Since Tartine arrived in the mail weeks ago in the nano-house, I’ve counted the days to Thanksgiving week, knowing we would be in Oklahoma for a little while, where Arthur, my youngest sourdough starter, awaited me in the freezer since our last visit.  We arrived from the airport close to midnight, but before I went to bed I woke Arthur up and fed it with warm filtered water, and a nice helping of flour.  Two more days of tender loving care, and he was ready, all bubbly and active…

For the Basic Country Loaf, the starter must be prepared with a 50/50 proportion of white and whole wheat flour.  When we left for Los Angeles, all my flour went into the garage freezer for long term storage, and to my despair, here’s what I found: garbanzo, teff, barley, potato, corn, spelt, and  three kinds of white flour, but no regular whole wheat!  Undeterred, I decided that spelt would be a good substitute.  The bread turned out as one of the best loaves ever baked in the Bewitching Kitchen (those are my husband’s words, not mine…), so trust me: spelt flour rocks.

(adapted from Chad Robertson’s Tartine Bread)

For the starter:
50g  spelt flour
50g white flour
100g/ml water at 78-80F
1 Tbs active sourdough starter

For the dough:
375g/ml water at approximately 80F (divided in 350g + 25g)
100 g starter (you won’t use the full amount made)
450g white flour (good quality all purpose is fine)
50g spelt flour
10g salt

In a large bowl, mix 350g of warm water with the starter (100g of it), and mix to dissolve. Add both types of flour, mix until all flour is mixed with water, without large dry bits present.  Let the dough rest for 25 to 40 minutes.

Add the salt and the rest of the water (25g), and incorporate by pressing the dough with your fingers. Fold the dough a few times, until if forms a homogeneous mass, but don’t try to knead it.  Leave it in the bowl, folding it again a few times – no need to remove it from the bowl – every 30 minutes, for the first two hours (you will be making 4 series of folds during this period).  After the last folding cycle, let the dough rest undisturbed for another full hour, for a total of 3 hours of “bulk fermentation.”

Remove the dough from the bowl and shape it gently as a ball, trying to create some surface tension (for a tutorial, click here).  Let it rest for 20 minutes, then do a final shaping, by folding the dough on itself and rotating it.  If you have a banneton, rub it with rice flour, line it with a soft cloth sprinkled with rice flour, and place the dough inside it with the seam-side up. If you don’t have a banneton, any round container – like a colander – will do. Let it rise for 3 to 4 hours at room temperature.  Twenty minutes before baking time, heat the oven to 450F.

Cut a piece of parchment paper that will completely cover a pie baking dish and place it on top of the banneton containing the bread dough.   Carefully invert the banneton  over the parchment paper, using the pie plate to support the dough.  The cloth will probably be sticking to the dough, so carefully peel it off.  Score the bread, and place the pie pan over baking tiles in the pre-heated oven.

Bake for about 45 minutes, covered during the first 20 minutes, remove the cover for the final 25 minutes.

Let the loaf cool completely on a rack before devouring it, and pay close attention to its music as it cools…  It will sing for you…


to print the recipe, click here

Comments:   I gave you a very summarized version of the recipe. In the book, the instructions cover 11 pages, and every word is worth reading.   Plus, there are step by step photos that will guide you through the kneading and shaping of the loaf, and an extensive description on how to generate steam in a home oven.  His method of choice is what I’ve been using for months, but thanks to discussions over at The Fresh Loaf Forum, I went down a daring route and tried something a little unusual:   I placed my dough, after the final rise, over a COLD non-stick pie baking pan, lined with parchment paper.   The cold pan made it very easy to score the bread, without worrying about the 450-500F oven environment. Once the dough was scored, I transferred the pan to the oven,  over pre-heated tiles, and immediately covered it with a large roasting pan that had been previously filled with hot water.   I dump the water and invert the roasting pan, still moist, over the pie pan + dough, covering them completely.    Twenty minutes later, I removed the roasting pan, and finished baking the bread uncovered until it turned a deep golden brown.

