Tartine Sourdough Country Loaf Recipe

I call this batch number 33 of the Tartine sourdough country loaf bread recipe, while it may actually be my thirty-third pair of these I’m not 100% positive. I know for sure it can’t be any less, but it’s probably more. On to the entry…

Another Sunday, another pair of Tartine sourdough country loaves shaped and proofing. My family has come to expect this bread to be on hand during the week, and in the rare case where we have to buy some bread from the grocery store we are always disappointed. Baking bread is a relatively simple act when you boil it down to the pure actions, and yet getting that perfect loaf out of the oven does not always work out… but I still strive forward.

Sunday started out a bit lazy, waking in the later morning after attending a friend’s birthday party the night before. I stumbled into the kitchen and took a look outside to see completely clear skies and the Sun already starting to heat things up. Given the rising temperature I knew Sunday would be a day of quick dough handling and preparation. As you can see, even my German shepherd Arya (yes, that Arya) was a bit lazy this morning — too many rabbits, pigeons, and tennis balls chased Saturday, apparently. Oh what a life.

Our German shepherd Arya

Although the leaven was prepared later than usual Saturday night it was definitely ready to go (left hand side image below). As you can see, the bubbles on top indicate there was significant yeast activity overnight, and judging by the smell (like ripe fruit, almost a hint of vinegar) hopefully it didn’t go too far.

Tartine Sourdough Starter (aka: leaven, levain)

Over my starter’s lifetime I’ve experimented with different flours for feeding and have settled on a formula that my particular strain seems to thrive on. Instead of following Chad Robinson’s Tartine starter formula in his book whereby he feeds 50% whole wheat, and 50% all purpose, I feed my starter 100% rye flour. I’ve found that my starter really shows noticeable activity when fed exclusively rye. If you’re interested in reading about how to create and manage a sourdough starter like mine, head over to this post and read on (be sure to come back and finish this bake, though).

Prepare the leaven – 12:00am

The night before you plan to prepare your dough, mix the following, lightly cover, and set out on the counter overnight:

  1. 55g ripe starter
  2. 200g whole wheat flour
  3. 210g H2O

Mix the flour + water, autolyse – 9:00am

For this loaf I decided to try and tweak the whole wheat to white bread flour percentages. I still wanted some of the WW taste and texture, but a bit more “white” in this loaf. Due to the WW reduction (from the last Tartine recipe), I’ve also reduced the amount of water to 74%.

Gather the following:

  1. 250g of your new leaven
  2. 300g whole wheat bread flour (I’m currently using Great River Organic whole wheat bread flour)
  3. 700g unbleached all purpose white flour (King Arthur)
  4. 20g salt
  5. 740g H2O + 50g H2O

Method:

  1. Add 250g leaven to your large mixing bowl
  2. Pour in 740g H2O @ 80ºF and mix with your hands until the leaven is completely dispersed
  3. Add 700g white flour and 300g whole wheat flour and mix with your hand until all the dry bits of flour are gone
  4. Cover your bowl with a towel, or if in a dry climate, plastic wrap and let autolyse for 30 minutes
  5. After 30 minutes, add 20g salt on top of the dough and slowly pour your 80ºF water on top. Squeeze the dough with your hand to incorporate the salt throughout
  6. Now reach your hand under the dough and pull the side up and over onto itself. Continue to do this as you spin the bowl; grab, pull, and push. Do this just until the dough comes together and becomes super sticky. Generally this will only be between 5-10 turns
  7. Transfer your dough to your plastic or glass container, set a timer for 30 minutes

Next we tackle the bulk fermentation step.

Bulk Fermentation

At this stage we want to do 4 sets of turns, plus 1 – 2 hours of rest on the counter. A “turn” consists of reaching under your dough, grab the bottom and pull up the dough on top of itself. Do this 4 times, one of each side of your container (if it’s square, that is). Additionally, you want to do this rather vigorously. The stretch up and down on itself is what gives the dough strength (working the gluten strands).

  1. 10:10am – Turn 1
  2. 10:40am – Turn 2
  3. 11:10am – Turn 3
  4. 11:40am – Turn 4
  5. 11:40am to 1:40pm – Rest on Counter

Pre-shape – 1:40pm

When the dough has risen about 20-30% and you see a bunch of little air pockets throughout, it’s ready for pre-shaping. Take the dough out of the container onto your *unfloured* work surface.

