Baking from Tartine Bread

Tartine Country Loaf

One of the best gifts I received this year was the gift of bread.  No, I wasn’t given a loaf of bread, but I was given a tool that allowed me to bake the best bread of my life.  This book:

Tartine Bread Book

I had the pleasure of visiting Tartine Bakery in San Francisco last year and yes, the bread was fantastic.  The sandwiches were wonderful.  The lemon tart was so good that my mouth still waters just thinking about it.  It was definitely one of the highlights of the trip.

At that point, I already owned and loved the first baking book produced by the husband and wife team behind Tartine Bakery.  But I noticed they were selling a new bread book at the bakery counter called Tartine Bread.  As much as I wanted to buy it then and there, I knew it was out of my budget. Besides, my cookbook shelves were already overflowing with books – many of them baking books dedicated to bread.

This past year has been an interesting one for me when it comes to baking.  I’ve swung wildly between not baking at all for a few months while trying to recover from reactive hypoglycemia and then a later resurgence in my sourdough baking that culminated in Doughvember.  It was my return to sourdough baking that prompted my boyfriend to give me Tartine Bread for Christmas and it turned out to be a wonderful gift to both of us.  I’ve learned a new method for baking with wild yeast and he’s been eating the best bread of his life.

Tartine Country Loaf, Sliced

If you’ve been baking with a sourdough starter and are ready to take your bread to the next level, I highly recommend this book.  Once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down.  Chad Robertson’s story is fascinating and he is a wonderful teacher.  The first loaf of bread to come out of my oven following his instructions was seriously the best bread I’ve ever made.  It is mixed completely by hand and requires no stand mixer or special mixing equipment.  It is baked inside of a dutch oven, so there is no need to steam the oven or preheat a baking stone.  Although any cast iron dutch oven will do the trick, I am really glad that I bought the one piece of special equipment that was recommended in the book, a cast iron combo cooker like this one:

Lodge Cast Iron Combo Cooker

The thing that makes this easier to bake bread in than a traditional cast iron dutch oven is that the whole thing can be flipped upside down.  You put the proofed loaf in the shallow skillet then cover it with the dutch oven rather than dropping the loaf into the deeper pan like you would with a traditional dutch oven.  There are a couple of reasons why I prefer this over baking in a regular dutch oven.  First of all, regardless of which you use, the pots need to be preheated before loading the bread.  When baking in a traditional heated dutch oven, it’s hard to drop the bread in without either deflating it or burning yourself in the process.  Also, the bread doesn’t get scored (the top slashed) until it’s loaded in the pot.  In a traditional dutch oven, this is another chance to burn yourself.  In the skillet, it’s simple.

There are definitely ways to make a regular dutch oven work for bread baking, but for me the combo cooker solution is wonderful.  In fact, I went out and bought one (as a Christmas present to myself) as soon as I finished reading the book.  Luckily I was able to find one locally so I was able to start baking immediately.  And as it turns out, I had been wanting to replace the 10-inch cast iron skillet that I lost in the divorce, so this set is getting used for many tasks in the kitchen other than baking.

So far I have only tried the very first bread in the book, which is the Tartine Country Bread.  It’s made with nothing more than a wild yeast starter, unbleached bread flour, whole wheat flour, and sea salt.  Unlike the sourdough breads I’ve been baking for the past 5 years, this bread is not sour.  The flavor is wonderful and complex, but it’s not the typical in-your-face San Francisco sourdough and I love it for that.  I know how to make a sour sourdough; it’s nice to now be able to make a delicious loaf of bread that is made with wild yeast and utilizes a long fermentation time, that isn’t sour, but is packed with flavor.  All of the rest of the breads in the book are variations on this basic country loaf, so once you master the techniques for that one, the rest feel very achievable.

Although I have taken a quick hiatus from baking while I try to get my body back in balance after too many holiday sweets, I won’t be able to stay away from this book for long.  I’ll keep you updated on the next breads I bake and hopefully I’ll convince a few of you to take the plunge and give this book a try.

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49 Comments
  1. Deanna

    The baguette is amazing. The whole darn book is beautiful and inspiring and yadayadayada, but I think where it really shines are the wild/commercial yeast recipes. I have been wanting to make the croissants for ages, but my starter was seriously neglected and died. The chicken stock recipe in the book is also delicious.

    5:40 pm  Jan 5th, 2012
  2. Janice

    So glad you are baking bread again! Got this book a while back, and now I keep this starter right next to the Bread Baker’s Apprentice starter. Such a different approach and style, and I even throw some of this starter in when I’m “cheating,” and make a loaf of no-knead bread.

    6:01 pm  Jan 5th, 2012
  3. SallyBR

    Tartine is one of my favorite bread books, together with Lepard’s Handmade Loaf.

    The explanation in Tartine on mixing the dough, folding, shaping, is superb! He is a natural teacher…

    and your bread turned out spectacular!

    7:01 pm  Jan 5th, 2012
  4. Kathy - Panini Happy

    These are some truly masterful results, Nicole! I would love to be able to bake bread like this. I’m embarrassed to admit that I own the Tartine bakery cookbook but have yet to try any of the recipes. Guess I’ll need to change that very soon. Happy New Year to you!

    7:09 pm  Jan 5th, 2012
  5. Diane

    Please pass on this recipe…the bread looks luscious!

    7:10 pm  Jan 5th, 2012
  6. Peter

    Nicole, that is seriously one of the best loaves I’ve seen…I’d eat the whole damn thing too!

    7:15 pm  Jan 5th, 2012
  7. Dana Morgan

    When in San Francisco, we’d get a Tartine loaf from my daughter’s boyfriend who used to work as a baker there. I became a fan of the bread before this excellent book was published. I truly love the book and agree it is the best Christmas present to give anyone who wants to bake the best tasting bread possible. I’ve spread the gospel far and wide. Everyone deserves excellent bread like this.

    7:19 pm  Jan 5th, 2012
  8. AlyssaB

    Oooo! Love those gorgeous bubbles on the side of your boule!! I live on the East Coast, so I haven’t had the pleasure of visiting Tartine Bakery yet. Martha Stewart Living did a story on them last year and it really, really made me want to go! I was jazzed that they provided a recipe for one of Chad’s breads, but I got scared off by the 3- or 4-week lead time to do… something… maybe cultivate the starter? Does this cookbook give simpler recipes? (I am baking using Reinhart’s delayed fermentation method, so I am used to planning ahead, just not weeks ahead.)

    7:21 pm  Jan 5th, 2012
  9. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry)

    That is one gorgeous loaf of bread. If only bread were on my diet right now…. sigh.

    7:40 pm  Jan 5th, 2012
  10. Nicole

    AlyssaB- You do need a sourdough starter to begin, but it can be any active starter, you don’t need to spend 3 or 4 weeks to create one. I used one of the starters I’ve kept for years and just followed his method. If you don’t have one and don’t want to spend the time creating your own (instructions here: http://pinchmysalt.com/sourdough), perhaps you could find someone local who would share one. You can also purchase an active starter online from King Arthur Flour. Once you have a starter, the bread takes less than two days to make.

    7:53 pm  Jan 5th, 2012
  11. Sas

    It’s posts like these that make me really miss wheat flour. You just can’t get the same results without that pesky gluten. Are there any gluten free recipes in the book?

    8:18 pm  Jan 5th, 2012
  12. Nicole

    Sas- No, there are no gluten-free bread recipes in the book. Sorry!

    8:23 pm  Jan 5th, 2012
  13. Shari

    Could you describe how your method of using the two piece pan is different from the Dutch oven? Both parts, lid and pot need to be preheated before the dough is turned into the pot. Thanks.

    11:24 pm  Jan 5th, 2012
  14. Diane

    I agree with everything you said, Nicole. I was so inspired by your post on FB about this bread that I, too, baked the best bread of my life. Bought the “combo cooker” too, and I love it. I even went so far as to research and find at a restaurant supply -coincidentally five minutes from my house – that I didn’t know was there – a great “dough tub” for mixing, turning, and rising this wonderful dough. I plan to make the whole wheat version this weekend.

    First, you inspired me with the BBA Challenge, which I finished one year ago on New Year’s Eve, and now this. Hmmmmm …. leads me to ponder what could be next?

