So what exactly makes this bread Tartine Style? Is it the same recipe as the classic Tartine loaf?
Is it made with the same method then?
So what’s the reason?
Basically, it boils down to a few similar characteristics. This bread is made with a very wet dough, has a fairly open crumb and a custardy texture. Additionally, it’s baked nice and dark (though admittedly not as dark as a typical Tartine loaf).
The real reason I call it “Tartine Style” is because that’s what people are searching for. Nobody’s hitting Google with a query for “high hydration bread with partial wholegrain and open crumb.” I could have just called it French Country Bread or Pain de Campagne.
The most accurate title for this loaf would be “Champlain Country Bread” because it’s basically just a variation on my Champlain Sourdough — it contains the same ratio of spelt to rye (2 to 1), just with a higher hydration and greater portion of whole grain.
But no one’s out there searching for “Champlain Country Bread” either.
So “Tartine Style” it is.
For better or worse, that is the most recognizable association for this style of bread. And it is becoming quite the popular style of bread. It seems that to some degree or another, many of us bakers (yours truly included) are suffering from an embarrassing little problem I call “Tartine Envy“.
But that’s for another article.
Right now, lets just get to the bread . . . I’ve rambled enough already.
As noted, this bread is made with a very wet dough and a fair amount of whole grain. This is not a beginners bread. If you’re a newer baker, Tartine style loaves really aren’t the best place to begin.
I know, I know — you want the big holes. But as they say, you must first learn to walk before you can run.
Better to first learn how to get an open crumb from stiffer dough, then progress your way towards wetter and wetter doughs. Trust me, you’ll be less frustrated and, ultimately, a better baker for it.
Now, for those who’ve been around the block a time or two, what you’re gonna get from this bread is just what you’d expect — open creamy crumb, crunchy caramel crust, and a helluva fun time playing with some wet dough.
And the flavor . . .
Let me tell ya, this one is special.
Anyone who’s read my Champlain Sourdough article will know how much I love that 2 to 1 ratio of whole spelt to whole rye. To me it’s just perfect. Well, in this loaf we’ve upped that flavor profile to the next degree. At 33% of the flour, that whole grain combo truly sings.
Additionally, this is such a great dough to work with. The spelt and rye really balance each other well. Spelt has a tendency towards over-extensibility. And at 22% of the flour in this dough, that extensibility would tend to make a limp and flattish bread.
Rye on the other hand is very plastic. It doesn’t exhibit much in the way of either extensibility or elasticity. But it does hold a shape. Kind of like clay.
When you combine the two grains at this ratio you’ll find that the rye really helps to counter the extreme extensibility of the spelt. Don’t get me wrong, this is still a very extensible dough. But the rye helps to give it a certain “body” that spelt normally lacks.
This dough just feels wonderful in the hand. It really wants to work with you. Show it a little love and it’ll bend over backwards to help you make some spectacular bread. Think of it like a puppy — it wants nothing more than to please you, and it will return your love ten fold.
But again, only if you’re experienced at handling wet doughs.
If you don’t have the hands, this dough will become your worst nightmare. You’ve been warned.
250g Bread Flour
96g Whole Spelt
48g Whole Rye
75g Starter @ 100% Hydration (half all-purpose flour, half water)
Or in Bakers Percentage . . .
63.5% Bread Flour
24.4% Whole Spelt
12.2% Whole Rye
19% Starter @ 100% Hydration
Or Bakers Percentage for Final Dough . . .
67% Bread Flour (actually includes about 8.7% pre-fermented all-purpose flour)
22% Whole Spelt
11% Whole Rye
Please note that I’m prone to rounding numbers here and there. For instance, the salt as measured in this recipe is actually 2.1% because my scale is only accurate to a gram, so I had to round up.
Pretty simple here. Just mix all your water and flour. Leave out the starter and salt. Don’t try to develop the dough here, just mix until everything is evenly incorporated. Then cover and let it rest for 1-2 hours, the longer the better.
Add Salt and Starter
Sprinkle on the salt then just weigh out the starter. It’s ok if the salt and starter touch — they can handle it, this isn’t grade school.
We’re gonna mix this in the bowl by hand. It’s not that difficult. Just see my video post “How to Mix Wet Dough” to see exactly how I proceed. Keep in mind that I condense these videos to reduce run time. So what you see is really just a brief montage of the complete process.
Just one thing to be aware of; when you first begin the “scooping” process it’s not going to seem like it’s all that effective. The dough will pull away from the bowl and just kind of flop around a bit.
But that’s temporary.
The dough is just a bit tight from mixing in the salt and starter. Once it begins to relax it will start sticking to the side of the bowl allowing the “stretch and scoop” action to work its magic. A little patience goes a long way.
This dough typically take 4-6 hours in the bowl — 5 hours is pretty common for me. As it so happens, the day I actually filmed this the dough was proofing much slower. I don’t know exactly why. It wasn’t the weather because it was actually warmer than usual.
Sometimes dough just has a mind of its own.
That’s why it’s important to listen to your dough and ignore the clock. My usual 5 hours of proofing turned into 7 for this particular batch.
For the folds, I like to give wet doughs like this a fold every 30 minutes for the first couple hours (4 folds over two hours) followed by hourly folds after that.
But fold according to your schedule. Don’t let the dough run your day.
Unlike other wet dough methods, we don’t use “stretch and fold” to develop the actual gluten — we’ve already done that with our hand mixing. The stretch and folds here are just to help build strength and structure. You could skip them altogether and still get nice bread. But by including them you’re gonna get a bit more ovenspring and, by extension, a more open crumb.
