After much patience, my starter finally began to expand and collapse in a predictable manner over the weekend.  This means, I can finally bake my first batch of the Tartine bread!

To prepare for today’s bread making, I used the starter to make a leaven last night.  This involved using 1 tablespoon of the mature starter and mixing it with 200 grams water and 200 grams of the 50/50 flour mixture.  This fermented overnight and was ready to use once a spoonful of the leaven floated when dropped into a bowl of water.  The leaven smelled sweet verses acidic and had increased in volume by about 20%.

This morning I made the dough.  Once assembled, it had to rise (this was the bulk rise) for about 3 hours and was turned every 30 minutes.  As the dough rose, it got softer and more billowy.  Next, the dough was divided into two equal pieces, shaped each into a boule, and rested on the counter for 30 minutes.  Then I shaped the two loaves into a boule once again and let them rise in parchment lined bowls for 2 hours.

While the loaves rose, I heated a covered dutch oven at 500°F.  Then one at a time, I baked the loaves at 450° F, first covered for 25 minutes then uncovered for 25 more.  The result, was pretty darn close to perfection.  I still need to work on my shaping a bit and I think I will cook the bread at 500° F for a while before reducing the heat, because I don’t think my oven gets as hot as I would like.  Besides that though, the crust was great and stayed crunchy after removing from the oven, the air bubbles where huge, the color of the interior was a beautiful rustic hue, and the flavor was excellent.

This bread is by far the best I have made in my own kitchen and maybe the best I have eaten (yes I may be biased, but is really is that good!).  So I guess my goal was accomplished!  I am now looking forward to keeping my starter going, perfecting my technique, trying more variations, and using my starter in other recipes.