The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Tartine method in my life

Alvaremj's picture

Tartine method in my life

I’ve never been one to follow a recipe to a tee. I recently read Tartine Bread and it got me thinking how to manage my time so I can bake on days I work as well as days off.  So essentially, what I out of the book was that the baker can manipulate time and temperature to make any time frame work to make bread.

Here is my dilemma, I usually put in a 6-7 hr day for my part time job and am home by 1pm. (7am to 12 or 1pm) I want to have a loaf at dinner and my kids and I eat at 5:30. I think I can get a good proof between 130 and 430. Besides refrigeration has anyone had luck with bulk fermentation times 12- 15 hours?

I tried using a “young” starter. i.e. feed and used after two hours. Bulk fermented 12 hours in the basement (about 60 degrees). Proofed 7 hours upstairs (65 degrees). Oh, definitely not a fan of cooking in a pot a la Tartine. Aside from the inevitable disaster of serious burns I seem to get better curst and crumb on my cheap pizza stone.


Sooo, how do you all fit a 8-10 hour bake into your everyday lives?? Seems like a silly follow up question but what do you do to extend your fermentation and proofing times? (besides refrigeration) Your comments and thoughts are appreciated!!

imaloafer's picture

We make 15-17 loaves of this bread each week. We bake for friends, family and ourselves. Our routine is to make the leaven late at night and let sit out overnight, make the dough in the morning and proof in bannetons overnight in the refrigerator. It proofs for 12-15 hours, comes out the next morning and into the oven. We preset our oven at 500, with two dutch ovens inside, so it's ready to go when we get up. Fortunately my wife is not off to work as I am at 5:30 am, thus she bakes the breads. We swear by this method and have nothing in our area that compares to our bread. My friend bakes for Whole Foods and he uses this method at home, saying he can't duplcate it's crust at the store. No offense, but in looking at the pictures, you are not getting the crust from your stone, that this bread can deliver. Deep color, crisp exterior, giving way to an open, moist crumb allowing the bread several days of good eating. We have most all of the breads in the book, and of course our own variations on them. The past several weeks, we have been doing walnut loaves and olive loaves, along with seeded whole wheat and country loaves. What people want in a bread is of course very subjective, but we feel this technique is spot on for everything we want in a bread, and we can do it ourselves! We have not purcheased local bread for close to a year now. We do love to visit Tartine, Wildflour, Della Fattoria bakeshops, when in Petaluma area for Giusto's flour. And whenever in Pt. Reyes, Brickmaiden bread is a must buy. Happy baking.

Alvaremj's picture

Thanks for the reply! I suppose I should give the fridge another shot for proofing. As far as the color of the crust. No offense taken, I'm sharing so I can improve. I did bake this in a dutch oven at 500 degrees and should have left it go for another 5-10 minutes but dinner was next in the oven and the bread had to come out. When do you remove the lid during the bake?



SCruz's picture


To be sure I understood your process, you prepare the levan overnight, mix the dough with its S&Fs in the morning which takes 3-4 hours. Do you let it rise undisturbed for a few house before putting it in the fridge? Otherwise on it's more than 12-15 hours from prep to oven. No?

Do you then put the cold dough straight into the preheated oven? I know there's been a lot of discussion about this.

One final note, the solution to hot dutch ovens is lined leather welder's gloves. They only cost $10 and they take the stress out of handling hot dutch ovens.






imaloafer's picture


We truly follow the Tartine procedure, just minor adjustments for our lives. We make a leaven like at 10 pm, before sleep time. It sits out overnight, (time varies with temp, summer/winter). We get up early, and leaven is usually ready, again need to test, our apt. at night is about 65 degrees. We make the dough, 30-40 minute autolyse. The initial fermentation is 5 hours. Folding every 1/2 hour the first 2 hours, then another 3 hour bulk fermentation. This we do in an off oven, with a small pot of boiled water placed inside with the dough. Then scale, rest and makeup. Once loaves are made and into bannetons, they go into the fridge overnight. We just use hotpads, have yet to burn ourselves, it helps to have the specific dutch oven, Lodge double dutch oven, as you take the dough from fridge, turn onto shallow skillet side of combo, dock and then into the oven at 500. Once in the oven, temp is dropped to 450. Baked for 20 minutes with lid on, then last 25 minutes with lid removed. Sometimes we will start a bake at 4am depending on if I'm taking it into work with me. These are the minor adjustments to make based on your life schedule. We sometimes have 6 loaves to bake in a day. It has just worked for us to let the leaven come alive while we sleep, then let the dough proof, while we sleep. It has become a cycle for us, weekends being the rare days we don't bake.

davidg618's picture

Although it's not expressed explicitly, you seem to have rejected retarded bulk fermentation (putting the dough into a refrigerator, for long periods of time). Is this apparent rejection absolute? 

