Tartine Bread: 3rd time’s the charm (and 4th and…)

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Tartine Bread summary: recipe for Tartine Bread; 3rd try is the charm; only major change was to use Jane Mason’s starter; how freeing it is to not have anything to toss away; too many pictures to choose from; joys of having happy pets;

(edited 24 September 2017 to add the missing water measurement in the recipe Duh!!!)

After the recent successes with natural yeast (it turns out that even I, a repeat offender of saccharomycicide (2008, 2012), can be remediated!), I decided to try Tartine Bread again. But with Jane Mason’s starter.

Tartine Bread Success

Here. Let’s contrast and compare the Robertson’s and Mason’s methods of creating and using a natural starter:

    Developing a starter begins with making a culture. A culture is created when flour and water are combined, and the microorganisms–wild yeast and bacteria present in the flour, in the air, and on the baker’s hands–begin to ferment spontaneously. […] Mix 5 pounds of bread flour–half white and half whole wheat. […] Fill a small, clear blowl halfway with lukewarm water. Add a handful of the 50/50 flour blend to the water and mix with your hands to achieve the consistency of a thick batter with no lumps. […] Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and place in a cool, shaded spot for 2 to 3 days. […] After 2 or 3 days, check the culture to see if any bubbles have formed around the sides and on the surface. […] To feed the culture, discard about 80 percent of it. Replace the discarded portion with equal amounts of water and the 50/50 flour blend. Mix to combine just as you did in step 1. You have now begun training your culture into a starter.
    Repeat the discarding and feeding process once every 24 hours at the about the same time each day […]
    When your starter is rising and falling in a perdictable manner, you are now ready to make bread. […] The night before you plan to mix the dough, discard all but 1 tablespoon of the mature starter […]
-Chad Robertston, Basic Country Bread, Tartine Bread, p45,46,47
Making your own WHEAT sourdough starter
Day One
Mix 50g/6 tablespoons white or wholemeal/wholewheat flour and 50g/3 1/2 tablespoons water together in a big bowl. Cover and leave on the counter for 24 hours.
Day Two Add 50g/6 tablespoons white or wholemeal/wholewheat flour and 50g/3 1/2 tablespoons warm water to mix. Stir and cover. Leave for 24 hours.
Day Three Repeat as Day Two
Day Four Repeat as Day Two
Day Five You starter should be bubbly. Congratulations! If your starter is not bubbly by the morning of Day Five, don’t add any more flour, just cover it and let it sit for another 24 hours. If nothing has happened by then, your house could be too clean. Seriously! Stop using bleach or other antiseptic sprays on every surface. Revert to hot, soapy water to clean surfaces. You need germs and so does your sourdough!
If you run out or if you kill [your starter], it is not the end of the world. You can make more in 5 days.
-Jane Mason, All You Knead is Bread, p45,46
    Sourdough baking seems to have acquired a mystique […] [D]on’t worry—there is no one right way. […]
    It takes between 4 and 24 hours to refresh a dormant sourdough starter, depending on how long it has been sleeping. You will know the starter is refreshed when it is lively, bubbly, and sweet smelling. […]
    The starter gets weaker as it gets older. This is because you have an increasingly large amount of starter to which you are adding a relatively small amount of new food. The yeast eats the new food in record time (you will see it froth almost instantly then an hour later it’s calm again) and goes to sleep. Sleepy yeast does not make great bread, which is why some methods tell you to throw half your starter away on a regular basis. I’m against this method because I don’t believe in wasting food. […]
    To refresh the starter when you need it, simply follow the instructions in the recipe. The recipes in this book assume you will store your starter in the refrigerator and that it will need refreshing. To that end they build in refreshment time and you get used to planning this in advance.
-Jane Mason, Introduction and Storing and Using a Sourdough Starter, Homemade Sourdough, p9,12, 26,27

My reasoning: It couldn’t possibly be overly sour now that I’m armed with new knowledge. Could it??

Tartine Bread Taking a deep breath to re-read Robertson’s 26 page recipe (and you thought I was verbose!), I followed (mostly) his instructions to the letter again… and muttered variations of the same words I wrote in 2012:

Why on earth would editors allow the first basic recipe (a recipe that is used throughout the book for the other bread recipes) to be a meandering 26 pages of prose?
-me, 1st Attempt at Tartine Bread: Looks good, doesn’t it?

Except I’m not very good at listening for the timer bell. The first resting period after mixing the pre-dough (before adding the salt) was closer to an hour than the recommended 40 minutes. Or was it an hour and a half?

Also this time around, there is something I don’t remember happening at all. When folding and turning the dough, it began to feel as if it had been oiled! The dough felt beautifully smooth and silky. It was remarkable.

