Sourdough à la Tartine (and a review of the book)

A week after starting my starter I’ve baked my first sourdough loaf with the help of Tartine Bread.

On the whole I’m really pleased with this. The crust is a beautiful colour and the crumb is exactly what I was looking for. Most importantly it tasted great. The only issue I had was that using bowls lined with towels rather than proper proving baskets, the dough stuck and tore apart as I transferred these for baking. This meant the outside of the loaf was lacking aesthetically and the some the structure of the dough was lost. Nothing major though, and definitely something I can work on.

With our last few weekends in the UK looking busy, I probably won’t be baking like this again until we get to France, but it was a rewarding way to spend this Sunday and well worth a week of feeding my starter.

A review of Tartine Bread

Based on the result of this first attempt at baking I can only sing my praise of the Tartine recipe. I have a few gripes with the book, but still highly recommend buying it. The photos are stunning and the book is well written, but it’s seriously confusing trying to follow the basic country bread recipe. I had to read it three times and transcribe my own version of the instructions into a step-by-step guide for the actual baking event. There’s a theory in games design about needing to make something difficult enough that it feels like an achievement, but I’m not sure that applies here!

If you’re considering the book, you might like this video they made to promote it:

Steam and crust

I’d always read and heard that the importance of steam in baking was to help form a crust. This book presented a case for steam I hadn’t heard before but which sounds plausible to me. The purpose of the steam is not to form a crust, but the opposite: the steam keeps the outside of the dough wet to prevents a crust from forming at the start of the bake. In doing so, it allows the bread to better rise. Then when the steam is removed the crust can form.

Tartine in a Tagine

Finally, if you’re struggling to find a dutch oven combo cooker as recommended in Tartine – I found a Tagine works perfectly well. It can withstand the heat and has a suitably shallow base for transferring the loaf into when it’s baking hot.

5 thoughts on “Sourdough à la Tartine (and a review of the book)

  1. Gt

    Hi! Hi!
    Your bread looks good!
    I saw the version you made with spelt flour mix.
    I am really tempted to go do that too!
    It looks so yummy!

    I tried Tartine bread last week. But, my bread taste very sour!
    The crumb wasn’t good & was pretty moist/ sticky… Not sure if it is suppose to be…

    Just a few questions
    -When did you add your leaven?
    -Do you know what the “ripe leaven means”?

    The book says to use it the next morning.
    But my starter had already doubled by then…
    So, am getting a little confused about this…

    Hope to get some tips from you!

  2. shake Post author


    Thanks for the kind words. I love that book too, but found it tricky to follow. I made some notes here that may be useful:

    I make my leaven around 9/10pm and start my bread making early the next day around 6am.

    I found you have to keep the starter pretty young, only transferring a small amount into your leaven. For a while I was using the same pot for my ongoing starter/leaven but I was getting more than the required tablespoon of starter into the leaven. This made the final dough much more sour and gummy. By only using the tablespoon of starter, the bread worked out much better.

    Hope that’s some help.


    1. Gt

      Hi shake,

      Thanks for your reply and link to your notes.

      I used one tablespoon of starter for my leaven too.
      (my starter normally rise and double, the max. rIse, in about 8 hours).

      At which point you mix your leaven into the dough? When it is at the peak or half way through the rise?
      (my last leaven rise & peak in 8 hrs just like my starter)

      Sorry if I made it sound so confusing…


      1. shake Post author

        No worries, my leaven tends to rise for about 8hrs too. But the time varies with the temperature, as it’s getting colder here everything takes a bit longer now.

        There’s a good tip in the book about floating a tablespoon of leaven in your water before you mix the whole lot in. If the leaven is ready it will float. Occasionally I’ve had to leave the leaven a bit longer if it wasn’t ready, but I’m not sure what happens if you leave it too long. I suspect if it starts to collapse on its self it would also lose its ability to float (but I’m only guessing here).

  3. Gt

    Hi shake,
    Thanks for your reply!
    Thanks for affirming that my starter/leaven is normal.

    One final question,
    How longer after preparing the leaven, did it pass the float test. Base on your last bake.

    I still cannot understand why my bread taste so sour when it’s prepared about the same way as yours!


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