This is not a trivial question; many bakers--amateur and commercial--use chillers for two fundemental reasons: dough development (flavor, gluten structure), and/or time management. I'm retired, and I use it: originally for flavor and crumb, but secondarily to not interfere with sleep (naps included) and favorite TV shows.  Incidentally, I use a wine-chiller set at 54°F to retard doughs--primarily baguettes and sourdoughs--for 15 - 17 hours. That's only 6° less than your cellar.

That said, to honor your No Refrigeration" edict, and your work hours, I looked at your problem from the point of view, "How would I bake my breads, using the times and techniques I've tweaked over the past three years, without relying on a refrigerator, and having to work away from home from 7:00AM to 1:00PM, during levain building, dough making and baking days". Yes, it takes me 2-1/2 days to produce finished sourdough loaves, and approximately 21 hours to make commercial yeast straight dough. However, that includes 15 -17 hours of of retarded bulk fermentation, during which I also do a series of Stretch and Fold in the early hours in lieu of kneading.  For you I've worked out a schedule wherein you can do sourdoug in two days--that's chronological time; your time messing with the levain and doughs will be much less.

Here's my suggested schedule, with alternatives for baking sourdough.

Assumptions: 1) You leave for work at 6:30AM. 2) You're willing to get up at 5:ooAM one morning to mix dough. 3) Your cellar remains at about 60°F year-around.4.) You're willing to fore-go Stretch and Folds and replace with either machine or hand kneading to develop your doughs' gluten structure (strength).

Day One: Build fully-ripe levain Day.

Considerations and Alternatives: I build fully-ripe levain with three builds, over a 24 hour period, feeding 2:1:1 each 8 hours which doubles the amount of ripe starter with each build. I finish with enough levain to satisfy the bread formula I'm making, replace my refrigerated seed starter (I only bake once each week, and maintain my seed starter in the refrigerator), and 20 or 30 grams extra for the weight lost in fermentation and that which gets stuck to spatulas.

Example (100% hydrated seed starter, and 100% hydrated levain resulting) : Build One: 40 grams seed starter: 20g each of flour and water. Ferment at room temperature for 8 hours.

Build Two: Add 40g each of flour and water. Ferment another eight hours.

Build Three: Add 80g each of flour and water. Ferment another eight hours.

After 24 hours you have 320g of robust, fully-ripe levain. 20g each for two 1:1:1 feed seed starter replacements (I've always been a belt and suspenders guy.); 250g of levain for bread formula; 3og spare.

Alternatives: 12 to 16 hours before baking  build levain in accordance with Chad Robertson, Peter Rheinhart, Jeffery Hamelman, etc. prescribe.

Also, on day one just before going to bed pre-measure all the dry ingredients, and store in the cellar (or refrigerate, if you can). This is your mis en place, chilled, for...

Day Two: Make and Bake Day

1. Get up early.

2. Measure water, ADD ICE CUBES; shake or stir until water is as cold as possible. Remeasure the chilled water only and quickly add it to the dry ingredients. Using ice water, and pre-chilled ingredients slows down the bulk fermentation immediately.

3. Mix flour, water  and levain. Rest mixture for 20 to 30 mins.IN THE CELLAR. Add salt, knead for recommended time.

4. Put dough in a lightly oiled container. Cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap, and RETURN TO THE CELLAR.

5. Go to work.

6. As soon as you return from work, retrieve the dough, divide and preshape, let rest for 1 hour at room temperature. Shape and Proof until loaves pass "poke test". At the appropriate time during proofing pre-heat the oven and backing stone. Bake and cool.

Note: I get up at 7AM  on Day Two. I do step 1 immediately. I watch the morning news during the 1 hour rest.

During Proofing Time (90 mins. baguettes, 2-1/2 to 3 hours sourdoughs) I do other chores. On Baguette Baking Day the loaves are cooling by 11:00AM, sourdoughs by 1:00PM.

Let's look at a time schedule.

Day One:

6;15 AM: Build One . Even if you're still half-asleep this should take less than 10 minutes. If you really can't hurry your morning routine get up 15 minutes early.