The main advantage of the pie pan, is that it provides some support for the bread to rise up, and the fact that it works without pre-heating makes life a lot easier.   I have quite a few burn scars on my arms and hands in the quest for the perfect loaf of bread… 😉      The crust developed as nicely as any of my breads baked on a pre-heated pan, and the oven-spring of this “boule” was exceptional, as I barely had to touch it to place it inside the oven. Minimal handling = maximal preservation of gas in the dough = great oven spring.

This is all you will need to use my method for baking the bread (plus a sheet of parchment paper):

Very few things in the kitchen bring me as much happiness as baking a nice loaf of sourdough bread. The Country Loaf from Tartine Bread was my best welcome home ever!  We fly back to LA tomorrow, but I’m already looking forward to my next “homecoming bread.”  The Olive variation, maybe?   Sesame?  Country Rye?   Stay tuned: March is not too far away…  😉

I am thrilled to submit this bread to Susan’s  Yeastspotting.

ONE YEAR AGO: Pugliese Bread

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  1. I think this must be the most beautiful loaf of bread I’ve ever seen! You are an amazing bread baker, I find it hard to believe you have a problem with cakes, doing what you do with yeast, cake should be nothing.

    I wish I could bake bread like you do, you are so inspiring!


  2. Amazing loaf! I made this bread a few weeks ago and was thrilled with the results. I agree, I don’t like handling cast iron pots at a temperature of 500′!I used Peter Reinhart’s method for creating steam and baked the loaf uncovered on a sheet pan. Beautiful results and the crust DOES sing!


  3. Thank you, everybody… it was great to be back baking my favorite type of bread, I miss my big kitchen already… 😦

    Lisa, I know you will love this book, and I look forward to your posts about it – I heard that the Country Rye is absolutely fantastic!


  4. Hi, When you mix the tablespoon of starter with the flour and water do you let it sit overnight or use it then? I’ve tried the recipe from the book once and it turned into a nice blob from trying to get it into the 500F dutch oven without burning myself! 🙂 I look forward to trying your method. Thanks!


    • I probably should have been more clear in the recipe, but you are right, the starter needs to become fully active.

      I use the starter once it’s all bubbly – if I’m making the bread early in the morning and my starter is active (from a couple of daily refreshments), it will become active quite quickly

      Good luck when you make it, it’s a wonderful bread, I hope you like my method of baking, no more burn forearms for me! 😉


  5. I baked this country loaf from Tartine Bread today, and it was wonderful: a crispy, cracklin’ crust with a light but chewy crumb. I wish I had read this post before buying the combo dutch oven!

    A question: Chad Robertson talks about an option to accomplish the “bulk fermentation” overnight and the final rise the next day “so that you can bake in the afternoon before dinner.” That sounds great, but I’m confused by his instructions. He says only this: “It the dough is mixed using cooler water, at 65 degrees, it will need 8 to 12 hours of bulk fermentation, rather than 3 to 4 hours, as long as it’s kept at 55 degrees to 65 degrees. You can mix this cool dough in the evening before retiring.” My question: what about “turning” (folding) the dough every half hour during the bulk fermentation? Do you just skip that step if you use the overnight method? A page earlier, he makes the half-hourly turning sound very important, saying “With each turn, the strength of the dough increases expentially.”

    What do you think?


    • Hi, there!

      Here’s what I would do: still go through the four foldings, spaced 30 minutes apart, except that using cold water to keep the dough at a lower temperature. Once the four cycles are done, retard it in the fridge for 8 to 12 hours more, and proceed with the baking (but warming it up to room temperature for a couple of hours before sticking in the oven).
      For the most part, once you retard it in the fridge, you have a much larger window of time – even if you have to leave it 16 hours before baking, it won’t exhaust the starter. There are other recipes (Hamelman comes to mind) that claim that you can even go from the fridge straight into the oven, as long as your dough is well “proofed” – I’ve done that in the past a few times and worked well, although it seemed to me the bread had a little less oven spring.

      Hope this helps, feel free to ask me more questions if you want, and thanks for stopping by!


