My first attempt at this mother of all bread recipes was.. good. To be honest, to me that first attempt was magic. It was the best bread I had ever made at home and I followed the directions on NYT cooking to a T. This time although, I had received the Tartine book for Christmas and I read it 3 times over before I even began the recipe. I knew I could make it better, and this time I knew what to look for. The journey is detailed below from using up the last of my previous loaf to slathering the new one with copious amounts of butter, fresh out of the oven, with a side of 6 cheese tomato soup.
I used up the last of my frozen bread in a toast I made for myself with roasted chicken (recipe courtesy of Buvette cookbook), caramelized onions, and aged Gouda cheese.
This time, I took my starter out of the fridge when I got home from work (which had been sitting in there for almost 2 months without being fed!), gave it a bit of room temperature water and added enough 50/50 white and whole wheat flour mix to make a thick paste. I then let it sit for 12 (ish) hours.
When I woke up I then took a spoonful and a half of the starter and added 200 g warm water and 200 g of the 50/50 flour mix. I let that sit for 12 hours. When I came back that night (around 8pm) it was doubled, possibly tripled the size.
At this point I dissolved the 200g of starter in the 800 g of warm water and added 1000 g of flour (900 white, 100 whole wheat). I let the mixture sit for 30 minutes before adding 20g of salt and 80g of warm water. When the additional water was added it made a slimy textured dough that was falling apart a bit. I continued to mix this by hand for a bit until it all came together but then left it even though the outside was a bit slimy.
At this point it was around 9 pm and I knew I had to go to bed at some point soon. I completed turns at 9:30, 10, 10:30, and 11. The dough was not quite ready yet, so I transferred it into our porch room (probably around 65 degrees F) and let it rise until 7 AM. When I got up, it looked perfect. Big and poofy with pockets of air filling by the side.
I dumped the dough onto an un-floured surface and sprinkled the top with flour. I cut it down the middle and flipped each round so that the floured side was down. I then folded it in half so that the floured side was the only surface exposed and then shaped each into a ball. I let them rest for 30 minutes.
At this point, they looked fantastic on the counter. No excessive running or spreading and I reallyyyy want this loaf to have oven spring. I completed the folding by flipping the rounds and flattening them out a bit into a rectangle. I folded the bottom to the center, the right to the center, then left to the center. Each time I would pull it to create tension across the front surface of the dough. The last fold was to stretch the top of the dough all the way over to the bottom, then pull the entire loaf with my hands cupped towards myself. This really made a difference as with the second dough I made sure to get the tension really tight and it seemed much more compact than the other. This is where you make the shape for your boule. Take care to make pretty, even circles.
The dough was then placed, seam side up, into the floured, cloth-lined bowls around 7:40AM and left to rise in the refrigerator.
At 6pm, when I got home, I placed my dutch oven in the oven set at 500 degrees F. I took the bread out and I waited about 40 minutes, until the oven was completely heated, then sprinkled flour over the seam side of the loaf that was facing upwards and got my lame razor ready. When it was time to bake I took out my dutch oven, leaving the cover in the oven and gently inverted the dough into the pan. I then did 4 scores in the shape of a square and put it in the oven and covered it. I reduced the heat to 450 degrees and let it bake for 20 minutes.
When I opened the cover on that baby.... I was so speechless and excited. It was magnificent. Beautifully risen and it it burst at its cuts and bowled along its sides. I left it in the oven at 450 for another 25 minutes, until it was a crisp deep caramelized brown.