Baking the Tartine Bread


Wow, I baked this bread a while ago and started the yeast process even longer ago {Starter Day 1, Day 3, Day 10}! I actually baked it on Thanksgiving Day and it was the highlight of the day, considering I spent the day alone and got a mysterious allergic reaction and had to go to the Emergency Room. I have been meaning to blog about it for weeks, but due to school, work, and other obligations, I have not had time to sit down and describe the 24 hour bread-baking experience to the degree it needs. At times, I thought this is bread making process was just too long. Yet, the bread is worth it. And in the end, I {sort of} figured out the tip of the iceberg in terms of wild yeast starters in my own little kitchen. It was a nice cooking accomplishment.

Even though the only ingredients you use in this bread are flour, water, and salt, you really need to read Chad Robertson’s book {like 10 times} to get the gist of this recipe. It’s literally 40 pages and reads like a narrative. You NEED the book {glued to your side} to do this recipe. You also need a lot of baking intuition {knowledge of the way the dough looks and feels, room temperature, etc}, which is hard to get the first time. That said, here’s a pictorial of my first attempt….because it may help you, if you decide to take on this challenge.


The Starter: I think it is ready? It had been two weeks. I don’t know much about wild yeast starter patterns, but it was rising and falling and had nice surface bubbles. I couldn’t smell it because of my cold, so there went any real baker intuition.

Making the Levain: Added the water, flour, and portion of the starter. Let sit overnight.


7:30 a.m.: The levain looks like this….

I did the float test, whereby you drop a spoon of batter into room temperature water. If it floats, the levain is ready to mix. If not, let it rise longer and then retest.

Mine sinks……along with my heart. Get over my disappointment, and let the dough rise in the oven. The oven was off, but I thought it might make for a warmer environment.

9:30 a.m.: Retest it and it floats {barely}. Decide to cross my fingers and carry on with the process.

In a bowl, I add 80 degree water…200 grams of the levain….and more flour.

Then I popped it back in my {turned off} oven to rest.

45 minutes later:  Add the salt and more water.

Squished everything together with my fingers in the bowl. It’ll be a wet dough.

11:15 a.m.: After it rested it looks like this!

And here is where I wasn’t super exact and slightly drifted away from the book. I “folded” the dough in the bowl about once every hour for four hours. The book has you doing it more often for a shorter time, but I based my timing slightly off of a chart from a San Francisco food columnist, who said his bread was better with an extended rise time. Since I figured my room temperature was not all that warm, I thought the bread could benefit from the longer rise time.

FOLDING THE DOUGH…’ll do this many times:) Reach down, grab a chunk of dough, stretch it up, then fold it down to the center. Rotate bowl and repeat until you’ve gone full circle.


Around 4 p.m.: After four hours, folding each hour, combined with an hour rest, it looked like this:

Divide it in half. Gently shape into smooth rounds. Let sit 45 minutes.

4:45 p.m.: Place two floured cloths in two bowls or baskets.

After rest , you fold the dough like a package, starting with stretching the part closest to you out then over top. Next, stretch the right side out, then fold over to the center. Left side. Then the side farthest from you. Place folded side up into the bowl. Rest for 3 hours.

Around 7:45 p.m.: Preheat oven to 500 degrees and heat up a lidded Dutch oven for 20-30 minutes.

Then take the pot out of oven and add the dough by inverting it into the hot Dutch oven. Immediately score the top of the dough in a simple square by using a sharp knife or razor blade. This allows for the dough to expand during baking. {As you can see, I had trouble doing this step.} The dough bakes for 20 minutes, half of the time covered, and the other half uncovered. Again, I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. At this point, I was getting sick of babysitting the dough. {Yet, it took my mind off the hives.}

The moment of truth. It LOOKS pretty darn good…..

I took it out to cool on a wire rack….absolutely mesmerized by it. I made that?! That being a beautiful, crusty round bread. Wha-what?

I was really mesmerized by the bread. I got out my macro lens.

I checked out the bottom.

I was supposed to wait about 30 minute to slice it. Yeah right….

Giddy! Look at the bubbles.

When I tasted it, I truly had this moment, alone in the kitchen. I mean, first, I couldn’t believe it turned out. Second, that it was so flipping good. The bread had this chewy, browned, sort of crisp outer crust, but the inside was light and fluffy and warm. I mean, WOW.

Totally worth it. I loved that it made two loaves.

Will I make it again?

Yes, but maybe in a month. I saved the starter in my fridge for the next few weeks.

About Sarah

Always thinking about my next meal.
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19 Responses to Baking the Tartine Bread

  1. Aimee says:

    Hello Sarah! I am absolutely blown away by this post! Amazing photos and I love all the step by step instructions – what a process…but what a gorgeous end result. I am so glad it was also delicious.

    I stopped by because I will also be at “camp” next month in sunny Mexico – and I love that a fellow New Englander will also be there!

    Looking forward to meeting you, and following your blog. :)

    • Sarah says:

      Hi Aimee! Thanks:) And I cannot WAIT for Mexico. I decided to go on a whim and I’m really looking forward to it. See you there!

  2. allieatfood says:

    Sarah! This looks amaaaazing. You are so awesome for pulling this off. I know I could never do it as well as you did. It looks like bread in San Fran! I hope you’re feeling better from your ER visit, so scary!

  3. Wow what dedication to the bread! It looks amazing. I seriously want to jump from my screen to your kitchen and eat a slice.

  4. Kasey says:

    Wow, what a beautiful series of photos. I have been reading so much about this bread (and I live near Tartine, so I die for it warm out of the oven). There’s this fear that you’ll spend all this time working on it and not have it come out…I totally know what you mean about having that moment in the kitchen, when everything works out!

  5. LeeYong says:

    Looks wonderful! Nothing like fresh loaf out of the oven. could you share the recipe?

    Thanks! Happy baking!

    • Sarah says:

      It is wonderful bread! I would totally share the recipe, but it is literally a 40 page narrative and I don’t think I could do it justice. The book truly is necessary.

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  11. Jeanne says:

    Great post, thank you. I am making the Tartine Bread today and this was very helpful. To those who want the Receipe, Sarah is right the bread is about formulas for the starter, levain and dough and learning the process of working with wet dough (75% hydration).


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  14. Mary says:

    Thanks for sharing. I am reading the book and am excited about trying and your info has really broke it down for me! And gave me hope!

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