Finally – bread!
And not just any bread. Bread made only using flour, salt and water. Bread that will wow your family and your friends and sustain your bellies very nicely. Now, I want to say up front that there is definitely a learning curve involved here. I, too, have had many flops (so many that I actually gave up!) before getting this to work for me. But…if you have patience and stay dedicated, I promise you can create delicious rustic sourdough at home.
First – my story:
Most of you know, I went to culinary school for pastries and bread back in 2008. After graduating, I went on to work at a bakery (oh those early – and I mean EARLY – morning shifts!) for a time before blogging took wing and I made this my business from home. During that time, though, I didn’t really make sourdough like this. At school and in the bakery, we used fresh yeast for all baked goods so that’s what I have experience with. It wasn’t until 2010 when my parents gave me the Tartine Bread book for Christmas did I become interested in sourdough. And by “interested”, I mean I read the book cover to cover and dedicated myself for about a month to creating my own rustic bread at home. Guess what? It flopped every.darn.time. Eventually, I got very frustrated (and busy with other recipe projects!) so I gave up, shelved my Tartine book and moved on. Looking back, I now know exactly what I was doing wrong, which was keeping my starter and leaven in the fridge and not doing a long enough rise. Keeping your dough in the fridge works for many but it didn’t work for me.
Oh, and by the way?
That’s rule number one here: what I say and what works for me might very well not work for you.
I’m sorry for that frustrating news! I am going to tell you guys exactly what I do and what works very well for me. I encourage you to try it but then tweak it and make it your own. All ovens are different and since we’re working with wild yeast here, a lot also depends on the temperature of your kitchen.
So back to my story. We moved to Berkeley this past winter and my first friend here just happened to be an incredible bread baker. She used the Tartine method and the first time we went over to their house for dinner, she totally wowed me with this INCREDIBLE loaf of cranberry walnut bread warm from the oven. I begged her for her secrets and she happily gave me a little bit of her starter (along with her wonderful typed out directions and photos!). So, with starter in hand, I got to work. This was at the very beginning of May. It’s now just about August and I’ve been baking bread every other day since!
My family goes through a TON of bread. We eat toast with salted butter and fragrant, runny honey every morning for breakfast and what’s dinner without rustic sourdough on the side? Ah, bread. I love you so much. Baking has become a lifestyle for me and – dare I say without sounding overly cheesy – reawakened the passion for baking that originally drew me to attend culinary school almost ten years ago. Once you try this bread, you will never be happy with any other grocery store packaged
bread again forever. Truth.
Okay, you’re all probably like okay jenna, enough with the sappy stuff – let’s get to the point.
So here we go.
My “method” is based on the Tartine Bread method but varies a little bit. I’ve just tweaked things here or there and found what works best for us and I urge you to do the same. First of all, here are the tools I recommend for the project:
So you want to make bread? First — make your starter.
Fill a small bowl halfway with warm water. Add a big handful of flour (I use all purpose flour). Mix this together — the batter should be thick and have no lumps. Cover the bowl and place on the counter (away from the sun) for 2-3 days.
A few days later, your starter should be bubbly and might have a crust on top. Pull the crust back and do the first feeding.
To feed your starter — throw away about 80%. Add 1/4 cup water and 1/4 cup flour to the bowl and mix well. Do this every day around the same time for 3-4 days before you move on to actually baking bread. You want to make sure your starter is rising and falling before you use it to bake.
The night before you plan to bake, make your leaven. (Note that this recipe yields 1 loaf)
Right before bed, the night before you plan to bake your bread, take 2 spoonfuls of your starter out and put in a different clear bowl. Add 1 cup flour and 1 cup water. Mix well, cover with plastic wrap and leave on the counter while you sleep.
When you wake up, your leaven should look very bubbly, light and might even be frothy. Place a large bowl on a scale and measure out 100 grams of the leaven. Save the remaining leaven because that is your “new” starter.
Add 350 grams warm water (about 77-80 degrees but I never temp it) to the bowl and, using your hands, swirl the leaven around so that it dissolves in the water.
Add 500 grams all purpose flour and, using your hands again, mix everything very well so that no there are no dry spots. Cover with plastic wrap and let this sit for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, measure out 12 grams of kosher salt in a small container. I use a ramekin. Add 25 grams warm water and mix till the salt dissolves. Pour this salty water over your dough and work it in with your hands until you have a smooth dough. Place your plastic wrap back on. Your dough is made.
Leave this dough on the counter for 5 1/2 hours. Every half an hour (when you’re home) remove the plastic wrap and stretch out the dough on top of itself. To do this, just pull each side of the dough ball up and over itself. Then put the plastic wrap back on. I’m not religious about this and I don’t stay home all day to make sure all the turns are done. I just do the turns when I am home and don’t worry about it when I’m gone.
