did it! Bread has been baked!
I don’t know if you’d call this ‘cheating’ but my friend Behsheed from Dal noticed my plight with the starter and offered me a helping hand! THANK YOU BESH!! I’ve been given a part of a starter (Stanley the Starter) that’s around 2 years old and still going strong and full of life. I fed it for a couple days then prepared my leaven and voila–beautiful bread.
My mom kept asking how much I kneaded it, and I kept saying that with this dough you don’t have to knead! It’s pretty straight forward, but does certainly take some attention. After you mix your leaven, flour (10% whole wheat 90% white) and water (200g, 1000g, 700g respectively) you let it sit for ~30 minutes then mix in 20g of salt. Over the course of the ‘bulk rise’ or ‘bulk fermentation’ you do a series of turns. No need to remove it from the mixing bowl either, you just wet your hand to prevent it from sticking to the dough and reach down the sides of the bowl to the bottom of the dough, pick up the bottom and fold it over the top. You do this every ~30 minutes for about a 3 hour period. I was lazy during this and only folded it three times over the course, and it still seemed to work. But the more you fold it, the more you develop the dough and the more stretchy it gets. For the last folding during the bulk fermentation, you separate the dough in half and form them into balls and let it rest on your work surface for ~25 minutes.
After the bulk rise you have a couple options depending on what flavour you want out of the dough. The longer the dough ferments, the more flavour develops. I decided I wanted to experiment since I had enough dough to make 2 loaves. I let one rise a 2nd time at room temperature for another 3 hours, then baked it. The other, I let it rise in the fridge for another ~12 hours. The cool temperature slows the fermentation and lets the dough rise slowly. After the rest period from the bulk rise, you do another series of folds to form the dough into a neat package before you place it in your desired dish to form it. I had a bread pan that I lined with a clean kitchen towel and sprinkled it with flour to prevent it from sticking to the dough. The book recommends rice flour but all I had was regular flour and it seemed to work. On to baking…
We have a Le Creuset casserole baker that proved to be perfect bakeware for bread. The Tartine book says the trick to good crust is a moisture saturated environment during the first 20 minutes of baking. So a covered baker is ideal! I pre-heated the oven to 500 degrees with the Creuset in the oven and transferred the loaf I had rising at room temperature into the pan (careful it’s HOT!). Then I scored the surface with a sharp Olfa blade (any sharp thin blade will work) in an X. The scoring helps the bread expand without bursting. Then I covered it and put it in the oven and lowered the temp to 450. After 20 minutes I removed the lid and revealed a lovely golden brown crust forming. Back into the oven it goes uncovered for another 20-25 minutes.
Yeah, it’s good.