    12:17 am  Jan 6th, 2012
  15. Amy Tong

    Your bread looks beautiful. I baked something very similar before but didn’t get enough air inside the bread so the texture wasn’t right. My loaf tasted amazing…but just not fluffy enough. hm….I wonder what I did wrong. Maybe it’s time to get a copy of this book…as a b-day gift for myself. :)

    1:22 am  Jan 6th, 2012
  16. Deena @ stay at home FOODIE

    The bread looks amazing! I’ve always wanted to start a sourdough starter… Just need to find a good stretch of time. I’m hoping spring 2012 will be it.

    1:37 am  Jan 6th, 2012
  17. Abby

    Oh it looks so crusty and soft all at the same time. Now I just need to find the cast iron pieces…

    7:42 am  Jan 6th, 2012
  18. Laura

    Nicole, I have to agree, that is the best bread I ever made or tasted. Unfortunately I can’t eat gluten any more so I stopped making it since I couldn’t stop eating it. And it stays good for days!

    10:49 am  Jan 6th, 2012
  19. Rebecca

    Nicole, that is a stunner of a loaf! I’m left with no choice but to buy that book immediately. So happy to see you continue your baking!!

    3:38 pm  Jan 6th, 2012
  20. The Cozy Herbivore

    Ooooh, good friends of mine just bought this book and tried the cast iron Dutch oven method. Lucky me, I got to eat the results, and it was truly some of the best bread I’ve ever eaten. Your loaf looks yummy– I can’t wait to get my hands on a Dutch oven to try this for myself!

    7:47 pm  Jan 6th, 2012
  21. Valerie

    Goodness, that is one gorgeous bread! I’ve made the country loaf a few times, but success is on-and-off. I’m not used to working with natural leaven… But when it does work, it’s a thing of beauty indeed!

    11:15 am  Jan 7th, 2012
  22. Rhonda

    I am so so jealous of your baking skills!!

    5:34 pm  Jan 7th, 2012
  23. bread angel

    Your bread looks great. I made my first loaf of Tartine bread today, but used an old dutch oven instead of the combo cooker. I couldn’t get the bread out of the pot, so it didn’t cool very well. I finally got it out and while it doesn’t look great, it tastes wonderful. Guess I will get a combo cooker and re-read the recipe.

    8:13 pm  Jan 7th, 2012
  24. Mary

    I’ve been too lazy to make anything from the Tartine Bread book since I can hop over to Tartine Bakery whenever I crave their amazing bread. I must say that your bread looks absolutely perfect and has inspired me to try making it myself.

    3:30 am  Jan 8th, 2012
  25. David

    I haven’t baked bread in ages. I may have to start doing it again.

    May you have Happy 2012, Nicole.

    11:58 am  Jan 8th, 2012
  26. Mich

    I received that book this year too, and a “starter” is on my “to do” list. This might just inspire me to make it happen!

    6:01 pm  Jan 8th, 2012
  27. The Teacher Cooks

    I’m so glad that you are baking again! Now I guess that I will have to purchase a new cookbook as well as the cast iron cooker. Your bread is gorgeous!

    9:25 am  Jan 10th, 2012
  28. Arlene @ Flour On My Face

    I’ve had my eye on that book for awhile now. Your bread is gorgeous!

    2:04 pm  Jan 10th, 2012
  29. jackie @ marin mama cooks

    This bread looks like it came from a rustic bakery! I am so going to pick up this cast iron combo cooker.

    10:10 am  Jan 13th, 2012
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    1:43 pm  Jan 15th, 2012
  31. cheffresco

    I just started trying to make my own bread. I’ve only done two rounds so far. I will have to check out your book – that bread looks amazing!

    8:04 pm  Jan 15th, 2012
  32. Alison

    Hello Nicole, Great post! I’ve never heard of a cast iron combo cooker and can’t wait to order one and give it a try. I’m a health and nutrition blogger (heathnutnation.com) and am very interested in making sourdough using wild yeast.

    It sounds like you gave up bread for awhile because of your reactive hypoglycemia. Did you manage to get it under control? I’m wondering if you’ve found a difference in how you’ve felt since going back to bread? If you’re still struggling with hypoglycemia feel free to shoot me an email. I’ve helped a lot of my clients with this condition and I’d be glad to talk with you about it.

    thanks again. I’ll be back for more reading!