      • I’m having a problem with the dough when I do the final rise at 75-80 degree for 3-4 hours trying to transfer the dough from the poofing basket to either a dutch oven or my pizza oven. The dough is so loose that it won’t stay to form. I followed the folding methods in the book to get the surface tension, but just wants to colapse and not hold its form.
        What am i doing wrong?


        • You probably need to incorporate one more folding cycle during the bulk proofing – it calls for 3 hours, with foldings at each 30 minutes, right? I am not sure if you are doing a folding AT 3 hours or just pre-shaping. If you are just pre-shaping, do a folding instead, and wait 30 more minutes to shape it. Also, if when you pre-shape it it goes too flat, shape it again as a round before you do the final shaping. Creating surface tension is something that comes with practice and the first times are never the best ones, so don’t get discouraged.


  6. Guys, I live in Bangkok. I have followed the starter instructions exactly. After 7 attempts I have nothing but separation of water and flour and a solid heavy mass that finally goes moldy. There are no bubbles. I have changed the mix from ‘thick batter’ to ‘mild batter’ to ‘very thick batter’. Always the same results. If I just leave it then a green mold forms on top. Can anyone think about what I am doing wrong? I think the mix is correct but the only thing that springs to mind is that the flour may be bad. But its Australian organic and not out of date. Its frustrating to have read the whole book, followed the instructions and yet still seem to be totally wrong. The actual baking seems like a long way from here! Thanks, Alex


    • Alex, too bad about your problems making the starter. I am at a loss as what could be the problem, you say your flour is organic, good quality. I suggest you try another flour just to see if that is the problem. I use a starter made according to Dan Lepard, and also have a starter I bought from King Arthur flour. If all else fails, I think you could always get some from a reputable source and just maintain it.
      Also, I suggest you visit the site “The Fresh Loaf”, where many expert bakers can help you out, some are from your part of the country and will have personal experience with ingredients found in your area.

      Here is a link to the site:

      hope this helps, feel free to contact me again if you want either here or by email
      sallybr2008 at gmail.com


    • Try using the Peter Reinhart method — use some pineapple juice or lemon juice to get vitamin C in your starter in place of some/all of the water. This made the difference for me. I used the Reinhart starter method and the Tartin baking recipe. I made the most beautiful loaf of bread last weekend this way.


  7. Alex, if you haven’t figured out the starter yet, I was having the same problem until I weighed the the water and flour to mix wth 100 grams of 50/50 Flour and 100 grams of 80 degree water. For some reason as soon as i did this my stater worked. (Before that i tried for 3 weeks before i got it right)


  8. Thank you Very Much for this Simplified Post of the Tartine text by Robertson. I had the opportunity to make 12 loaves with a friend a few months ago who purchased the book…I never read it but was able to get some experience in the process and in reading this and following the instructions I was happy with the results both times…I am not a baker and far from a perfectionist but achieved both a wonderful bake and perfection after following these instructions! A Beautiful Crust, full of hole….mmmm…..I added a bit of Maple Syrup to my loaf and topped it with Oats….Divine 🙂 Thank you.


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  11. Thank you for this recipe! I’ve been on a search for the “perfect” loaf of bread, always getting close but never right on the spot. I didn’t have any spelt on hand, so I used whole wheat. It came out beautiful, fantastic crust, beautiful crumb. I found you on Feastie, and will now be following your blog and trying other recipes.


    • Wonderful!!!! So glad it worked for you, I think it’s one of my favorite recipes ever! I’ve got a lot of bread on the blog, so if you see something you want to try and need some clarification or something, drop me a comment or an email! Have a great Sunday, and thanks for the feedback!


  12. Pingback: WithLove.co | Eat: Tartrine Country Bread

  13. That looks great! A great idea using the pie pan, I’ll have to give that a shot the next time.

    I’ve noticed that I have to use a bit more of my leaven in my final dough mix due to my altitude (~5000ft). Maybe this will help any of your readers who are at the same altitude!

    Buon appetito!


