These are made following the recipe from the ‘tartine country bread’ recipe from Chad Robertson’s bread book. The nice thing about this bread is that, for sourdough, it doesn’t take too long to make. Plus, it produces a crisp, blistery crust and a flavoursome open crumb. I’ve made two loaves here, the round boule was baked in a dutch oven (first time baking with it!), and the longer batard was not. The dutch oven really gave the bread an amazing crust which I haven’t been able to achieve before without it – it was blistery and made an amazing crackling sound when it was just taken out of the oven. Just how it should be! It’s really exciting being able to bake with a dutch oven and see the difference that it makes – though it does make me fearful that I’ll burn myself and drop it on my toes – it’s very heavy! It’s essentially two cast iron pans that slot together perfectly; the deeper pan acting as a lid over the shallower pan. As the bottom pan is quite shallow it’s not too tricky to get the dough into it, which is nice as chances of burning fingers is minimised. I also made a nifty bread lame using a stick and a single blade – which has helped produce cleaner scores on top.
I’ve followed this recipe a few times since and it’s also great with caraway seeds and with the ratio of wholemeal to plain flour increased a little. I still want to make it a few more times to see if I can get the crumb to be even more open (maybe need to preheat the dutch oven a bit longer?), get the scores to open up more, and to experiment with some different flavours! I also had difficulty carrying the dutch oven because it’s really quite heavy and hot all at the same time, and with only one silicone oven mitt I can’t really use two hands… so I probably need to invest in two quality oven mitts. So you do need good tools to do this properly!
Ingredients: (makes two loaves)
For the leaven:
1 tablespoon of bubbling, mature starter (100% hydration)
100g strong white flour
100g whole-wheat bread flour
for the dough:
200g of the mature leaven made the night before (reserve the remaining to be fed and used in other recipes)
900g strong white bread flour
100g whole-wheat bread flour
First, the leaven is made: The night before you want to bake, mix 1 tablespoon of starter with 200 grams of warm water, until the starter is fully dispersed. Add the 200g of flour (white and wholewheat) and mix thoroughly. Cover with cling film and let rest at room temperature for 12 hours (this can be done overnight). It should be aerated with lots of bubbles throughout. It helps to use a see-through container so that this can be seen.
Making the dough: Mix 200g of the mature leaven (keep the leftover for future bakes) with 700g of water until the leaven is dispersed.
Add all the flour and mix, using your hands towards the end, until no flour is visible. The dough should be sticky and rough, this is normal.
Cover the dough with cling film and let rest at room temperature for about 40 minutes. This is the autolyse, which is an important step that will allow the flour to absorb some of the water and make gluten development easier later.
Mix the salt with 50g of water until the granules have dissolved, then add to the dough mixture and use your hands to squeeze in the salt mixture. This is messy as the dough will break apart a little and then reform, this is expected and okay! Don’t worry about getting the salt completely evenly distributed – as it will be further distributed during the stretch and fold process used later.
Next is the first rising period. Cover the dough with cling film and let rise for 30 minutes at room temperature. Fold the dough by using a wet hand to stretch one side of the dough out from underneath, and then folding this over the top. Repeat this 3 more times, once for each side of the dough. The dough will stretch a little less as you reach the 3rd and 4th stretch and folds. Also, this can all be done with the dough still in the bowl.
After this, re-cover the dough and let rise for 30 minutes, at which point repeat the four stretch and folds as detailed above. Repeat these stretch and folds at 30 minute intervals, for a total of 3-4 hours of rising. The dough should become larger and much more aerated – it will begin to pull away from the sides of the bowl much more easily. You should try to fold the dough a little more gently during the last hour of the rising period.
Transfer the dough onto a very lightly floured work surface. In the picture on the left below you can kind of see some of the aeration in the dough:
Divide this dough into roughly two equal pieces, and shape each one by giving it a few stretch and folds and then pulling the skin taught and pressing together the seams on the other side – this is to create good surface tension.
Let these rest on the kitchen surface for about half an hour (this is called the ‘bench rest’), then assess how well they have help their shape. They should ideally still have a curve on the sides. If not, simply do a few more stretch and folds (4 times, 1 for each side), and shape to try to create surface tension again.
Then place (seam side up) into floured bannetons. Cover with lightly greased cling film, and let prove for about 3 hours, or overnight in the fridge.
45 minutes before the dough is ready to bake, preheat the oven to 250C and heat up both parts of the dutch oven.
After 45 minutes, carefully remove the dutch oven from the oven and gently tip the dough into it. It will sizzle a bit but that’s normal! Slash the surface as desired, using a sharp blade/lame. Replace the lid and carefully place the whole pot back into the oven. The cast iron is really hot at this stage so don’t risk any fingers! Bake for 20 minutes with the lid on (to hopefully get good oven spring!), then reduce the temperature to 220C and bake for a further 15-20 minutes with the lid off – in order to get a nice colour on the crust.
For the second dough I just carefully tipped it on to a baking tray, as it was shaped too oblong to go into a dutch oven, and I also only have one. This was baked for about the same length of time, except the temperature is lowered after 10-15 minutes rather than 20, and it helped to have a pan of boiling water at the bottom of the oven during those first 10-15 minutes, in order to encourage steam in the oven.
Here is a nice picture of the crust of the loaf that was baked in the dutch oven:
So blistery, crackly and crispy!!
And another of the crumb of the batard:
And some more of the bread toasted: