a Tartine bread tutorial

Posted in food, My Recipes, Wednesday's Bread | 16 comments

Before I begin this very very very long post,

I must must must say

that this girl’s pictures and words

do not compare in the slightest of ways

to the beauty and clarity and passion

of Chad Roberson’s book Tartine

which this girl believes is a must

for all foodies, photographers and lovers of art!

But having sweetly been given this gem of a book by my son, for returning from his venture to the big city that’s home to his sister, her love and Tartine he was. this girl and her family have become quite addicted to one particular loaf of goodness, Tartine’s Basic Loaf! My weekly routine now revolves around it. The two daily questions around here are, “How are the waves?”, and “Is mom making bread today?” My family feels neglected when a loaf or two are not lying on the counter. Presently, they are not neglected. Two loaves remain. We never tire of it.

After sharing as many loaves as my family will allow with friends, some are now asking to try making it for themselves since San Francisco’s famed bakery is more than a leisurely bike ride away, and my fragile little old oven can only handle sooo much. Don’t let the length of this post scare you away! Trust me! After only making this 2 or 3 times, you will get the steps down and really only need to refresh your memory of the amounts from time to time. You will develop your own rhythm, with your hands shaping the dough, that becomes easy and natural with time.

Here we go.

**Note I lowered the baking temperature and decreased the baking time a smidge since originally posting this tutorial.

First we will begin with sourdough starter that is already alive. In another post, I will show how to get one going from flour, water and yeast, but for today, we will assume you already have some going.

This recipe uses the simplest of ingredients. Organic white flour (I use the 2-pack bag of organic white flour from Costco), whole wheat flour, Kosher salt, water, sourdough starter, a mix of  1/2 white and 1/2 whole wheat flour, a mix of 1/2 rice flour and 1/2 whole wheat flour, and a small container of plain rice flour. The rice /wheat flour is used to flour the lined bowls when the bread is rising, and the plain rice flour is sprinkled just before putting the loaf in the hot pan. Rice flour doesn’t burn as quickly as others, which is why it is used.

The night before the grand Tartine bread baking event, measure 200 grams of warm water and 200 grams of your 1/2 white and 1/2 whole wheat flour mixture into a bowl.

Add in 2 tablespoons of your active starter,

and stir with fingers until all flour is incorporated and there are no clumps. Cover with plastic wrap and let this seemingly lifeless goo set on the counter overnight.


In the morning it will look like this. All bubbly, spongy and full of life. If it is not, you may need to put it in a warm place, like a microwave or oven that has not been turned on, but has a cup of hot water setting in it to make things cozy and happy for the starter to grow. This is now your leaven.

When your leaven is ready, measure 700 grams of warm water into a large metal bowl.

Then measure in 200 grams of your leaven. The leaven should float like it does in this bowl! Or it’s not ready.

Now squish the goo between your fingers and swish around till the leaven is dissolved.

Like this.

Now measure in 900 grams organic white bread flour.

and 100 grams whole wheat flour, for a total of 1000 grams.

Using your fingers begin mixing together.

Hope the phone doesn’t ring or a child doesn’t need help…

Cuz it ain’t gonna happen!

You can see here that it is all mixed together with no clumps. It is rather sticky and stretchy.

Cover with a cloth, then set aside for 30-40 minutes. Go answer the phone and hug a kiddo.

After letting the dough rest, measure in 20 grams of Kosher salt.

Pour 50 grams of warm water on top of the salt. 50 grams goes quickly, so pour slowly!

Now, using your hands, start working it together.

by reaching down to the bottom

grab and pull it up

and push it down.

Keep doing this until the texture changes from slimy and gwishy

to a sticking-all-over-your-hands-and-noticeably-stretchy texture. It only takes a few minutes. It suddenly goes from gwishy to stretchy. You will KNOW it.

Transfer the sticky goodness into a clean glass bowl.

Look how stretchy it is.

Cover with a towel and set on the counter.

After 30 minutes, uncover the bowl and get your hand wet.

Reach your hand into the side of the bowl,

gently pull the dough up

and push down to the middle. Turn the bowl enabling you to do this 4 times, all the way around the bowl.