Tartine sourdough on the counter ready for pre-shape

Sprinkle some flour on top of your dough and divide in two equal halves. Take a half, flip it over and pull each of 4 edges from under onto the top. Then, flip the folded dough over so the seam is on your work surface. You want to form loose boules here by using your hand and your dough knife. Your work surface grabs the bottom of the dough slightly as you spin the dough around to make a little ball. Repeat with the other half and cover (I cover with two inverted mixing bowls) for 30 minutes.

Tartine sourdough boule after light pre-shape

Here you can see our pre-shaped boules resting before final shaping.

Shape – 2:10pm

The resting dough should have spread out, but not quite into a pancake shape. If it has formed a pancake you can strengthen it by pre-shaping one more time and waiting another 40 minutes.

Flour the top of one of the boules and flip it over with your lightly floured hand and dough knife. Take the part of the dough that’s closest to you and fold it up and over in half. Take the part that’s to the right, stretch it out as far as it will stretch, and fold it up and to the left. Repeat with the left side and the side of the dough farthest from you. Then take the edge that’s closest to you, pull it up and over again towards the back. When doing this last move you will lift the entire dough up and over until the seam side is now down on your work surface.

Spin the dough using your two hands to shape into a boule. As you slightly pick up the dough and spin it, the bottom snags the unfloured work surface and creates tension. I do this several times to create a very taught surface on the top of the boule. Sometimes small air bubbles will be visible.

Proof – Appx 3:00pm

Place towels into small mixing bowls and dust with white rice flour. These bowls will hold the dough as they proof in the fridge overnight. Take your taught boules and place them into the floured bowls with the seam *up* facing you. I place each of my bowls into plastic bags and then into the fridge.

Tartine sourdough boules in bannetons ready for proof

Score + Bake – 9:00am

Gather your tools:

  1. Razor blade for scoring
  2. Parchment paper
  3. [Pizza peel](http://amzn.to/12s0h0Z)
  4. Pizza stone
  5. Oven mit
  6. Lodge Combo Cooker

The first of these sourdough loaves has around an 18 hour retard. The “original” Tartine formula indicates for around 8 hours of cool fermentation in the fridge but 18-20 hours seems to be the sweet spot for me as the bread really takes on a complex flavor with this extended fermentation time. It also seems to help open up the crumb more than what you would normally see, I really strive for that wide open crumb that’s airy, light, and soft.

In the morning you first want to get your oven ready. I place the rack in the middle of the oven with a pizza stone on top. The stone isn’t necessary but I’ve noticed much more consistent baking with it absorbing the heat for 1 hour. Turn your oven on to 530ºF and let it preheat for 45 minutes.

Take one of your loaves out of the fridge, cut a circular piece of parchment paper and place on top of the bowl. I then place a the pizza peel on top of the parchment paper (and bowl) and invert the whole thing quickly to get the dough out of the bowl and onto the paper + peel. Get your razor blade out and score the top of the loaf to allow the bread to expand while rising in the oven. For these sets of loaves I scored one with my “Roman numeral three” pattern, and the other with a single long slash.

Quickly take out the shallow half of your hot combo cooker and drag in the parchment paper and dough.

Cover with the other half of the combo cooker. Turn the heat down to 450ºF and cook for 25 minutes. After this time, open the oven and cook for an additional 35 minutes at 440ºF. These times and temps are a drastic change from the Tartine book but I’ve found them to be necessary due to my elevation and climate. I want the crust nice and dark brown.

Tartine sourdough baking in Lodge cast iron combo cooker

After pulling the loaves from the oven I cool them on a wire rack for at least one hour before cutting into them. Cutting too soon can cause the crust to harden drastically and the inside to become quite dense. Easier said than done, however.

Tartine sourdough crumb

Tartine sourdough "ears"

What a pair of beautiful loaves this morning. There’s no doubt the lazy Sunday morning/afternoon turned out to be a success in the kitchen.

Buon appetito!

Now that you’ve attempted this recipe, try your hand at the higher hydration version for a bit more challenge, and an even better tasting loaf!

Recipe and method submitted to YeastSpotting.

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