Cuisine Fiend

tartine country bread


Tartine country bread

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.

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 fascists 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.

On the other apex, the 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 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

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. Tartine is brilliant though – 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


  • Makes 2 large loaves
  • 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
  • 20 grams 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.

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.

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.

Sourdough starter

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.

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.

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.

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.

Tartine bread dough

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.

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

Tartine shaping loaves

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.)

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. 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.

Tartine style loaf

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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