Shaping was easy. But I’m afraid I skipped the bench rest – I really can’t be expected to remember all of those 26 pages….

So shoot me. If the bread hadn’t turned out so well, I swore that next time, I’d include the bench rest. But, really, I cannot imagine how this loaf could turn out any better! Two times in a row.

Tartine Bread
:whoohoo: :whoohoo: :whoohoo:

Using the bench knife and one hand, work each piece of dough into a round shape. Tension builds when the dough slightly anchors to the work surface while you rotate it. By the end of the shaping, the dough should have a taut, smooth outer surface. You want to develop a strong tension in as few movements as possible—used decisive yet gentle force while handling the dough. If the surface rips, you have gone too far in developing tension. Don’t worry if it does rip—this is just an indication you should stop shaping and let the dough relax.
7) After this initial shaping, let both rounds of dough rest on the work surface for 20 to 30 minutes. This stage is called the bench rest. Make sure the dough is not exposed to drafts, which will cool it too much. […] During the bench rest, each round will relax and spread into a thick pancake shape. The edge around the circumference should appear fat and round, not flat and tapered or “dripping” off the edge. If […] the dough is spreading too much, these are indications that the dough did not develop enough tension during the bulk fermentation. To correct this, simply shape each round a second time.
-Chad Robertson, Basic Country Bread, Tartine Bread, p56

Hmmmm, maybe I’ll try applying a bench rest next time after all….

Below is the second recent success making Tartine bread this year. The ears from the scoring aren’t quite as dramatic as on the first loaf, but they’re still thrilling to see.

Tartine Bread

Tartine Bread
based on the recipe for ‘Basic Country Bread’ in “Tartine Bread” by Chad Robertson

2017; recipe revised, 2019

makes one round loaf:

Leavener and refreshing the starter

  • 25gm bubbling wheat starter from the fridge
  • 100gm 100% whole wheat flour
  • 100gm water at body temperature


  • 100gm of the above mixture (stir the rest into the jar in the fridge)
  • 350gm water at body temperature
  • 450gm unbleached all purpose (no additives) flour
  • 50gm 100% whole wheat (no additives) flour


  • all of the Pre-Dough mixture
  • 10gm salt
  • 25gm water at body temperature


  • rice flour
  • brot-form (or bowl)


  • parchment paper
  • cast iron frying pan
  • large stainless steel mixing bowl
  1. leavener: On the day before baking the bread, put the leavener ingredients into a medium-sized bowl and using a wooden spoon, mix everything until all the flour is incorporated. Leave 100 gm in the bowl. Mix the extra into the jar in the fridge – this refreshes the starter. Cover the bowl with the 100gm with a plate and leave on the counter (or in the oven with only the light turned on) until it becomes bubbly and frothy like mousse (8-10 hours).
  2. mixing the pre-dough: When a small spoonful of the above floats in a small bowl of room temperature water, you can go ahead and mix the pre-dough. Put all the pre-dough ingredients, including the now bubbling leavener, into a large mixing bowl. Mix as well as you can, using your dough whisk (use a wooden spoon if you don’t have a whisk), until all the flour is incorporated. Cover the bowl with a plate and leave on the counter to rest for about 40 minutes. Chad Robertson says Do not skip the resting period. Working with the nature of the dough, the resting period allows the protein and starch in the flour to absorb the water, swell, and then relax into a cohesive mass.
  3. mixing the dough: Pour the water over top of the mass of pre-dough. Sprinkle on the salt, making sure that it goes onto the water. (Alternatively, you could stir the salt into the water in a little bowl and pour in the salty water.)
  4. kneading: Use one of your hands to squoosh the salt and water into the dough; use the other hand to steady the bowl – this way you always have a clean hand. At first the dough might be a bit messy. But persevere. Suddenly, it will seem more like dough than a horrible separated glop. When it has returned to being a rough dough, put the dough onto an unfloured board (you don’t want to add more flour) and “slap and fold” it until it forms a smoothish ball. (See Richard Bertinet) Put the dough back into the bowl, cover with a plate and leave to rest for about 30 minutes.
  5. stretching and folding: About 30 minutes after slapping and folding the dough, run your working hand under water. Reach down along the side of the bowl and lift and stretch the dough straight up and almost out of the bowl. Fold it over itself to the other side of the bowl. Turn the bowl and repeat until it’s a little difficult to stretch the dough up any more. You’ll notice that the dough feels significantly smoother. Cover with a plate and leave on the counter for about 30 minutes.
  6. Repeat the above step 3 or 4 times (Robertson says to do this 4 times in all). Robertson writes [N]otice how the dough starts to get billowy, soft, and aerated with gas. At this later stage, you should turn the dough more gently to avoid pressing gas out of the dough. […] A well-developed dough is more cohesive and releases from the sides of the bowl when you do the turns. The ridges left by the turn will hold their shape for a few minutes. You will see a 20 to 30 percent increase in volume. More air bubbles will form along the sides of the container. These are all signs that the dough is ready to be […] shaped
  7. prepare the brot-form: Put rice flour into a brotform and distribute it as evenly as possible. (If you don’t have a brot-form, you can line a bowl, basket or sieve with parchment paper. You can also use a liberally rice floured tea towel (but then you have to deal with a floured tea towel once the bread is baked). If you do not have rice flour, you can use wheat flour. However, it makes it more difficult for the bread to be released from the basket.
  8. shaping: Scatter a dusting of wheat flour on the board and gently place the dough on the flour. Using wet hands, stretch the dough into a longish rectangle, then fold it like a letter, gently patting off any extra flour that might be there. Continue folding until the dough is shaped in a ball. Tartine Bread Place it seam side UP in the well floured (rice) brot-form. Loosely wrap the basket and bread with a clean tea towel and enclose the whole thing inside a plastic bag and leave on the counter for 1 hour. Then refrigerate it for about 12 hours (or overnight).
  9. baking: First thing the next morning, take the shaped bread out of the fridge. Unwrap it and gently but firmly press your finger on the side of the bread. If the dough springs back immediately, recover it with the plastic bag and leave it on the counter. If the dough gradually returns back after being pressed, put the cast-iron frying pan and stainless steel bowl into the oven and preheat all to 425F.
  10. About fifteen minutes later, put a square of parchment paper on the counter (the paper should be large enough to cover the bottom and sides of the frying pan). Overturn the shaped bread onto the parchment paper. Using a lame (or scissors, or serrated knife), score the bread. Take the pan and bowl out of the oven (wear oven mitts!!) and place the frying pan on the stove (to prevent burning your countertop…). Transfer the bread to the middle of the frying pan and immediately put the stainless steel bowl overtop like a hat. Put everything into the oven and immediately turn it down to 400F. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the hat and bake for a further 30 minutes or so, until the crust is a nice dark brown and the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
  11. cooling: When the bread is done, remove it from the pan and allow it to cool on a footed rack before slicing and eating; the bread is still baking internally when first removed from the oven! If you wish to serve warm bread (of course you do), reheat it after it has cooled completely: To reheat any uncut bread, turn the oven to 400F for 5 minutes or so. Turn the oven OFF. Put the bread into the hot oven for about ten minutes. This will rejuvenate the crust and warm the crumb perfectly.


:: salt: I urge you to weigh the salt. For more raving about this, please see Salt is salt, right?

:: leavener: The leavener is a 100% hydration, liquid levain. It takes about 5 days to create. (Please see our take on Jane Mason’s Natural Starter made with Wheat Flour.)

:: flours: The amounts of all-purpose and whole wheat flours in the “pre-dough” can be altered. Instead of 450gm all-purpose and 50gm whole wheat flours, the following works well:

  • 375gm unbleached all purpose (no additives) flour
  • 125gm 100% whole wheat flour, sifted AFTER measuring
  • 4gm wheat germ
  • 5gm dark rye flour, optional

Sift the whole-wheat flour into the mixing bowl. (Set the bran aside for another use – put it into granola, or biscuits….) Replace the missing bran with wheat germ.


Tartine BreadTartine BreadTartine Bread

There are so many things about this bread to be thrilled about! The oven spring. The shiny holes in the crumb. But most of all, the complete lack of sour flavour. At last!

Ha. There were so many beautiful photos that I couldn’t decide which ones to include and which ones to omit. So I have included the all! (Too bad we forgot to take a photo of the bread just before it went into the oven. Both times, it was flat as a pancake and easily tripled – almost quadrupled – in height, during the first 30 minutes of baking.)

Tartine Bread Success No.1 (2017)
Tartine Bread
Tartine Bread Crumb
Tartine Bread Success No.2 (2017)
Tartine Bread
Tartine Bread Crumb

The other day, our brilliant neighbour handed her mother’s large Le Creuset casserole dish over the fence, saying that we could have it on almost permanent loan because they already had one just like it.
So. Next time, I’ll try baking two loaves. It will be interesting to see what, if any difference, there is between Le Creuset and stainless steel bowl hat baking.


black cat
How lovely that all the pets in our kitchen are so well behaved.

This post is partially mirrored on The Fresh Loaf | I am a Tartine Bread Convert

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