Special Recipe: Kettle Bread

Welcome to sourdough baking Tartine style. Tartine is a bakery in San Francisco that makes one batch of bread per day, at 5 pm, and sells out immediately. With your starter and these instructions you will create two magnificent loaves that are very close to that experience. This Kettle Bread recipe is “special” because it takes a little more time and thought than my usual preps, but the results will be worth it!

Kettle Bread

Kettle Bread

Time required: maybe an hour of active preparation time spread out throughout the day and 12-24 hours of sitting around time depending on room temperature. You will always end up by putting shaped loaves in the refrigerator to proof overnight so you can bake the next morning.

What you will need (ingredients and tools):
King Arthur Bread Flour
King Arthur Whole Wheat Flour
(you can use another brand of good quality unbleached flour if you like)
A source of good water that’s not overtreated (use bottled water if you’re not sure)
Sourdough starter
A dutch oven without plastic knobs (cast iron preferred)
A big glass or porcelain mixing bowl (4 qt size or larger)
Two baskets or bowls for proofing (1-2 qt size)
Kosher salt or sea salt (or regular salt)

To prepare your starter:

This recipe uses a lively starter made from 50% bread flour and 50% whole wheat flour. (If you’re converting from another starter and want to keep your original starter, you’ll need to take the additional step of refreshing your starter, then using part of it for this recipe and saving the rest.)

Begin with about 3 oz (85 grams) of good, active sourdough starter, refreshed per above if you are converting it. (If you don’t have a starter, click the link for how to get or make some.) Spoon it out into the mixing bowl, then add an equal volume (3 liquid oz/85 ml) of water (warmed to just below room temperature if it’s a cold day) and mix with a spoon. (If you’re transferring starter from a keeper jar, put the water in the jar first, seal it and shake to dislodge some of the starter that sticks to the sides.)

Make a 50/50 blend of 3/4 c (100 g) whole wheat and 3/4 c (100g) bread flour, then add about 1 c (135 g) of this blend to the water/starter mix in stages, stirring vigorously until all the flour is moistened. (You’ll need the remaining flour later in the recipe.) So you now have 3 oz original starter, 3 oz added water, and around 1 c flour mixture with a total weight of about 10 1/2 oz (300 g). But the amounts are less important than the consistency. You don’t want a wet starter and you don’t want a lot of dry flour in the bottom of the bowl; adjust adding more flour or water as necessary.

Allow to proof at room temperature, covered with plastic wrap or a tight fitting lid, until very lively. For me, this is the point where the bottom of the mixing spoon (which I leave in the bowl) disappears beneath the rising starter. It will take anywhere from 6 hours on a hot summer day to 24 hours in a 55 degree kitchen in the dead of winter. Next, transfer an amount equal in volume to your original starter back into a keeper jar, seal and refrigerate. (No need to clean a jar you’re reusing, but make sure any gloppy bits are wiped off the threads on the outside of the jar so it will seal without sticking. I do wash my starter jar every half dozen batches or so.) This part is in bold face so you won’t forget to save your starter.

Note: it’s fine to feed the starter the day before you make the dough, then refrigerate overnight, then proceed as directed below.

To mix your dough:
Add 700 ml (2 3/4 c) lukewarm water (warm to the touch, not hot) to the starter remaining in the mixing bowl and mix thoroughly with a spoon. Add 800 grams (6 c) of KA Bread Flour and 200 g (1 1/2 c) of KA Whole Wheat Flour and mix thoroughly until flour is moistened completely. Cover and allow to rest (autolyse) 20-30 minutes. During this time the dough comes together as the flour combines with the water and gluten starts to form.

To proof your dough—stretch and fold method (recommended):
Add a generous 2t Kosher salt to the dough, wet your hands, and knead in the bowl until salt is thoroughly mixed in and any dry spots in the dough are gone. (If the dough seems very dry, you can add a couple spoonfuls of water.)  Cover and proof at room temperature for 30 minutes, then perform the first of a series of stretch and folds.

To stretch and fold: moisten hands well, reach into the bowl and scoop out dough. Holding one end in each hand pull it apart (you can also hold one end over the bowl, shake it, and let gravity work to pull down the other end) until it is well extended; fold back on itself to the original dimensions of your hunk of dough. Turn at 90 degree angle and repeat. Do this 10 times and return the dough to the bowl and cover.

Continue to stretch and fold at 30 minute intervals for a total of 2-3 hours (longer if the kitchen is cool). During this time the dough will evolve from a shaggy mass into smooth, resilient dough. After two hours try the “gluten window” test. Press out a thin section at the edge of the dough and stretch it apart until it becomes thin enough to see light through it. This is the gluten window and demonstrates that gluten is well developed. If the dough tears, give it a couple more stretch and folds at 30 minute intervals.

