At 8 a.m. I began mixing the dough for my first Tartine Basic Country Loaf. Well, you could say that I had been mixing it for going on two weeks, since it took that long to get my starter into shape. Now, with just flour and water and patience (and a bit of salt), I was going to make bread.

There was much measuring of flour and water (weight and temperature!). My nurtured starter proved itself ready for the task at hand. Much stirring and folding and folding and folding (every half hour, for most of the morning). And shaping and resting and rising and then…

After all that work and what I thought was a careful flouring of the towel lining my rising bowl (I’ve done the no-knead bread dance more than once), the dough napped for four hours and adhered itself firmly to the material in the process. So there I was, poised over a 500 degree dutch oven with an entire day of careful work flashing through my mind and a teardrop of dough stuck to a towel in my hands. In just the 3 seconds it took to flip the dough over, I thought all was lost. Foul language was used.

In the end, however, the bread forgave me this error, even if it did trade the attractive baker’s slashings for a surface more, um, rustic. Slicing into the first loaf, the crust was flaky and crisp, the inside boasting huge holes, a chewy texture, and a slight but extremely addictive sour note. I pronounced it excellent and made some cream of tomato soup to go with it on this chilly night.

You can check out the photographic play-by-play here. I need a rest, but then I am totally giving this one another run.

UPDATE: Try #3

Okay, I think I’m getting a handle on this process now. And even though it takes time, I like the work of the tasks involved. And it seems especially worth the investment when it comes out of the oven all golden and crackling.