After 5 1/2 hours, place the dough on a floured surface and shape into a ball. Cover with the plastic wrap again and let it sit for 20 minutes. This is the bench rest.
After the bench rest, gently flip your dough ball over (it will have spread out slightly and be sticky – not to worry). Fold the top third of the dough down into the middle and the bottom third up —- like a book. Fold the side in then flip the dough over again and shape into a ball. Place this ball into a bowl (seam side up) you have lined with a (very) heavily floured dishcloth or, what I use, a banneton basket that has flour in it. For flour here, I use a 50/50 blend of all purpose and rice flour. Cover your bowl or basket and let this sit for 2 – 2 1/2 hours.
You’re finally ready to bake!
Preheat your oven to 500 degrees and place a dutch oven (top and bottom) in. I used to use a Lodge (which I preferred) but am currently using a Le Creuset. It doesn’t really matter — any dutch oven is fine.
When the oven is ready, remove your HOT dutch oven VERY CAREFULLY. Place the dough ball inside (this takes practice and, probably at first, a ton of flour) seam side down. Use a knife or lame to score the top of the dough three times then quickly and carefully place the top on the dutch oven and put in the oven. Immediately lower your temperature to 475 and set your timer for 24 minutes.
When your timer goes off, carefully remove the dutch oven lid as fast as you can without burning yourself and close the oven again. Set your timer again for 24 more minutes.
When timer goes off, remove bread and let cool. “They” say to wait at least an hour – or preferably four – before slicing but who can really wait that long? Try to wait as long as you can though because it
‘s much easier to slice when cool and will stay fresher longer if you wait.
My method is different than Tartine’s because I have had way more success using all all purpose flour instead of the 50/50 whole wheat and all purpose blend that the book recommends.
I buy my flour in bulk at Costco because I save SO much money that way.
My kitchen temperature varies, but I would say it’s usually around 72 degrees.
You MUST have a digital food scale.
To make the hazelnut currant bread I always show on Insta-Stories, just add 1.5 cups toasted chopped hazelnuts and 1 cup currants to your dough after you make the first turn – about an hour into the first rise.
Now that I have a hang of this, I can bake bread even on my busiest days. It really requires such little work once you get the hang of things. I just start my dough at 6:30 when I get up, place on the
counter for the bench rest immediately when I get home from picking up Grayson from school at 1pm and I bake right after the kids wake up from their nap at 3:15ish. The bread is always still warm for dinner that way. 😉
Leftover COOLED bread will keep for 5-6 days in a ziploc bag.
So there you have it!
With a little time, practice and patience, you, too, can create absolutely delicious bread at home. 🙂
- 2 tbsp starter
- 1 cup flour
- 1 cup water
- 100 grams leaven
- 350 grams warm water
- 500 grams flour
- 12 grams kosher salt
- 24 grams water
The night before you plan to bake, make your leaven by mixing together 2 tbsp starter with 1 cup flour and 1 cup water. Cover and let sit at room temperature overnight (6-8 hours).
In the morning, weigh out 100 grams of the leaven. Mix with the 350 grams warm water until all leaven has been dissolved. Add 500 grams flour and mix with your hands until no dry spots are there.
Cover and let dough rest for about half an hour.
Mix together the 12 grams salt with 24 grams water. Pour this over the dough and mix well to incorporate. Cover the bowl.
Every 30 minutes (that you're around), "turn" the bread by lifting and stretching the bottoms of each side up and over on top of itself.
Let dough rise (bulk fermentation) for about 5.5-6 hours. Then, place dough on a floured countertop. Gently shape into a ball and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest for about 20 minutes.
Shape dough by flipping it over and folding the top and bottom thirds into the middle, and the sides in as well ---- sort of like a book. Flip the dough back over and shape into a ball. Extra flour is fine here. For this step, I use a blend of rice flour and regular flour.
Place dough ball into a banneton proofing basket (that has been thoroughly floured!!) or a floured dishcloth set inside a bowl. Cover and let rise for about 2 hours.
When you're ready to bake, preheat oven to 500 degrees. Place a dutch oven inside the oven to heat up. Carefully remove the dutch oven once hot and flip your dough inside (this takes a bit of practice but I know you can get it!). Score the top of the dough 3 times with a lame or knife. Immediately place hot cover on the dutch oven and lower oven temperature to 475.
Bake for 24 minutes. After 24 minutes, remove the cover and continue baking for another 24 minutes.
Let bread cool thoroughly propped up before slicing. At least an hour.
You'll never want "normal bread" ever again. Don't give up!!!!