After the final stretch and fold, allow the dough to rest for one hour, covered. Then lift it out of the mixing bowl and dump it onto a lightly floured cutting board and use a chef’s knife  (or a professional dough cutter if you have one) to divide it into two equal pieces. Sprinkle the top of each piece with flour, flip it over using the chef’s knife, and fold it in on itself to form a ball. Flip this over again so the seam side is down and allow to rest covered with a towel or plastic wrap for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare two proofing baskets or bowls to shape the loaves. You can use professional bakers’ bannetons, old wicker baskets, or your regular mixing bowls. Thoroughly dust the inside surface with your 50/50 flour mixture to prepare it for the loaves. (If you are using mixing bowls, it would be a good idea to rub on butter or olive oil before adding flour to make sure your loaves don’t stick.)

Now it’s time to shape your first loaf. Flip the rested dough over so the seam side is now up. Pat the top lightly to flatten into a round. Take one side of the round and fold it into the middle, followed by the other side, then the top. (Jeffrey Hamelman of King Arthur Flour suggests you think of a gingerbread man and fold in his shoulders, then his head.) Flip over the dough so the seam side is down and gently work it into a tight ball by shaping the dough downwards and sealing it at the bottom, then rotate and repeat. You want to create very tight surface tension on the loaf by doing this. If you see little bubbles under the surface of the dough trying to break through you have achieved mastery; otherwise just make the dough as tight and smooth as you can.

Lift the ball and flip it into the floured proofing basket so the seam side (bottom) is now up). If you have done a good job sealing the ball the bottom facing you will be smooth; if it is full of seams and lines make a mental note to do better next time. Repeat with the other ball of dough. Now put each of the proofing bowls into a plastic grocery bag or cover with plastic wrap, make sure it is airtight, and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.

To proof your dough—almost no knead method (alternate):
I’m including this option just in case you are accustomed to the Jim Leahey/5 minute bread method of preparing dough without kneading. Try this if you like, but please try the stretch-and-fold method next time you make the bread. It’s easy and handling the dough is a wonderful sensation that connects you with your bread.

Add 20 ml/a couple spoonfuls water and a generous 2 t Kosher salt to the dough, wet your hands, and knead until salt is thoroughly mixed in and any dry spots in the dough are gone. Return to the bowl, cover and proof at room temperature for a minimum of six hours; you can also put it in the refrigerator for a longer period which will yield a more sour dough. The dough will probably rise somewhat during this period and become smoother.

At the end of the proofing time, dump the dough on a lightly floured cutting board and use a chef’s knife to divide it into two equal pieces. Sprinkle the top of each piece with flour, flip it over using the chef’s knife, and fold it in on itself to form a ball. Allow the dough to rest a few minutes while you prepare the baskets or bowls for proofing.

Scoop up one of your dough pieces with your chef’s knife and flip it into the proofing basket/bowl. Now put each of the proofing bowls into a plastic grocery bag or cover with plastic wrap, make sure it is airtight, and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.

To bake your bread the next morning:
Place your dutch oven and its lid in the oven and preheat to 500 degrees (this can take as long as half an hour). Using ovenproof mitts, carefully remove the scorching hot dutch oven from the oven, place it on the stovetop. Sprinkle a little cornmeal on the bottom of the dutch oven to keep the bread from burning.

Now take the one of the proofing baskets/bowls out of the refrigerator. Remove the bag and invert the basket, causing the proofed dough to drop into your outstretched mitt-covered hand. (If it’s stuck you can gently pry the dough away from the basket; it’s a lot easier to handle when cold.) Gently transfer to the dutch oven, taking care not to deflate the dough. If you like, you can now slash an x or other simple pattern in the top of the loaf with the point of the chef’s knife.

Cover the dutch oven, return to oven and lower the heat to 450 degrees. After 25 minutes lift the lid off the dutch oven. The bread should have risen tremendously and be bursting at the top. Return, uncovered, to the oven and cook another 20 minutes until dark brown but not charred. Using the mitts, remove the dutch oven and flip the bread out onto the stovetop to cool. Return the dutch oven and its lid to the oven, return heat to 500 degrees (wait a few minutes while the dutch oven comes back up to temperature), and follow the same steps for the second loaf. (Yes, if you have two dutch ovens and a big enough oven you can cook both loaves at the same time. Just be sure the dutch ovens are well heated before you begin.)

Cool the bread for at least two hours before slicing. I think it tastes better the second day.

NOTE: why bother with metric conversions, instead of just using cups and ounces? Two reasons. First, cup measurements are misleading; the same volume of flour vs water will have very different weights. Second, when you use metric it’s much easier to adjust the amounts up and down to create a larger or smaller batch, without altering the original proportions.  It takes a bit of re-education and you’ll need an accurate scale, but once you make the transition I predict you won’t go back.

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5 Responses to Special Recipe: Kettle Bread

  1. I just got the starter from the food swap and wondered if I could put it in the refrigerator. Thanks for putting that right at the top of your blog post.

  2. Burnt My Fingers says:

    Excellent Erin! Sorry I did not clarify that at the beginning!

  3. Emily says:

    Thank you so much. I made this recipe and it was delicious. We had it for dinner with some chili. I also had a friend who had something sad happen to her and I showed up with some of this bread and totally made her day. Thanks! I have never made sourdough before.

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