    • Great tip, I hope lots of people see it… I sometimes wonder how much harder it would be to bake at high altitudes… I have enough trouble at sea level or just a little above that 😉


    • Sorry, Elizabeth, haven’t noticed your comment until now! Well, I often find it that my dough sticks to the basket, so I line it with a very light fabric, dusted with flour. Lately I’ve been a bit more brave, and tried a few with flour only. It works too… but if I feel slightly unsure (the dough feels too wet), I go for the towel.
      Sorry for the delay in replying…


  14. Does anyone know how the baker made a spherical loaf? Normals they are more triangle but this one looks like a round ball. Maybe it was just the camera?


      • Hi Sally. So you took it out of the banneton and then shaped it into a ball? I have made this about 15 times just to try to figure out how it is a ball shape. =D


        • No, I actually have two types of bannetons – one is oval, the other is round. I shaped as a smooth ball after all the folding cycles of kneading – THEN I placed it in the round banneton, allowed it to ferment/rise in the final proofing, and from the banetton, already in a round shape it went for baking…


          • It seems though that your bread is VERY high. So high that it makes it like the bread is a perfect circle every which way around. I use a round banneton, but it creates a loaf that is wider than it is high so it more of like a triangle, not complete round from top to bottom and side to side like yours.


            • Oh, I see what you mean now… Ok, here is the deal – often my bread will bake expanding more to the sides and give less “perfectly round” loaf. To be honest with you, this one turned out absolutely perfect – I think it was a mixture of perfect timing, catching it right when the yeast was not exhausted yet, and also the fact that I barely messed with the bread after shaping, so no loss of airy bubbles took place

              I don’t always have such luck, mind you… 😉

              but that’s what is so special about bread baking, isn’t it? the fun of having a great loaf, every once in a while


              • Thank you Sally you have been a huge help. I have been baking 2-3 loaves a day for about 2 weeks now trying to recreate your shape. You are lucky to have hit the perfect loaf with this!! =D Baking this many loaves has taught me a lot about bread baking that is for sure. I have a loaf fermenting now. I am going to try to get really tight surface tension and see what happens.


  15. Hi Sally, I hope you can help. I think I follow the recipe in Tartine exactly, which means using twice the quantities listed above, to make two loaves. But every time I reach the end of the bulk fermentation and take the dough out of the bowl to shape it, it is very very wet and I end up having to add lots more flour just to make it workable. The only thing I am doing differently to the recipe is adding 200 grams of the starter rather than making the leaven. Could this be where the problem is? Also I am using only white flour, normal or spelt. I really need help with this, have read and re-read the recipe countless times but can’t figure it out. The bread is good but much too dense…
    Thanks in anticipation of you putting me out of my torment!



    • Hi, Andrew

      I am not sure I understand what you mean by ” adding 200 grams of the starter rather than making the leaven”

      If you are using 100% spelt flour in place of white, that could result in a completely different dough,, as the spelt flour won’t absorb water the same way the white one does.

      maybe you could make a single loaf exactly as called for in the recipe and see if it works for you?

      Let me know what you meant by the starter versus making the leaven, maybe that is a source of your problems


      • Hi Sally and thanks for your speedy response.
        In the book Chad describes firstly making the starter and then using some of it the night before making the bread to make the leaven. So far I haven’t done it like that, I’ve just used 200g of the starter mixed with the flour. What I think might be happening is that my starter has been far too wet, resulting in the dough being very wet indeed, totally unworkable without a lot more flour being added…
        Anyway, I’m in the process of thickening up the starter to what he describes as a ‘thick batter’ and will try again and will let you know how it goes…
        Thanks again…


  16. I just found your blog Sally and I’m loving it!! I also love to bake bread – I found you via Karen’s Kitchen stories. I’m looking forward to reading more. You’ve given some great advice on achieving steam here! I use a cast iron pot but a family member wants to bake this bread and can’t lift heavy items so this will be great to share with her. thank you!


    • Well, I LOVE Karen’s blog, so it gives me a thrill that you found me through her site! Too cool!

      Cast iron is heavy indeed, I am all for simplifying my life, although sometimes I end up in trouble. OH, well… 😉

      Welcome to the Bewitching, hope you find recipes that please you!


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