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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