‘No-knead’ breads have become very popular recently, the most notable probably being Jim Lahey’s recipe. The appeal of these recipes is that you mix the dough, let it sit for 16-18 hours, and then bake it. There’s essentially no effort involved and you get a very nice loaf at the end of it all. I think it’s a great way to learn the basics of bread making, but I do think you can get a much better tasting loaf with not much more effort.
A few months ago I posted about a sourdough recipe which didn’t involve extensive kneading, but rather used a combination of ‘turns’ over time to develop the dough. I am now realizing that the recipe was simply an adaptation of the ‘Basic Country Bread’ recipe from Chad Robertson’s Tartine Bread. This recipe uses a ‘fresher’ starter, so it doesn’t have as much of a pronounced sourdough taste.
What I really like about this book and the recipes within it is that each technique is explained he describes how each stage of the recipe can be adapted to fit your schedule. You could take two full days to make this bread or just about 18 hours. As with most breads, this sounds imposing to start but really gets simpler when you realize that most of that is idle time.
I’ve been making this bread fairly regularly now for about 2 months, and have put together a series of pictures to demonstrate the process. You can find the text of Robertson’s recipe here. These pictures are from 3 different breads (including one that was parmesan pepper), so you’ll notice the content of the dough changes. Either way, the techniques are the same.
Start by dispersing your starter in water.
Add in the flour, and mix until combined. Then, let the dough sit covered for 30 minutes. Afterward, add in the salt and remaining water.
Instead of kneading the dough, you perform a series of turns over the course of a few hours. Lift one portion of the dough, and fold it onto itself, creating tension within the dough. Do this every half hour for 2 hours, and every hour after that for another 2 hours.
Once the dough has completed the first rise, turn it out onto an unfloured surface, and shape into a ball. Let it rest for 30 minutes.
After the rest period, flour the top of the dough, then flip it over so that the floured side is facing down. Fold the lower part of the dough inwards. Then, stretch the dough.
Fold the right third of the dough toward the center, and then repeat with the left side.
Fold the top part of the dough inwards towards the center, and then fold the bottom part of the dough over everything, tucking it underneath to create a ball. Work the dough into a tighter ball, and place it seam side up in a proofing basket.
Depending on when you would like to bake the bread, you can either proof overnight in the refrigerator or at room temperature for about 4 hours. Don’t worry about having rigid time limits, as things depend on your kitchen environment. My kitchen is much colder than most, so I let it rise longer.
About 45 minutes before you plan to bake place a covered cast iron dutch oven (or combo cooker) in the oven and preheat it to 500 degrees. When ready to bake turn the dough out into the hot pan and score the loaves. Place the lid back on and return to the oven. Lower the temperature to 450 and cook for 20 minutes. After, remove the lid and cook for another 20-25 minutes.
Tartine Basic Country Bread (Makes 2 Loaves)
- 200 grams starter
- 750 grams warm water
- 900 grams bread flour
- 100 grams whole wheat flour
- 20 grams salt
The night before you plan to make the dough, refresh your sourdough starter. Discard all but a few tablespoons, and add in 200 grams water, 100 grams AP flour, and 100 grams whole wheat flour. Cover loosely and let sit overnight. The next morning, you know the starter is ready when it floats in water.
Disperse the starter in 700 grams of water. Add all the flour and mix by hand until you do not see any dry bits of flour. Cover the dough and let rest for 30 minutes.
After the rest, add the salt and remaining 50 grams of water. Once everything is incorporated, cover the dough again. For the next 2 hours, ‘turn’ the dough every 30 minutes by grabbing the underside of the dough and stretching it over the rest of the dough. After 2 hours, turn the dough just once every hour.
Once the first rise is complete, turn the dough out onto an unfloured surface. Cut into two pieces and flour the top of the dough, then flip it over so that the floured side is down. Work each piece into a round shape, and let rest of the counter for 30 minutes.
After the rest once again flour the top of the dough and flip it over. Fold the third of the dough closest to you inward, and then stretch the dough out to the sides. Fold the right, and then left, sides in toward the center. Fold the top of the dough inward, and then wrap the bottom part of the dough over it all. Work this into a round shape, and place seam side up in a proofing basket.
Let rise for 3-4 hours (or overnight in the refrigerator). Before baking place a dutch oven, with the lid on, in the oven and preheat to 500 degrees. Once hot, drop the dough into the pan and score the loaves. Immediately place the top back on and return to the oven. Turn the heat down to 450 degrees and cook for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes, remove the top of the dutch oven and rotate the pan. Continue to bake the bread for another 20-25 minutes, until the crust is deeply caramelized. Enjoy!
Recipe from Chad Robertston’s Tartine Bread