    -Alison

    10:47 pm  Jan 18th, 2012
  33. Kathy

    That bread looks out of this world. I am getting very hungry! Yum! Turned out awesome. Have you ever used a tangine? I haven’t, but I work with Pacific Mechants and they recently starting carrying them. I’m kinda of interestsed in trying one out and seeing what kind of flavorful dishes can be made. If you want to check it out, right now you can get 15 percent off your purchase when you enter the code PM20YEARS at checkout. http://www.pacificmerchants.com/mason-cash-bowls-and-basins/bakeware-1.html

    9:53 pm  Jan 24th, 2012
  34. Neil | Butterfield

    Yumbo! I love bread, this blog has got my hunger hormones really working overtime.

    1:57 am  Jan 26th, 2012
  35. Theresa

    I just found my husbands Valentine’s day gift. He has wanted a good ‘bread’ book for a while now, but I didn’t know where to start looking, I am more of a cupcake girl, but I think I will reap the rewards of getting him this

    3:00 pm  Jan 26th, 2012
  36. Wendy

    Thanks for this post! I’m glad the cookbook rocks. Your loaf looks great.

    6:54 am  Jan 28th, 2012
  37. Noah Berkowitz

    So big! That’s very amazing bread. I wonder how you cook it?!

    9:35 pm  Feb 2nd, 2012
  38. Michelle

    Jealous! Mine didn’t work. I need to try it again, but for the moment, we are in a fight. It might have something to do with not actually having the correct ingredients to start with…

    6:38 am  Feb 5th, 2012
  39. umer

    please give me the bread recipe . it looks so delicious :) waiting for your reply

    2:29 am  Feb 22nd, 2012
  40. Michelle J

    I love your blog! I have ordered the book and I’m wondering about the size of the dutch oven, is the 3 qt the best or would the 5 qt work also? Thanks!

    7:01 pm  Feb 27th, 2012
  41. kellypea

    I saw your photo of this bread the other day and it inspired me to write about my first success with a mixed-starter — so thanks! And, I’m also going to buy Tartine now. What a great way to proof and bake a boule of bread — I love the cast iron pan! Much less hassle than flipping out of my colander.

    9:32 am  Feb 28th, 2012
  42. Xean

    Looks new to me but it looks delicious too! :)
    I love bread, what ever it is– perfect for breakfast paired with the best cup of coffee, wonderful day!

    7:21 am  Feb 29th, 2012
  43. Gregory

    I hope somebody knows the answer.
    When I bake my bread in cast iron dutch oven either I have insides of bread wet. I mean it is not baked good enough. Or if I bake it longer I have the crust of bread turning black. The temperature I use is 500F

    4:48 pm  May 3rd, 2012
  44. tim

    What type of flour did you use for your Tartine bread?

    4:52 pm  Oct 31st, 2012
  45. Leslie

    It’s a gorgeous book, and I have experienced the same results – spectacular. The combo cooker was the key. I won’t make bread any other way now. The book is truly inspiring.

    10:50 am  Dec 30th, 2012
  46. Evren

    Hi

    I would really recommend trying to use 70% hydration instead of 75% as Chad says. It makes a huge difference.
    You really get that big puffy Boules when it is 70%. Maybe it is me but I can not create that crazy tension when it is 75%, At first I though It was the folds then I thought it was final the rise (4 hour vs 9-12 in fridge). I changed my flour to use bread flour instead of all purpose( book says white flour for country dough). It got better.
    Bread flour has higher water absorption. It got a little easier to work with.
    I tired 70% and they now look awesome. Taste is the same.

    “ears” look awesome.

    9:41 pm  Feb 20th, 2013
  47. Gigi

    Yup, you convinced me to go visit Tartine and I finally did! Now I’m absolutely sure about buying the Tartine Bread book to try baking the breads myself :)

    11:22 am  Jun 26th, 2013
  48. sara

    I just got this cookbook – on sale on Amazon today! :) Can’t wait to try the bread. :)

    9:59 am  Dec 12th, 2013
  49. Lindy

    Have the book, have made the starter, about to bake–don’t have the dutch oven! Where did you get it and what size?

    10:12 am  Feb 8th, 2014
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