Tartine Style Country Sourdough Loaf

Chad Robertson, owner of the Tartine Bakery in San Francisco, developed this amazing formula for country style sourdough bread.  If the instructions and methods are followed this bread is easy and almost no fail.

I have made some changes to Robertson’s methods in the early stages of the gluten development, for no reason other than time management.  Sticking to Robertson’s method is fine if you have 4 hours to spare, and nothing else to do.  My way works just as well, and frees up 3 hours of your time.

I call the results of this recipe “Jesus Bread” because it is HOLY and pure.  Pure, in the sense that the sourdough flavour is the highlight of eating this amazing bread.

The beauty of this recipe is, sometimes, during the cold fermentation, the bread almost explodes out of the bucket, while other times it barely rises, but….  The result is always tasty tasty bread.  Another great thing about this bread is everything, after the autolyse and initial foldings, is done while the dough is cold, so it is easy to work with.

So without a ton of mushy stuff about amazing bread, here’s my recipe.  I’ll try to put in baker’s percentages, though they don’t really work with this dough, unless you get into weird numbers.

Tartine Style Country Loaf
Prep Time
2 hrs 10 mins
Cook Time
45 mins
Total Time
2 hrs 55 mins

Country loaves of sourdough 10% whole wheat bread, created using the Tartine Bakery method of Chad Robertson.

Course: Breads
Cuisine: American
Servings: 2 Loaves
Author: John Winslow
Sourdough Levain
  • 1 tbsp Rye Starter
  • 200 gr water Filtered 76º
  • 100 gr Whole Wheat Flour
  • 100 gr White AP or Bread Flour
  • 200 gr Sourdough Levain
  • 715 gr Filtered Water 76º
  • 50 gr Filtered Water
  • 20 gr salt Kosher is best
  • 900 gr White AP Flour or Bread Flour
  • 100 gr Whole Wheat Flour
Sourdough Levain
  1. Add rye sourdough starter to 200 grams of 76º water and mix with hands until mostly combined.

  2. Stir in 100 grams of white flour and 100 grams of whole wheat flour.

  3. Cover and let sit at room temperature, or in an oven with the light on for 12 hours (ish).

  1. Once the levain has been fermenting for 12 hours, drop a tablespoon of starter into a glass of room temperature water.  It should float.  This test is necessary to ensure the starter levain is producing the CO₂ required in the fermentation and proving stages of the dough.

  2. If the levain floats you are ready to go.  Mix 200 grams of the sourdough levain into 715 grams of water, using your hands to combine.

  3. Add 900 grams of white AP or bread flour and 100 grams of whole wheat flour, mixing thoroughly, by hand until the flour and water are fully incorporated.

  4. Let sit for a minimum of 40 minutes.  This is the autolyse stage. *See notes on autolyse in notes section.  I usually let this stage go for one hour, though you don't want to go much longer as the sourdough starter levain is already doing it's magic.

  5. After the autolyse, pour 20 grams of salt over the top surface of the dough.  Pour the 50 grams of water over the dough.  using the pinch, poke and fold method, work the flour and water into the dough.  This is going to make a really wet sloppy dough.  Don't worry, that's what we want at this stage.`

  6. Once the water and salt is all worked into the dough, pour the dough into a bucket or container and lid large enough to let the dough expand to double or more of its original size.  Cover the container and let sit at room temperature.

  7. After 10 minutes, complete one full turn of the dough.  This means you need to pull and stretch it from North, South, East and West one time each, using the stretch and fold method described in the notes section.  Don't worry that it is a wet sticky mess.  It will get better.  

  8. Repeat the previous step every 10 minutes for one hour.  After an hour the dough should still be quite wet, but you will notice the gluten is developing very nicely and the dough is no longer falling apart when you try to stretch it.

  9. Don't overwork the dough.  The rest of the gluten development is going to take place during the cold fermentation stage.  If the dough is resisting being pulled after 4 or 5 turns, give up and move on to next step.

  10. Place plastic wrap over the container and seal with the lid.  Say goodbye to your dough for at least 24 hours in the refrigerator.  Fight the urge to peak. I leave my dough in the fridge for at least 36 hours.  

  11. After the dough has been in the fridge for at least 24 hours, pour it out onto a lightly floured surface.  NOTE - Do not get flour on the the top of the dough after it is poured out. Cut the dough roughly in half.  If at this point the dough is still too wet (You'll know), do two or three stretch and folds before cutting it in half.  This will pull the gluten together and make the dough more workable.

  12. Turn the un-floured side down onto a non floured surface.  Using your dough cutter and hand, use a steering wheel turning motion to form each pile of dough into a rough ball.  Cover and leave sit for 10-15 minutes so the dough can relax.

  13. After the dough has relaxed, turn it over and form into whatever artisan shape you desire.  I use round bowls for proving the dough, so I make it into a boule shape.

  14. Flour the surface of the dough liberally.  If you are using a basket, flour the basket liberally as well.  Rice flour mixed with AP flour works very well at this stage.  If you are using a bowl, liberally flour dish towels to line the bowl. Place the dough topside down into your basket or bowls.

  15. Cover with towels or plastic wrap. (I use bowls with towels, so I still seal the bowls with plastic wrap to keep the dough from drying out). Place the dough back in the fridge for at least 4 hours.  I do 8 hours.

  16. An hour before baking, place your dutch oven or cast iron combo cooker into the oven on middle rack. Preheat the oven to 500º.  I let my oven preheat for at least an hour to ensure my combo cooker is very hot.

  17. When dutch oven or combo cooker is smoking hot, turn out the first dough into it.  Score as desired, at least ½" deep for at least one long score.  Place the cover on your pot and put in the oven.  Close the door and turn the heat down to 450º.

  18. After 30 minutes (NO PEAKING), remove the lid from your pot.  Allow to cook until the centre temperature of the bread is 200-205º F, and the crust is at your desired colour. Note:  At this point I will spritz the bread with cool water to give it the nice blistering effect that defines sourdough bread. This is optional.  Many locales hate the blistering, while others love it.

  19. Remove from oven and place on a raised cooling rack.  Fight the urge to slice into the bread until it has completely cooled.  

Recipe Notes
  1.  Autolyse: Here is a great article on the autolyse stage of bread baking.  Simply, the autolyse stage is to allow the flour to absorb as much of the water as possible before starting the fermentation process. Note. I do an autolyse for sourdough bread where my levain or starter is already mixed into the dough.  All I am adding after the autolyse period is salt and water.  I won't go much longer than one hour because the levain is already doing its magic.  When using commercial yeast, I will allow the autolyse to go for 1 to 3 hours before adding the salt, yeast, and a few grams of water.
  2. Stretch and Fold:video of the stretch and fold method Here is a of gluten development.  With this tartine bread, however, you don't want to turn it out onto the table to stretch and fold.  Just do it in the bucket. This stretch and fold replaces the traditional kneading method for gluten development.  The difference is, when kneading you try to get as much of the bubbles out of the dough (degassing).  For sourdough bread, you want the bubbles to create that amazing sourdough holy crumb.
  3. Testing Levain: The levain test ensures the sourdough starter, flour and water are active and CO₂ is being generated.  This gives the dough the ability to rise and ferment.  I will be doing a post on the simple science of sourdough bread one of these days.