Cover with a towel and return to the counter. This is your first turn. Continue every 1/2 hour for 3 hours, or 6 times. I like to keep track of where I’m at. If I miss the time by a bit, I just do a turn when I can, then do it again 30 minutes later. I find this is a very forgiving stage, making room for a mosey to the end of the street to watch my boys surf a while.

When this bulk rise is completed, your dough will have risen about 20% and have signs of life bubbling within. Transfer to an unfloured surface. Yep. I said un-floured. Contrary to everything my bread-making momma taught me. But there’s a rhyme and reason to it…


Sprinkle the dough with flour.

Cut in half with dough scraper. I’m very fond of my dough scraper. You gotta have one!

Using your scraper, scoop under the dough,

and flip it over to where the floured side is on the board and the sticky side is up.

Pull each of the sides up and in to the center,

turning the dough as you go,

until all the sticky dough has disappeared and the nice floury surface is on the outside.

and it is shaped into a ball.

Set it aside on your very lightly floured surface for what is called the ‘bench rest’.

I always double the recipe so we can at least share one loaf with a friend.  Here you can see that I have 4 balls resting on the counter.

Cover with a towel for 20 minutes. Not much room for error here. The dough can get dried out if left much longer. I know, cuz I did it. Tooootally forgot about the bread on the counter. I still proceeded. It tasted great, but was a little more flat than usual.

Sprinkle dough with organic white flour.

Using your dough scraper, flip dough over.

Floury side is now down and sticky side up.

Stretch side closest to you towards you.

Bring it up

and over to the top .

Stretch one side out.

Bring it over,

and press it down a bit.

Now stretch the other side out

and bring it over.

Now stretch the side away from you


and now towards you, pressing gently, being careful to not squish out the air bubbles of life in the dough of goodness.

Turn over and continue to form into a ball.

Turn upside down and put into a bowl fitted with a dishtowel dusted with the 50/50 mix of rice and wheat flour. I keep a container of this mix in my cupboard just for this step.

Let rise for 2 hours on the counter or overnight in the refrigerator. When I make a double batch, I bake tw0 of them after the 2 hour rise, and the remaining two the next morning after letting them set out for an hour or so.

When you are ready to bake your Tartine goodness, put a cast iron dutch oven into your oven on a shelf. The shelf should be adjusted so that the dutch oven fits in the middle. Not too high, and not too low. Preheat your oven with the pan inside to 450 degrees.

When oven is ready, sprinkle a sprinkling of plain rice flour on top of the loaves – which is really the bottom. You will see…
(Rice flour doesn’t brown as easily as other flours)

CAREFULLY  bring your cast oven out of the oven setting it on a hefty pot holder. I am klutzy and have gotten a few wounds from such a hot oven and pan. Be carefull. And keep the kiddos and sniffity dogs, if you have them, out of the kitchen for a good while :)


Carefully and gently and slowly


turn the dough out into the hot pan.



I was rather doubtful about this the first time. I thought transferring it would cause it to lose its risen goodness. But it works.


Now score the top with a razor blade or other sharp instrument. Careful not to touch the pan, though. Seriously.



I make a square score on my loaves.


Put the lid on and return it to the 450 degree oven for 19 minutes.


After 20 minutes, remove the lid and return loaf to the oven. It will look sort of like this. Magic!


Return to the oven, baking for another 19 minutes uncovered. It will look like this. Immediately turn it to a rack to cool and put the next loaf in.

In a minute or two you will hear it crackle. It’s the ‘song of bread’ as Chad Robertson calls it. I love that bread sings. Bread didn’t have to sing. But it does. God made it so. It is a simple wonder that this girl and her patiently waiting boys and married man usually delight in. We stop and listen and rather quite enjoy the song of bread. I think we are creatures designed to bask in the beauty of simple goodnesses in life. It’s kind of like stopping to smell the roses. A must, indeed!

So did you stick with me? I know that was something like a gazillion pictures, but I wanted to show that you can do it. Really. Try it! And doooo let me know you did! Then go buy the Tartine Bread cookbook. Then make a trip to San Francisco to try one of their coveted loaves. Believe it or not, it’s really pretty much the same as this lovely loaf!