I get a lot of questions about my process here, so I just want to elaborate a bit.
I developed this method as part of my own personal baking process. I’m a huge believer in keeping a dough’s integrity as best one can. It’s something I’ve gone into depth about in my article about shaping the perfect loaf.
In short, any time you tip out dough onto the bench you’re going to cause damage. Whether you scrape down the sides of the bowl as you pour out the dough, or whether you just let it cling to the sides, there will inevitably be some damage caused to the dough.
This compromises the integrity of your dough.
Of course, if you’re using a heavily oiled bowl (and not folding your dough) you might be able to get the dough to slide out cleanly and without damage. But for most of us, we plan on folding the dough and therefore we’re not oiling the bowl.
This method is my way of releasing the dough from the bowl without causing any more damage than necessary. To me, the late fold and clean release is preferable to the somewhat clumsy method of scraping dough out of the bowl.
But . . .
Its effectiveness is dependent upon a few conditions:
1) The dough in the bowl must not be too proofy. Usually about a 50% rise is the top end for this to work well. After that, the dough becomes a bit too weak to tolerate such a late fold — it will possibly deflate more than it would if you just tip it out as normal.
2) You must have been giving the dough regular folds. This method relies upon the development of tension in the bowl to help the dough release. Folds develop tension. If you haven’t been folding your dough it will be much looser and might possibly deflate due to the relaxed gluten and the fact that it will have been sticking as it climbs the sides of the bowl.
3) Your bowl surface is no stickier than the stainless steel bowls I use. I’ve never tried this in anything other than stainless steel. So long as your surface is nonporous (steel, ceramic, glass) I don’t think it should be a problem. Plastic might be different. I can only really speculate here.
4) You have decent dough handling ability and bench knife skills. It goes without saying that the experienced can make something look easy whereas the inexperienced will find difficulty. It’s just the nature of skill work. Anyone who’s ever picked up a guitar knows it’s not quite as easy as the pros make it look. Well, it’s the same with baking. Dough handling is a skill that takes time and practice to develop. I’ve been baking for a very long time, so just because everything looks easy in my hands does not necessarily mean that it will be so easy in yours.
It takes practice to get this stuff right.
But then again, if you’re a beginning baker you shouldn’t even be attempting this bread — you did read my warning, right?
Shape in your preferred manner. I used a “stitching” method to shape a batard here, but feel free to shape however you like.
Let the dough rise in a linen-lined basket lightly dusted with rice flour. This dough usually proofs in 2-4 hours at room temperature. You can also retard the loaf if you prefer. Retarding the loaf will give you a more sour flavor and a “lacier” crumb structure.
I usually tend to proof at room temp, but I really enjoy this loaf with a bit more tang. When I retard a loaf it looks something like this: 1) Shape. 2) Proof at room temp for 1-2 hours. 3) Refrigerate (not sure of my fridge temp). 4) Remove after 24 hours to bake directly from fridge, or remove earlier and let finish proofing at room temp for another 1-3 hours.
How we retard our loaves is a very individual process determined by a multitude of variables, so I can’t give specific instructions here. It’s really just a matter of trial and error until you figure out a process that works well for you.
I personally like to score this loaf with just a slash down the center in order to get that nice big ear. But feel free to score however you like. I won’t go into detail here about exactly how to score. In other words, if you’re able to handle this dough and bake this loaf then you already know the techniques involved in getting a nice ear from your cut.
And if you don’t know the proper technique, well . . . you shouldn’t be attempting this loaf.
Bake in a dutch oven or combo cooker at 500F covered for the first 20 minutes, then remove the lid and finish baking at 450F for another 35 minutes or so.
Whenever I bake above 450F I use shielding to prevent the bottom crust from burning. For me, that means a couple sheet pans inverted and stacked on top of each other, placed on the rack just below the combo cooker. This creates a pocket of air between the two that acts as a nice layer of insulation. It’s a handy little method I learned over at The Fresh Loaf.
I’ve also seen folks use the lid of their combo cooker (the “pot” half, in this case) as shielding. After the first 20 minutes of baking you simply remove the lid, flip it over, and set it on the rack; then set the pan (with the loaf in it) on top of it. This doesn’t work for me because of height issues in my oven, but it could be worth a try if your oven has the height and if it doesn’t put your loaf too close to one of the heating elements.
And for some, simply placing the dutch oven on top of a baking stone is all the shielding required.
Of course, you can bake the bread directly on a baking stone (or baking steel) and steam with your preferred steaming method. Whatever works best for you.
Now, Tartine loaves are known for being baked very dark — practically black in some areas. The idea is that color = flavor. So more color = more flavor, right?
Well . . .
This is really a subjective matter. For me, too much black on a loaf (or almost black, for that matter) creates bitter flavors and a charcoal taste to the crust. Not really my idea of good flavor. Plus it doesn’t leave the bread much in the way of breathing room if you plan to toast it.
So I bake dark (usually), but not quite as dark as some would prefer. Again, it’s really just a matter of taste. So bake it however dark or light you want. There is no one right way. Anyone who says a darker loaf is inherently superior to a lighter loaf is just blindly preaching dogma. This is your bread; make it how you like it.
Cool and Enjoy
You know the deal here. Wait at least 2 hours before slicing into this bad boy, 12 hours is even better. This loaf really does need a bit of time for the crumb to set.
But if you want to cut into it while it’s still hot then go for it. I won’t judge.
Trevor J. Wilson