Baking Sourdough Bread
Equipment needed for the actual baking (finally) of the Tartine Bread Country Bread:
- Cast iron combo cooker or dutch oven
- Very thick oven mitts or hot pads (seriously. THESE PANS ARE HOT. DO NOT TOUCH THEM WITHOUT SERIOUS HEAT PROTECTION OR YOU WILL BURN YOURSELF INTO PAINFUL KINDS OF PAIN)
- Leftover rice flour/wheat flour mix
- Clean kitchen shears or a razor
- A place to cool your bread
You’ve let your bread rise at a slowed rate in the fridge for 10ish (and up to 12) hours, so that means you’re ready to score and bake it. Pull one of the dough balls out of the fridge and lightly sprinkle it with with some of the remaining rice flour mixture from yesterday. Place your cast iron cooker (both pieces) in the oven and heat it to 500°F. I have a thermometer in my oven, so I know that when my oven says pre-heating is over, it’s lying. Let the oven (and the cast iron cooker) heat for 20 minutes before you move on to the next step, even if your oven tells you it’s ready earlier.
Scoring dough for people who are terrible at scoring dough
Using very thick oven mitts, pull the shallow piece (skillet) only of the cast iron cooker out of the oven and place it on your stove. Invert the dough into the skillet. Now is the time to score your loaf. I am also terrible at this. A lame (a scoring tool that literally translates to “blade”) or straight razor is the tool of choice for experienced bakers, but I always end up butchering the surface with a straight razor, so I usually use kitchen shears to snip 4 shallow cuts, one on each “side” of the circular loaf. As you can see, I don’t do either method particularly well, but man, are these breads beautiful. You have two loaves to play with, so you can try a different way with each. Scoring is really important because it lets the bread “vent.” If you don’t score, your loaf won’t bake up beautifully and you may get a loaf that cracks a big ol’ crater somewhere else. Work quickly so that you can get that hot pan and bread back in the oven ASAP.
Baking the Tartine Sourdough Country Bread
Using very thick oven mitts, put the larger piece of the cast iron cooker in place as the lid over the shallower piece and stick the whole thing back in the oven. Set the timer for 20 minutes. When it beeps, remove the cooker from the oven and take off the top. You should notice a large amount of steam coming out when you do that. Your loaf will be puffed up, but kinda white, like those half-baked loaves you can sometimes find at the grocery store. Place the skillet and loaf back in the oven, and reduce the heat to 450. Set the timer for 20 minutes.
When that bell dings, you should have a beautifully browned loaf with tons of flavor and character. Move the bread to a cooling rack and put both parts of the cast iron cooker back in the oven. Turn the heat up to 500. Remove the second dough ball from the fridge and and allow the oven to fully heat again before repeating the process with the second loaf.
Let the loaves cool for 2 to 4 hours for best results (I think a bread that is allowed to cool has a nicer crumb and Robertson says the breads last longer/hold up better when fully cooled).
One thing I love about this book, is that despite recognizing that a full cool is better for the bread, Robertson gets that sometimes, you just need to dig in to that mofo while it’s still hot. You have two loaves, so why not crack into one hot and let the other one cool completely to compare?
I have suffered through months of making this bread to bring this sourdough series to you, so I hope you appreciate my painful, painful struggle 🙂
Check out the whole Sourdough School Series
- Get started with Step 1 of Sourdough Starter School
- What your starter will look like after 24 hours of fermentation
- Step 2 (Days 3-7) – Stabilizing Your Starter
- Why You Should Do a “Low-proportion” Sourdough Feeding
- 4 Things to Make with Excess Starter
- Getting Ready to Actually Bake! Equipment and Starter Health Check
- Preparing the Leaven
- Mixing the Dough and Bulk Fermentation
- Dividing, Shaping, Final Rise
- Baking and Cooling (You Are Here)
- Tartine Bread Giveaway!!!