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Tartine country bread

Mon, 25 September, 2017

Tartine style sourdough country loaf made following one of the best bread recipes: sourdough from Chad Robertson's famous San Francisco Tartine bakery is arguably the best. Includes the unique method of making the sour starter from scratch which takes about a week to mature.

Tartine country sourdough bread

Tartine bread from Tartine Bakery

Tartine Bakery, owned by Chad Robertson and Elisabeth Prueitt, is a place of cult. The queues are allegedly at least an hour long, all day; ‘bread guru’ is a phrase used interchangeably with Robertson’s name and the books ‘Tartine Bread’ and its followers have the status of the Bible, Koran and Torah, combined.

Hashtag your photo #tartine and the Instagram bread porn seekers are your fan club.

The church of bread

My comparison with the holy books is not out of place since in bread, it seems, extremists reign and it’s no place for a moderate. The sourdough fanatics are one axis. They spurn all that’s not wild yeast. Only naturally leavened dough counts.

Show them a drool-inducing croissant and, unless started with a sour, it may as well be a dead rat. Yeast, even baker’s fresh, won’t impress them. And I dare not mention the ultra-orthodox gluten-free sectarians.

... and the bread ignorants

On the other apex, there are folk happily dropping bags of sliced white into their supermarket trolleys. People who eat bread because it’s a filler or a sandwich casing. Those you can never expect to say 'good bread' in any context because for them bread 'just is'.

The people who the Wonder Bread or Hovis White were invented for; the ones who compare good things to sliced bread (only ‘the best thing’ if you slice it yourself) and who are the reason why the Chorleywood process made bread ‘the best food value in Britain’.

Tartine sourdough loaf

Sourdough takes time

I am not a Hovis White eater but try to be open-minded about it – it is, after all, lots of hassle to produce a decent loaf, let alone sourdough. I usually try to split the process and make my sourdough over 3 days, starter notwithstanding.

Some sourdoughs don't like it and insist on being made, shaped, proofed and all in one day. Tartine is brilliant like that - you can easily make it over two or three days.

How to make Tartine country sourdough

The starter takes a week, as starters do. What's interesting about this process, is that after a week of feeding you discard all but a tablespoon of the sourdough starter. What? Indeed - there are whole Facebook groups devoted to what to do with the discard as those good people, me included, feel it's a sin to let a potential for a food down the drain.

But there's only so much you can bake so I persuade myself to get over it, unless I'm planning on baking some honey buns soon.

That spoonful of starter is a greedy beast as, fed with flour and water, it will swell massively overnight. And it wants more: so the next morning it gets the rest of the flour - a mix of white and wholemeal - and has a brief nap called autolyse.

chad robertson's Tartine style loaf

What is autolyse?

In short - hydrating the flour, so the fermentation process is longer and gentler, gluten starts developing slowly and into longer strands, and so subsequently less kneading is necessary. King Arthur discusses it in depth if you're interested.

Folding and folding (and stretching)

Autolyse is followed by kneading but not so intensive. The main part of it is stretching and folding, every half an hour, five or six times. That definitely keeps you cooped up at home for the morning though I've heard stories of keen bakers driving for errands with a bowl of sourdough on the passenger's seat, to give it a little s&f while sat at the traffic lights.

At this stage I usually put it to rest in the fridge for 24 hours. The staggered process is not only easier on your schedule but it also prolongs fermentation in the dough.

tartine country sourdough bread

Shape and bake

The next day it is shaping the dough into loaves and again - bake right then after a warm proof or store it overnight so you can have freshly baked bread the next morning.


I took instruction for my Tartine bread straight from Chad Robertson at NYTimes Cooking. If you know your way around flour, water and levains, give it a go. On the other hand if you do know your way, you’ve sure baked it already and I’ve been lagging behind.

tartine country bread

Servings: 2 loavesTime: 5 hours plus starter over several days


  • For the starter:
  • 350g wholemeal stoneground flour
  • 350g strong white bread flour
  • For the leaven:
  • 1 tbsp. starter
  • 200g warm water
  • 200g flour mix, from above
  • For the main dough:
  • 200g leaven
  • 700g warm water
  • 900g strong white bread flour; more for dusting
  • 100g wholemeal stoneground flour
  • 20g fine sea salt
  • 50g warm water
  • 100g mixed wholemeal and rice flour, for dusting


The starter will take about a week to be ready; more in colder climate.

1. Prepare a jar or tub with a lid for the starter. Mix the white and wholemeal flours in a larger tub. Put 100g of warm water at 26C/80F in the small tub and add 100g of the white-wholemeal flour mix. Stir it with your fingers until combined; cover with the lid but don’t seal and leave it at room temperature until bubbles start to show – 2-3 days.

2. When the starter shows some activity, start feeding it. Every day discard roughly ¾ of the starter and add 50g warm water and 50g of the white-wholemeal flour mix; stir well each time. When the starter begins to rise and fall each day and smells sour (after about a week), you can go on to the next step.

Tartine sourdough starter

3. The night before baking prepare the leaven: discard all but 1 tbsp. of the starter. Mix it with 200g warm water until dispersed. Add 200g of the white-wholemeal flour mix. Stir it until combined and leave at room temperature for 12 hours. It should become bubbly and puffed up. To test if it’s ready, scoop a teaspoon of it and see if it floats in a bowl of water. If it sinks, let it mature longer.

