Tartine Country Bread (with recipe)

Tragedy struck our household just after Christmas, when my beloved kitchenaid professional stand mixer jammed up.  So much for its vaunted planetary action, where the beater blade spins on its axis while simultaneously rotating around the bowl.  Instead my machine let out an increasingly angry buzzing noise from the machine and an increasingly panicked response from me.  My kitchenaid is just over 3 years old–I whined, as if rationalizing with it would guilt it into replying, well then, nevermind, I suppose I’ll start working again.

I eventually learned that in the great state of Massachusetts, there are only two locales that service stand mixers.  The one in the Boston area turned out to be in Salem.  As in, the witch trials.  Hmh.

I’m still waiting for the new gear piece to come in from the manufacturer, and in the meantime I have had to make do.  (Oh, we grew up without a stand mixer, though I coveted them on TV cooking shows.  But one gets used to luxuries so quickly…).  As dear readers know, my kitchenaid is often hauled out for bread making, not so much because I hate kneading but rather so I can have my hands free chasing down a speedy crawler and his equally energetic older brother.   What to do?

So, yeah, I found an excuse to buy another bread book.

But I can justify it!

Even among my (far too) large collection of bread books, this one stands out.   In part, it’s Chad Robertson’s method in Tartine Bread:  simply fold the dough over itself every half hour for about 3 hours to develop the dough.  Time + water + folding builds the gluten just as kneading would.  The other genius of the method is to use a dutch oven to replicate the steamy environment of a professional oven.  (No throwing of ice cubes into heated cast iron skillets preheating on your oven floor, or spraying down the sides of your hot oven with water).  It’s a bit of a delicate operation dealing with a very hot and heavy cast iron pot and lid, but as long as you have a good supply of kitchen mitts and potholders, you’re good to go.

The bread is amazing.  It has that rustic, chewy european bread crust, a mild sourdough flavor, a complexity from a touch of whole wheat flour.  The crumb is equally marvelous, filled with little pockets of air, but moist and toothsome.  The loaf keeps well and is fresh-tasting even 5 days after baking.  And it’s beautiful to look at–ruddy browns, heat-blistered surface.

Rather than putting the recipe here, I’ll link to the article in Martha Stewart Living where the basic recipe was featured. 


I don’t want to scare anyone off, but the recipe as posted there is so detailed I couldn’t do it justice here.  But the length of the recipe is a good thing:   answering and anticipating any question you may have such as “does this look right” or “what is this supposed to smell like?”,  and to boot, there are probably more progress photos than you’ve ever seen before in any recipe.  You could, in fact, almost skip reading the recipe, if all those words are too intimidating. 

I’d (surprise) recommend the book if you like this bread, as several easy variations on his basic method are given, plus delicious recipes for soups, mains, and desserts that bring out the best of the bread.  There’s also a brioche recipe made partially with sourdough–but that one requires the stand mixer…

*A note on sourdough:  Yes, this does require sourdough.  Fear not, as this recipe explains how to make your own.  As you know I’ve had my troubles rearing up my own colony of yeast, but something about this book inspired me to try again.  Patience, patience: on day EIGHT my sourdough finally came to life.  And it’s very much alive, even if it was slow out of the gate!   I’ve also found that when all else fails, rye is a great “first food” for yeast; you can always stop using the rye once your starter gets going if you don’t like the taste.  (Otherwise, you can just order sourdough cultures online for pretty cheap–ask me if googling it fails you).


27 thoughts on “Tartine Country Bread (with recipe)

  1. I bought this book because everyone was excited about it, and you’re right- there are so many great pictures of the process that you might not need to read the recipe.

    In all, the book is very beautiful- I learned a few things because the pic are so thorough, but I did not have any success with their method, maybe because I’m too set in my own sourdough ways.

    Oh, and Sara- I think I fed my starter every day for a month after its birth before I even begun to bake with it, just to make sure it was mature enough.

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  4. I followed the Martha like with wonderful results. I will be getting the book as I have some questions and want to go further with this. I find that I’m very attached to my starter after babying it along for the 20 days. It was worth it.

    • The book has some great variations on the standard recipe, including more whole grain variations. There’s also a lot of recipes using day-old bread in the second half of the book which is nice. I totally understand being attached to the starter! It’s a little bit of magic in a jar isn’t it?

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  6. I know nothing about bread. I have never baked a loaf in my life and have no idea what a starter is and why you have to feed it. Will this book help me get started – because I want to eat that loaf!