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  1. It seems to me your photos are getting better and better. Awesome. :)

  2. love this tutorial and the photos..it really helped me as a novice bread maker to understand the different processes and the importance of doing things a certain way..jane

  3. I baked your bread today with the help of Brianna. Brianna had to leave early and there were still several steps to go but with your amazing step-by-step tutorial with great photos, I made it through to a beautiful loaf of bread. The second one is just about to come out of the oven as I type.

    I learned a great spiritual lesson through today’s exercise in baking bread. Growth comes in waiting or resting — both in the bread and in our spiritual growth.

    Thanks so much for providing such great instructions!

    Linda : )

    P.S. Regardless of all your warning, I did get the obligatory burn on my knuckle from the Dutch oven.

    • Brianna is a fun one to bake with. I’m happy to hear all went well, except for the burn thing. I think it might be time for the purchasing of huge oven mitts by this girl, too. Happy bread eating. One of my simple favorites is spreading a slice with strawberry jelly, cutting it in half, and putting a slice of good monterey jack cheese between. Toasted or plain. A staple, indeed.

      • Hi Tina,

        So I tried to do the bread thing again, this time without Miss Brianna. I followed all the instructions above. I had a little trouble with the step where you put the dough on an unfloured board as I don’t have the scraper. By the time the dough was ready to go into the oven I had somewhere I had to be so I put the dough in the fridge. I came home, let the dough sit on the counter while the oven got warm.

        Anyway, I baked the bread. It looked beautiful.

        However, when I cut into it there was NOTHING in the middle — just air. The best way of describing it is an inch of bread like a shell and the rest absolutely empty.

        Have you ever seen anything like that? Do you have any explanation of why this may have happened. The bread that is there taste good but there is so much actual bread missing. Just curious.

      • My best guess is that putting it in the fridge AFTER it has risen might have done the troublesome trick. If I know I am going to be away at the baking time, I put it in the fridge RIGHT AFTER the bench rest, and just as I have put them in the bowl lined with a cloth dusted with flour, BEFORE the final rise. They rise more slowly in the fridge gaining more sourdough flavor, too. I often put them in the fridge in the afternoon, and bake them off early in the morning before I need to go anywhere. I let the dough set on the counter to warm up a bit while the oven is heating up. I hope that helps!

        Oh. And I really use my bench scraper. It would be quite challenging to make it without one, come to think of it. They are pretty inexpensive. You can find them on Amazon or at a better cooking store like the one downtown.

  4. thank you for posting such a lovely tutorial….I have been making this bread with hellp from the book but loved to see it from start to finish in this format.

    one question: when you put the loaves in the fridge overnight (in their cloth-lined bowls) do you bag them in some way (to keep moist)?

    • No, I do not bag them. I dust a little of the 50/50 rice/whole wheat flour mix on top then cover with a dry cloth napkin or towel. They seem to stay just fine that way. Sometimes if I leave them a little too long they look a little dry-ish on top, but they bake just fine. The top ends up on the bottom, anyways:) I hope that is helpful! ~Tina

  5. Tina,
    Thank you very much for this highly instructive tutorial.
    Since it’s a little bit tricky to get the book in this far-far corner of the globe, I have been researching for information in the web on how to cook the greatest bread sensation of the year, the Tartines’s!
    The book will eventually arrive, but in the meantime I need to put hands to work, and your tutorial is the best all around (special mention to the little tips and pics).
    Congratulations and thank you once more.

    • Did it… huge succeess!

      The only problem is that it came out too flat of a piece.
      - A façonnage problem? I really could not give more tension to it.
      - Cocotte problem? Mine is rather big and oval, so it did not “contain” the piece as you can see it occurs in the Chad Robertson’s videos on youtube. Instead, it “spread”.

      Fotos are sent to Tina’s mail in case she wants to upload them, so you can better see what I mean.

      Ideas and tips more than welcome!


  6. I am posting a few pictures of my cob oven which I just built. As you can see, I have baked some bread in it. I don’t seem to get the same “ears” with Chad’s recipe like you do. Any suggestions? Also, why don’t you raise the temperature of your oven to over 500 degrees, because as you open the door to put the bread in, it cools off dramatically. Irv

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