4. For the main dough, mix 200g of the leaven (the rest will become your starter for future baking and can live in the fridge) with 700g warm water in a very large bowl; stir to disperse. Add the 900g white flour and the 100g wholemeal and mix to a rough dough with your hands or a dough whisk until there is no more dry flour visible. Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel and leave to rest for 25-40 minutes at room temperature.

5. Add the salt and the remaining 50g of warm water to the dough and mix with your hands, the dough whisk or in a standing mixer with a dough hook attachment until it smooths a little and starts pulling away from the sides of the bowl. Cover with the damp tea towel and leave in a warm place for 30 minutes.

6. For the next 3 hours stretch and fold the dough every 30 minutes, then return it to the warm place. To do that, wet your hands; grab the underside of the dough at one quadrant and stretch it up over the rest of the dough. Repeat this three more times, rotating bowl a quarter turn for each fold. Do this every half an hour, six times in total. The dough should become billowy and increase in volume 20 to 30 percent. If not, continue to let rise and fold for up to an hour more.

how to make tartine bread dough

7. At this point continue with shaping or rest the dough overnight in fridge and bring it to room temperature the next morning.

8. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and dust the top with flour. Cut it in half with dough scrapers and flip each half over, floured surface down. Fold each piece so that the outside is all floured; form into rounds. Dust with more flour, cover them with a towel and leave for 30 minutes.

9. Prepare two proving baskets or bowls lined with cloth flouring them generously with the whole-rice flour mix.

Tartine bread shaping loaves

10. Dust the dough rounds with flour and shape each to a round loaf (here’s how). Transfer the loaves into the baskets seam side up. Cover with a towel and return dough to the warm place for 2-3 hours. (Or let dough rise for 10 to 12 hours in the refrigerator. Bring back to room temperature before baking.)

11. About 30 minutes before baking, place a Dutch oven or lidded cast-iron pot in the oven and heat it to 250C/500F/max gas. Dust tops of dough, still in their baskets, with the wholemeal/rice-flour mixture. Very carefully remove heated pot from oven and gently turn 1 loaf into it seam-side down.

12. Score the top of the bread with a razor, lame or a sharp knife, cover and transfer to the oven. Reduce temperature to 230C/450F and bake for 20 minutes with the lid on, and another 20 minutes with the lid off.

13. Transfer bread to a wire rack to cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing. Turn the oven back up to 250C/500F/max gas and repeat the process with the other loaf.

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Your comments

Anna @ CuisineFiend
Hi Bengt - you're right, it was a bit confusing to me too, I think the headings in that original post are misleading. If you skip headings, it makes sense: as you say, covered 20 min at 500 then covered 10 min at 450, then uncovered 15-25 at 450. Not a huge difference to my timings but it all depends on an individual oven.
4 years ago
Bengt Westerblad
I was confused by the baking method Lou refered to from the (How to make sourdough bread) where the instructions states to bake the bread in a Dutch oven without a lid and then cover and bake 20 minutes more, then lower the temperature to 450 F and bake 10 minutes. Finally, the lid is removed and baked 15 to 25 minutes more and this instruction is also repeated so the bread should be baked a further 15 to 25 minutes on top of that. The writer of the recipe should had proofread what she wrote; it should be baked with a lid for 20 minutes in a 500 F oven, then reduce to 450 F and bake further 10 minutes with a lid, and finally the lid is removed and baked 15-25 minutes. It is a reason to have the lid on from start and that is to trap the steam from the bread.
4 years ago
Anna @ CuisineFiend
Hi Buddy - if you look at the picture of the sliced loaf, I think there is a very decent rise on it. If you mean there isn't much rise during proving, it tends to spring in the oven the most.
4 years ago
The picture doesn't look there's much rise. I've had this problem and not sure the problem.
4 years ago
Anna @ CuisineFiend
Lou - I do that too, in fact I usually make this sourdough (as featured in the walnut Tartine bread recipe) over 3 days: 1 - dough, 2 - shape, 3 - bake from fridge.
4 years ago
Thanks. Just to give credit where it’s due, I found the baking method here: I think that method gives a better crust then the 20 min lid on 20 lid off from your recipe. The other idea I stole from the other recipe is the possibility to autolyze fro 30 min to 4 hours. I like to go 2-4 hours. Last trick which I devised myself from making many loaves is I proof the loaves in the bannetons for one hour in a warm place then in the ‘fridge for 12-14 hours more before baking.
4 years ago
Anna @ CuisineFiend
Hi Lou - the water amount is correct, so 750g in total. I'm intrigued by your baking method and must try it next time.
4 years ago
I’ve made this a bunch of times, comes out great. It calls for 700 g water to autolize, should that be 650g to start since you are adding 50 after autolyze? Also I bake it like this: 500 F Bake the loaves for 20 minutes. Cover and bake for 20 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 450°F and bake another 10 minutes. Resist the temptation to check the loaves at this point; just reduce the oven temperature to 450°F. Bake another 10 minutes. Remove the lids and continue baking 15 to 25 minutes (22 is best in my oven)
4 years ago
Anna @ CuisineFiend
Hi Dinah - sourdough starters ferment and rise using wild yeast spores naturally occurring in flour, in the air and everywhere. And you can keep a starter in the fridge for years refreshing it every now and then (up to two weeks or sometimes a month) and certainly before using it for a new batch of bread. To refresh this starter, use 50g old one from fridge and mix with 50g warm water and 50g of the white-wholemeal flour mix. Good luck!
4 years ago
@No web site
What makes the starter rise since there’s no yeast in it? Also, how long will the starter last in the fridge?
4 years ago

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