Sam’s Tomato Sourdough

Sam’s Tomato Sourdough


Full baking disclosure: I am not the baker of the family. Sam started making this incredible bread after our friend Scott, who happens to be a culinary school baking instructor, stopped on his way to the Ventura County Fair. They made their sourdough starter together from the grapes growing in our garden, and Sam has been putting Tartine Bakery’s now famous no-knead riding and baking techniques to work ever since. Our BLT life has never been the same.

Our favorite variation was purely tomato grower’s luck. After a particularly good growing season, we had tons of tomato sauce bubbling on the stove one weekend. Sam was making bread, so he substituted the flavorful Top of the Pot Stock from the sauce for the water. He’s been making that way ever since. And, in one of those full circle bread (and gardening) moments, he won first place at the Venture County Fair for his tomato sourdough a few years back!

Note: the technique for this recipe was adapted from the Tartine Bread cookbook. The key, the bulky rise period, is all about getting to know your dough.

  • ¾ cups (200 grams) sourdough starter, fed and ready to go
  • 3 cups (24 ounces/700 grams) Top of the Pot Stock (page 140), warm but not hot (about 85 degrees F)
  • 6 1/3 cups (850 grams) unbleached, all-purpose white flour
  • ¾ cup (100 grams) whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup (50 grams) wheat bran
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, more for rubbing your hands
  • 1 tablespoon (20 grams) kosher salt


  1. Place the starter into a large wood, plastic, or stainless steel bowl (do not use reactive metals like copper or aluminum). Whisk in the Top of the Pot Stock. Add the all-purpose while flour, whole wheat flour, and wheat bran and mix everything together with a wooden spoon or one hand until it resembles think oatmeal (the dough is very wet, a good deal will stick to your fingers; try to return as much as possible back to the dough). Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and set aside in a warm place to rest for 30 minutes.
  2. Add olive oil and salt to the dough, rub one hand lightly with oil, and use your oiled hand to mix the dough thoroughly. Loosely form the dough into a ball and transfer it to a large plastic tub with a lid. If you do not have a large plastic container, use a very large nonreactive bowl (wood or stainless steel) and cover it tightly with plastic wrap.
  3. Every 45 minutes, coat one hand lightly in water and reach into the container or bowl to “turn” the dough by grabbing under each corner, stretching and folding it. Repeat with each of the round’s four “corners.” Re-cover and repeat the process every 30 to 45 minutes until the dough is twice the original mass and has a soft, almost fluffy texture, anywhere from 3 to 5 hours, depending on your room’s temperature. If the day is cool, the process will take longer. If warm, the dough with come together more quickly. It is best to keep the dough in a warm place, free of drafts. (Sam puts his on the stereo cabinet where it is always 5 to 210 degrees warmer than the rest of the house – we listen to a lot of music.)
  4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and use a bench scraper to divide it in half. Allow each half to rest, covered, for 30 minutes.
  5. Without punching down the dough, form each half into a boule, or round loaf, by pulling the sides of each down toward the bottom and pinching the seam together at the bottom. Rotate the dough as you work (cup the dough in your hands on the workspace) to form a ball, using as little flour as possible. The goal is to create some surface tension to form a better crust without deflating the dough.
  6. Place each boule in a lightly floured, 8-inch proofing basket. If you don’t have proofing baskets, line two 8 or 9 inch bowls with well-floured linen or tea towels. Allow the bread to slowly rise in the refrigerator for 8 to 12 hours or overnight, tightly covered with plastic wrap. (Or do as Sam does: Place the proofing baskets in a clean plastic trash bag, suck out as much air as possible, then seal the bag shut.)
  7. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 500 degrees F and place a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or lidded stockpot in the oven. Remove the pot from the oven and carefully transfer 1 chilled boule to it (leave the second in the refrigerator). Slice across the top of the loaf 2 to 4 times with a sharp blade or razor, cover the Dutch oven with the lid, and return it to the oven. Immediately reduce the heat to 450 degrees F and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the lid and continue to bake until the bread is dark brown on the bottom and golden brown on the top, 15 to 20 minutes longer. Check the bottom of the loaf after 15 minutes to make sure it is not burning. The bread is ready when it sounds hollow when tapped. Cool the loaf completely on a wire rack before slicing. (Good luck with that. Sam and I can never wait that long.)
  8. Return the oven to 500 degrees F, reheat the Dutch oven, and repeat the process with the second boule.

Tomatomania book cover