The New York Times recently featured a simplified recipe for Chad Robertson’s sourdough bread (Tartine’s Country Bread) as well as a speedier version of Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread. Combining the two recipes, I came up with a yeast-based version of the Tartine bread that comes together in a few hours. The flavor is not the same, obviously, but it is very good, with a subtle sourdough flavor, a crackling crust and an open crumb.
The basic idea is that you substitute the sourdough starter with extra flour, water and a little yeast. The dough is given a stretch and fold every half hour for three hours as in the original recipe. The dough can then be shaped and given a 1 to 1 1/2 hour rise before baking (or you can refrigerate the dough overnight before or after shaping).
Cheater’s Tartine’s Country Bread
Adapted from the article printed in the New York Times about Chad Robertson’s Tartine’s Country Bread and Jim Lahey’s Speedy No-Knead Bread. I also added some tweaks to the baking temperature and time from advice on The Fresh Loaf.
Combine in a bowl or plastic dough bucket and then let rest, covered, for a half hour:
2 tsp. yeast
400 g. water (14 ounces)
550 g. flour (19.25 ounces)
Combine and mix into dough:
10 g. kosher salt (1 ½ tsp.)
25 g. water (1 ounce)
Note: this is a sticky dough. When you add the salt water to the dough, the dough will tighten and get less sticky, but it is still a wet dough. It is easier to handle with wet hands.
After you knead the salt water into the dough, stretch and fold the dough (see below note about “stretch and fold”) and then let the dough rise, covered, for 30 minutes. Repeat this pattern of “stretch and fold then rest a half hour” six times, for a total time of 3 hours.
Note: to do a stretch and fold, wet your hand (so it won’t stick to the dough), then grab from the underside of the dough and pull upwards as much as you can, stretching the dough. Pull the end of the dough over the top of the dough and press it into the dough. Repeat this three or four times, going around the circumference of the dough. It is kind of like the upside down version of making a bed, with the sheet being pulled up and over instead of down and under. See page 38 of The Tartine Book, Issue 3.
After the dough has fermented for 3 hours, it will be very light. Place the dough on a floured work surface so that the bottom of the dough is floured and not sticky and the top of the dough is not floured and sticky. Pull the edges of the dough towards the center so the the sticky side is on the inside and the floured side is the outside of a round ball of dough. Cover the ball of dough with a towel and let the dough rest for a half hour.
Meanwhile, prepare a proofing basket. If you don’t have an actual proofing basket, take a towel and dust it very well with flour and then use the floured towel to line a bowl. The floured side should face inwards. You want the towel to be well floured because otherwise the dough will stick to it when you go to flip it out of the bowl into the baking pot.
Shape the ball of dough into a tighter ball of dough by repeating the above shaping instructions, pulling the edges of the dough more into the center of the ball of dough. You are trying to pull the surface of the dough into a tight skin, kind of like you are giving it a facelift, with the excess saggy skin being pushed into the bottom center of the ball of dough.
Place dough ball in floured towel lined proofing basket, with the bottom seam of the dough facing up, and proof 1-1 ½ hours or until increased by 30 percent in volume.
Put the dough, seam side down, in a pot, preheated in 500 degree oven for 30 minutes). Score the loaf to permit the dough to expand in a predictable fashion (otherwise the dough will randomly explode/tear open as it bakes). Cover the pot. (If the idea of flipping the dough into the preheated pot daunts you, bear in mind that you can get pretty good results by baking the bread on a parchment lined baking sheet, covered with an not preheated upside down roasting pan or pot.)
Bake the dough, covered, for 20-25 minutes at 475 degrees (preheat for half hour to 500 and then drop the temperature to 475 degrees before putting dough in oven). Uncover, drop to 450 degrees, bake another 30-35 minutes, or until the crust of the loaf is a nice golden brown color.
Note: you can also bake the loaf at 450 the whole way through. That is the original instruction. I got better results by baking at 475 degrees for the first 20 minutes. I was also baking on a baking sheet with the loaf covered with an upside down pot, so maybe that is why I needed the extra burst of heat.