6:30 AM: Go to work.

2:15 PM: Build Two (5 mins, you've been awake and working a half day, and drank six cups of coffee)

10:15: PM Build Three. (7 mins.; you're probably sleepy from all this hard, levain-building work) Brush your teethe.

10:30: Go to bed.

5:00 AM: Get up. (Chad Roberstone doesn't have his bread ready until 5:00 PM so he can sleep late.)

5.01 AM: Mix the Flour, Levain and ICE WATER (about 10 mins); Autolyse for 20 minutes IN THE COOL CELLAR. Get ready for work.

5:31 AM: Add the salt. Knead until it comes away from the side of the bowl (or feels right to you) and put in its oiled fermenting container. Cover. Return immediately to the cellar. (Should only take about 15 min. so make good use of the extra 14 min.)

6:00 AM: Eat breakfast, etc.

6:30 AM: Go to work.

1:oo PM: As soon as you get home from work get the dough out of the cellar, Preshape. Let rest at room temperature

1:10 PM Change out of your work clothes, put on your bread-baking clothes

2:00 PM Shape loaves, Proof in your accustomed manner. About an hour before you think the loaves will be finished proofing pre-heat the oven and baking stone. Do chores in your waiting time, or take a nap.

?:?? PM Bake. Cool.

You'll have warm, fresh-baked loaves to serve at dinner.

You can adapt this for commercial yeast breads, by simply adding yeast (about 1/3 to 1/2 what the formula calls for) at mixing time,  or incorporate an over-night poolish or biga in lieu of the natural levain.

That's how I'd do it, within your constraints.

David G



Alvaremj's picture

Wow, thanks for the time you spent on this. I am not completely opposed to the fridge but am trying to avoid it for no other reason than I like to shape warm dough. I also think my fridge is too cold to doo this to its full potential. I'm also not opposed to commercial yeast but i don't think I'll ever be the same since discovering sourdoug. I also love that you added napping into the schedule! Unfortunately not an option for me with three young kids in the house. I think your time frame look great and I look forward to trying it this week. I think I am going to stray from the Tartine process and have a more mature starter to build the levain. i.e. 2-3 feeds over a day and a half prior to baking. As much as I like using the stretch and fold method I think I will have to fore go this step on days I work and manually kneed the dough in conjunction with autolyse. I think what I'm going to do about cooking in the pot is to continue to use a baking stone but cover the boule with a inverted pot (preheated with the stone) to achieve the same results. I have only been baking sourdough for about 5 months so I am still experimenting with my process. My loaves keep improving and I have been recently encourages when I stoped into a local deli that bakes bread on premesis. I think my bread looks and tastes better than theirs!

thanks again!


davidg618's picture

I will also add your bread looks great. 

I am not a Tartine fan, and especially not interested in baking my breads in an upside-down or right-side up Dutch-oven, clay coffin, or large flower-pot.(Although, on a bet--and an ego trip--many years ago I made a Baked Alaska dessert in a campfire preheated Dutch oven. I built the cake-ice cream-meringue bombe on the cold lid, and covered it with the hotter-n-h*** inverted DO. )

My point (and advice) is choose the tools, techniques, ingredients and schedules that work for you. Home bread baking, like all home cooking, is very personal.

At the risk of appearing to be on another ego-trip here's a link to a blog entry I wrote last September. It's specific to baguette baking, but also speaks in more detail about my own bread baking philosophy.

Again, good luck!

David G

dabrownman's picture

very good luck using the Tartine Method that Chad Robertson used in his famous video, using the DO as a final proof vessel and placing the cold DO with proofed dough into a 500 F oven, baking for 20 minutes and then taking the top off to finish the bake at 450 F.  Can't get crust like it any other way and the crumb is beautiful too.  You don't burn yourself that way either.

Alvaremj's picture

excuse my ignorance but what is a DO?? Do you have a link to the video you are talking about? I watched one where he is doing a masterclass but I couldn't tell if the dutch oven was preheated or not. Second attempt at the Tarine method (reluctantly with preheated pot) tonight. I think it at least deserves a couple tries. I will post pics if its not a disaster.



noonesperfect's picture

DO = dutch oven

dabrownman's picture

class video, he picked up the DO and put it in the oven with no oven mits on.  It was cold or he has a real bad case of 'baker hands'  :-)  I'm guessing cold Dutch Oven instead.