    • Hi Kelly, thanks for your comment. Bread is very simple at its essence, it’s just all the tweaks that you can do that makes it complicated (and fun). The “starter” is another word for sourdough: basically yeast (and lactic acid bacteria) living in a mixture of flour and water–if you use a starter, you don’t have to use storebought yeast. Since these microorganisms are already on the flour on your shelf, you can make your own starter but you have to “feed” it with more flour and water regularly to get it going and then to keep it alive. This book does explain how to do it and there are tons of sites on the web. What’s nice about this technique is that you don’t have to knead. The instructions are very thorough, but not time consuming and not hard at all. Happy to answer any questions–I’m totally hooked on sourdough!

      • Hi Sara – I just wanted to let you know I ended up getting the book over a month ago. I have learned a lot along the way and am happy/proud to say my loaf came out of the oven successfully over the weekend. Very rewarding and definitely worth the time and effort. Thanks again for the follow-up!

  7. I have made Jim Sullivan’s no-knead bread and baked it in my enamel dutch oven, with fantastic results, but had not heard of the Tartine bread done the same way. You speak so glowingly about it that I am cursing you for tempting me with yet another bread book!!

    • The problem is that there are just too many amazing bread books out there. How it’s possible, when it’s just four basic ingredients of flour, water, yeast and salt, I don’t know, but it’s true!

    • It is amazing. That’s why I know I have to keep trying with the recipes in their other book. Sometimes I just shrug it off and blame the recipe, but i know I can’t in this case.

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  10. Hi, Sara–I’m a confirmed fold guy vs. a no-knead guy. It’s astonishing how well it works. I don’t think there’s a pro baker left in the world who still kneads. That said, I think folding is definitely superior to a lot of no-knead no-fold techniques that a popular today. If you don’t at least fold the bread, there’s no structure to it. Anyway, I’ve got the TARTINE pastry book, now it looks like I’m going to have to go out and get their bread book. As an aside, once in awhile I deliberately make an extra wet sticky dough deliberately so I can knead it, à la Richard Bertinet. He uses a two-handed, swing-it-in-the-air-then-slap-it-on-the-table technique that is loads of fun and a great way to work out whatever’s driving you crazy at the moment. I don’t recommend it if you have little kids around (your hands are too gloppy to grab somebody who’s being a bit too adventurous), but something to keep in mind for the future. Good post. Ken

    • I have to say, given that I eventually blew out that same stand mixer that I had fixed, I’m all for folding. My replacement stand mixer will hopefully fare better, but given the cost I’m going to be nice with it. I never got into the no-knead as well. I am just so happy with the results with this bread, why bother? I have been meaning to look at a Bertinet book one of these days, but yeah, maybe in the future–thanks for the reminder! I use my mixer to make breads from Dan Leader’s books from time to time, especially his rye breads. I’ve been slowly trying to switch the proportions in the tartine loaf to include more whole grain, I’m around 50/50 (white + a mix of whole wheat and rye) since that and a cup of plain yogurt is my breakfast at this point. (Still need to make that dukkah).

  11. I have been baking the Tartine country bread for months. At first I started just baking the loaves on the baking stone with a tray of water for steam. I got good results until I started using the round cake pans. I use one for the bottom and one for the top. The results are amazing. I got excellent open crusts!! I also got the heavy dutch ovens as well but they are so dangerous to us that I gave up on them.

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  13. I’m someone who was afraid of yeast for the first 45 years of my life, and I’m having amazing results with the Tartine country recipe! I was thrilled awhile back with Jim Leahy’s no knead but although it looked great, I never liked the taste. That is not the case with the Tartine recipe – sooo tasty and my crust is delicious. I really can’t believe I can bake these loaves! I use one big Le Creuset dutch oven with a small round stone inside because the bottoms were burning, and I use a Lodge deep frying pan with lid – cooking the bread in the lid and using the pan on top (hope that makes sense). Everyone should try this recipe!

    • I’m so excited to hear you say that! The great thing is you can also use it in other recipes, though since I make this twice a week it’s only on special occasions that I try something different–occasionally I make pumpernickel from Dan Leader’s books or a pannetone for Christams. I was using my le creuset for a long time but I decided to finally spring for the Lodge kit like you mention=–it’s not so pricey but it’s a matter of space isn’t it? I like using the Lodge pan because it’s more shallow so I don’t have to worry as much about accidentally burning my fingers. Thanks again for visiting and sharing!

  14. Hi!
    The recipe saids with each feeding, remove 75 grams; discard the remainder of starter. So I only use 75 grams? I’m not a regular baker but wanted to try this


    • Melissa,
      Sorry for the delay in responding. Yes, that’s right. At the beginning, you are discarding a lot as you get the sourdough culture going. It took me about 8 days or so to get a culture going. Some recipes I have seen say 4, so I’ve been sure that I did it wrong but it just takes time. Once you have a strong starter you can feed it less frequently and store it in the fridge between baking sessions.

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