Tartine Style Country Bread

I picked up a copy of the San Francisco Tartine Bread book at the library because the pictures made me drool.

tartine bread book

I had no idea it would forever revolutionize the way I make bread. No joke, no hyperbole. For real, the Tartine technique is a game changer for this baker.

tartine bread crumb

First of all, the recipes utilize what’s called the “baker’s percentage.” The total flour in the recipe equals 100%, and then all the other ingredients are measured against the weight of total flour. This recipe, which, may I remind you, changed everything for the way I do bread, is thus written:

Tartine Style Country Bread

Water     75%

Leaven   20%

Flour      100%

Salt         2%

What’s brilliant about using baker’s percentages is you never need to remember cups and tbsp, or grams. You can make whatever scale of bread you want, from one loaf to thousands of loaves. This is how bakeries and boulangeries communicate recipes. Even though I only make one or two loaves at a time, I feel rather slick talking bread percentages, Oh you like this bread? It’s 75% hydration. Makes me feel like a bread engineer. For this basic recipe, I chose easy numbers so I wouldn’t need to bust out a calculator:

Water                    750 g

Sourdough            200 g

Wheat flour           100 g

White flour             900 g

Salt                           20 g
But it wasn’t just baker’s percentages that I learned from the Tartine Bread book, they have an entirely different approach to kneading called bulk fermentation. So here’s the deal, the new deal. Roosevelt, eat your heart out.

Mix the water (all but 50 grams), sourdough and flours together. Cover with plastic in the bowl, and let REST for 40 minutes.

tartine bread wet dough


Then mix the remaining water and salt, and let rest for 30 minutes. Now, instead of kneading on a floured surface, every 30 minutes for 3-4 hours, you simply “turn” the dough in the plastic container. This means, you pick up one edge of the dough, and fold it on top of the rest, a motion you repeat with all four corners of the circle (I know this is an oxymoron, but you get it, don’t you?). The dough will seem very wet, like ciabatta dough.

tartine bread dough

It would be a complete mess if you tried to knead it on the counter, and there is no need to knead (smile)—this process accomplishes the same degree of development. As the dough gets more billowy and aerated, be gentle to not expel the gas from the wet dough. The volume should increase 20-30 percent, and lots of bubbles will form along the edges toward the end.

tartine dough more

After 3 or 4 hours, lightly flour a work surface and use a knife to cut the dough into two segments. Work each half into a round boule. Then let both rounds rest on the surface, covered, for 30 minutes. Prepare two bannetons (which is a towel in a bowl, not a towl in a bowel as I originally typed the phrase by mistake, giggle), and sprinkle rice flour and wheat flour along the towel so the inverted dough rounds don’t stick. Plop them in there and let “proof” –final rise—for 3 or 4 more hours.

Heat a baking stone in the oven to 500 degrees, and put a cast iron pot inside. Be careful, but when everything is hot enough, slip the dough from the banneton into the hot pot, slash the top, and put the lid on. Put the pot back in the oven, and reduce the temperature to 450 degrees. What this does is capture the steam of the water that wants to boil out of the loaf. Steam makes an incredible crust on loaves of bread. In the past, I have been practically rusting my oven by spraying water inside while I bake. This method spares the metal of your oven, and accomplishes the same objective. Bake for 20 minutes with the lid on, and then remove the lid and bake for another 20-25 minutes. The bread will be crackling and crisp and deeply caramelized. I’ll never make bread the old way again.

tartine bread done

My pictures are no where near as good as the Tartine Bread book, but the bread is Definitely the Best I’ve Ever Made. I feel like I can retire; there is no higher peak to climb.

16 thoughts on “Tartine Style Country Bread

    1. Thanks mom. What is excellent about this home oven-done bread is the crumb and the crust. The crumb is more porous than any bread I’ve made before, huge air pockets. The crust is dark and thick and crunchy. This bread is perfect to accompany pesto spreads, soups, anything! So crunchy and yum.

  1. Looks good. I’ve been thinking about getting this book, but I can’t find a physical copy to check out – are the recipes all done with percentages and grams? (PS Rachel – we’re hoping to do the South Downs Way in a few weeks. I think I first found your site after google that, back when you did it. How many miles did you guys do a day?)

    1. Yes, most of the bread recipes, but then there are a bunch of recipes for accompanying dinners and appetizers too. Such a fantastic book–I’m going to buy it (currently have a library rental). Also, have a fabulous trek along the South Down’s way! I believe we did anywhere from 8-14 miles a day for 8 days. I blogged each day with a Point A to Point B, so you could go back to those posts and make a rough itinerary. I wish we could do it agaiin! We’d love to do another walk/hike in Europe on our next trip out there!

    2. Okay– I had to go back into the archives to recall the name of the city that had my favorite bakeries: Steyning. Regarding ales, they all were my favorite. Milbury’s Pub and Abergavenny’s Arms were my faves–in particular the nachos at Abergv. And then Devil’s Dyke was a lovely view with great ale and cake (fodder for your blog!) Enjoy the trip!

    1. Use more flour– and I’ve even started adding a tidge more flour during the bulk fermentation process, because I think my starter is a bit wetter than the levain they use. Also, I’ve had a few speedy loaves where I skipped the banneton all together and did my proofing in the castiron because I needed to save some time. Worked great. Just made Tartine polenta bread yesterday for our pig roast!

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