Tartine Country Loaf

You thought we were done with bread, didn't you? Wrong-o, my friend. It was simply a little break to give you some time breathe, finish up the bread in your freezer, make your starter, and feel a hankering for some more homemade bread.

This bread is different from all the other bread recipes that I've posted because it has no commercial yeast in it. This baby is leavened solely with good ol' home grown starter. If you don't have a starter in the making, you can check out my little post on making your own. It takes several days to get it nice and established, but it's worth the time.

It still blows my mind that bread can have so many flavours when the ingredients themselves have so little. Bread can be buttery, sweet, sour, earthy, fresh, and everything in between yet the only ingredients are flour, water, salt, and yeast (whether it's commercial or wild). How can that be?! Bread is some kind of magic.

Yes, this is "the" Tartine loaf. The one that almost everyone seems to be going nuts about. I think it's awesome that people are getting hyped over making their own bread. I think everyone should make a loaf of bread at least once in their lives. I'm sure I've mentioned this in my previous bread posts, but making bread from scratch is a super rewarding experience. To combine such simple and humble ingredients in order to create an amazing and flavourful end product is an awesome thing.

Tartine Country Loaf
Recipe from Tartine Bread

1 tablespoon mature starter
200 g water at 78 F/25 C
100 g white flour
100 g whole wheat flour

Final Dough
700 g + 50 g water at 80 F/26 C
200 g leaven
900 g white flour
100 g whole wheat flour
20 g salt

The night before you plan to mix the dough, take 1 tablespoon of your mature starter and put it in a large container. Add the water and flour and mix until incorporated. Cover with a kitchen towel and let it rise overnight at a cool room temperature (65 F/18 C).

In the morning, your leaven should have increase by about 20% and be bubbling due to the wild yeast fermenting. If you're unsure if it's read or not, drop a spoonful of it into a bowl of room temperature water. If it sinks, it is not ready to use and needs more time to ferment. 

Combine the 700 g of water in a large mixing bowl. Add the 200 g of leaven (there will be extra, either discard it or add it back to your original starter) and stir to disperse. Add both flours to the water and mix by hand until you do not see any bits of dry flour. Clean your hands and the sides of the bowl with a dough spatula. Let the dough rest for 25 to 40 minutes. Do not skip this resting period. Working the 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.

After the resting period, add the 20 g of salt and 50 g of warm water to the dough. Incorporate the salt by squeeze the dough between your fingers. The dough will first break apart and then re-form as you turn it in the bowl. Fold the dough on top of itself (as explained in my 80% Biga Bread recipe) and transfer it to a new container.

The dough is now in the bulk fermentation stage. It will ferment for 3 to 4 hours in total, depending on the temperature of the room and the dough. Fold the dough every half hour. You want to avoid pressing the gas out of the dough while doing this, so be gentle, especially after 2 hours.

Use a dough spatula to pull all the dough out of the container onto an unfloured work surface. Lightly flour the surface of the dough and use a bench knife to cut the dough into two equal pieces. As you cut the first piece, use the bench knife to flip it so that the floured side rests on the work surface. Repeat with the second piece.

At this point you want to incorporate as little flour as possible into the dough. Fold the cut side of each piece of dough onto itself so that the flour on the surface of the dough is sealed on the outside of the loaf. The outer surface of the dough will become the crust, so you may use more flour on your hands to avoid sticking.

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 taunt, smooth outer surface. You want to develop a strong tension in as few movements as possible - use decisive yet gentle force when 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 that you should stop shaping and let the dough relax.

After this initial sapping, 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. A draft can also cause a dry skin to form on the top of the dough, compromising the final shaping. You may need to lightly flour the dough and cover it with a kitchen towel.

To form the final loaf shapes, lightly flour the top surface of the dough rounds. Slip the bench knife under each round to lift it off the work surface, taking care to maintain the round shape. Flip the round so the floured side is now resting on the work surface. What was the underside is now facing up.

The final shaping involves folding - take care not to deflate the dough. Perform one fold and  roll the dough away from you so that the smooth underside of the loaf is now the top and all the seams are on the bottom. 

Cup your hands around the dough and pull it towards you, rounding it against the work surface to tighten the tension and stretch the outer surface to close the seam. Let the shaped loaf rest for a minute. Repeat with the second loaf.

In a small bowl, mix a 50/50 mixture of rice flour and wheat flour. Line two baskets or medium bowls with clean kitchen towels and lightly flour the towels with the flour mixture. The patina of flour prevents the dough from sticking during the final rise. Using the bench knife, lift each shaped loaf off the work surface and transfer it to a basket or bowl so that the smooth side is down and the seam is centered and facing up. The loaves will now rise in preparation for baking.

You can bake your bread after a 3 to 4 hour proofing time or you can let your dough proof in the fridge for up to 12 hours. 

About 20 minutes before you are ready to bake, place a dutch oven in the oven and preheat it to 500 F. If the shaped dough is in the refrigerator, take one of the loaves out now.

Dust the surface of one of loaves in the basket or bowl with rice flour. When the oven reaches 500 F, put on the kitchen mitts and carefully pull the heated dutch oven out of the oven and place it on top of the stove. Be careful as the dutch oven is extremely hot. Carefully invert the basket or bowl and turn the dough into the hot dutch oven.

Make your scoring pattern on top of the loaf with the corner edges of the razor blade, if you have one, or use a very sharp knife. A simple square with four cuts is a good starting point. 

Place the lid on the dutch oven and return it to the oven. Reduce the oven temperature to 450 F and bake the loaves for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, remove the lid of the dutch oven. Continue to bake for another 20 to 25 minutes until the crust is deeply caramelized. 

Remove the dutch oven and transfer the loaf to a wire rack to cool. To bake the second loaf, preheat the oven to 500 F again and repeat the process. 

Let cool completely before slicing.