Tartine Sourdough

Tartine Sourdough is reputed to be the most popular artisan sourdough bread in San Francisco. It takes its name from the Tartine Bakery at 600 Guerrero Street, San Francisco, home to Chad Robertson and his very own Tartine sourdough, originally baked in a wood-fired brick oven.  

Tartine Bakery, San Francisco (Google Maps)

Vogue described him as the 'cult prince of American breadmaking' (https://www.vogue.com/article/rising-star-chad-robertson-of-san-franciscos-tartine-bakery-cafe). He's also the author of Tartine Bread, one of the definitive cookbooks within the sourdough baking community. 

Alongside his wife, Elizabeth Prueitt, he has created a style of sourdough that has been lauded internationally. Quotes like 'the best sourdough I've ever tasted' and "It was like no bread I'd ever had" abound from the mouths of critics and cooks, alike. 

It's not cheap bread. It has cult status and also it's a very time-consuming process. Two loaves from the San Francisco bakery will set you back $39. It's small batch production of 240 loaves and very much sought after. He sells out in no time at all. 

Tartine Bakery has ventured further than San Francisco and the Bay Area; there are now branches in New York and in Seoul, South Korea.

What makes it so special? 

It's a slightly different type of sourdough. It's mild and creamy rather than tangy. This is because the levain, the sourdough starter, is managed in a particular way to develop this aspect of the taste. It has a sturdy crust and an open crumb. It's also made with a combination of strong white flour and coarser wholemeal flour. 

As you read through the recipe, you'll see there are subtle differences in the ingredients and major milestones in the production process. 

If you already have a sourdough starter, then you simply need to use a tablespoon of it and return the rest to the fridge. 

If you don't have a starter....you've a week of preparation before you can start. You'll find details of how to make a starter here: 

Where does the name come from? 

A tartine is a small slice of bread with a sweet or savoury topping, basically an open-faced sandwich. 

OK, let's make a start. 


for the starter (the levain)

1 tablespoon of active starter made with 1:1 flour and water (i.e. 100% hydration)
200 gms of warm water
100 gms strong white bread flour
100 gms wholemeal flour

for the dough

200 gms of the same starter you used for the levain
700 gms of warm water
900 gms strong white bread flour
100 gms wholemeal flour
20 gms salt

for the dusting

50:50 mixture of wholemeal to rice flour 



Prepare your starter (levain). Mix the tablespoonful of your active starter with the flours and the water.

Ready for overnight 'magic'. 

And - eight hours later - look at the bubbles....it;s ready to use. 


Take a large bowl and add 200 gms of the starter from overnight.
Then add 650 gms of the warm water
Add the flours and mix well by hand.
Cover with cling film and leave to rest in a warm spot (20⁰C - 23⁰C) for 40 minutes. 

Water, starter and flours - mixed and ready to leave for 40 minutes to autolyse


Sprinkle the salt over the dough and sprinkle in the remainder of the warm water (50 gms)
Mix by hand, pinching the dough to dissolve any remaining salt.
Stretch and fold the dough over itself.
Cover with the cling film and leace to rest in the warm spot for a further 30 minutes.


Let the dough rise for THREE hours.
Wet / oil your hand and stretch it and fold it by hand every 30 minutes. (stretching and folding FIVE times in total over the 3 hr period)
By the end of the three hours, the dough should be buoyant and aerated.


Using an dough scraper and after wetting ior oiling your hands, gently coax the dough out of the bowl onto a floured work surface. 
Lightly flour the dough and divide it into half using the scraper. 
Using the scraper, flip each piece so the floured side is on the bottom

Split the dough into two equal portions


Shape each piece into a boule by gently folding it over itself from the sides.
Draw the boule towards you and then repeat the process to encourage the gluten to firm up the 'skin' of the boule.
Cover with a piece of parchment paper that has been lightly oiled and leace to rest for 10 minutes. 
Dust two large bannetons with a 50:50 mixture of rice flour and wholemeal flour

Two formed boules


Taking each piece of dough in turn, flip the dough over and reshape. Then draw the dough towards you, away from you and towards you again to rebuild tension in the skin of the dough. Repeat this using all four sides of the dough. A scraper might make this easier than trying to do it using your hands. 
Place the dough in the banneton, seam side up. 
Make sure the seam is closed - pinch it if needs be. 
Cover with oiled cling film or parchment paper and leave at room temperature for no less than 2 hours and probably more like 4 hours. You're waiting for the dough to rise and look 'puffy'. 

In the bannetons to rest for the final prove

After 3 hours proving at room temperature


Place a dutch oven or cast iron casserole pot in the oven and then preheat the oven to 240⁰C or as hot as you can set your oven. 
Carefully tip the banneton out onto a piece of parchment paper. The easiest way to do this is to put parchment paper on the top of the banneton and then put either a baker's peel or a tray on top of the paper and then invert all three. 
Dust the dough with the mixture of rice flour and wholemeal flour and score the dough as desired. 
Remove the hot Dutch oven / casserole dish from the oven and carefully place the dough into the pot. 
Replace the hot lid and place the pot back in the oven.
Immediately reduce the temperature to 230⁰C.


Bake for 20 minutes with the lid in place.
Remove the lid and continue to bake for 30 - 35 minutes until the crust is deep brown. (The inside temperature of the loaf should be about 97⁰C).

Cool on a wire rack. 

If necessary, repeat with the second loaf. 

Happy baking......


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