I also decided to see what would come of halving one of my bread formulas that generally make two loaves. I used the formula that I've been monkeying with for the past couple of weeks, the one for my 'City Bread'. I increased hydration in tandem with the increased proof, because my goal was to make a more open crumb with my bread, and one with a more pronounced tang. See the formula and instructions below.
Here are some things to take into consideration:
1) The Tartine Bread book is NOT an easy book. I love it, yes, but the dough requires some serious devotion, and the book is a little arcane. There certainly are others out there that will take you by the hand and tell you all you need to know, so snatch up copies of other author's work too. But I think that Chad created a piece of work that would allow the reader/breadmaker to find their own bread. He has given us a foundation for this bread, his bread. Everything that you begin to understand about it from the moment you open the book is really all about you. You will learn what works best in your environment, and how to handle the dough on your own if you just keep working with it as often as you can. Furthermore, and this may sound silly, but you must become one with Chad's doughs. These are not Sunday afternoon breads. So don't feel bad about the outcome if you imagined that it was something that you could just fit into a busy day, and find yourself falling short. On bread day, I'm home. I walk the dog while the dough is on the last half of it's fermentation, and I run errands as it proofs. Other than that, this dough has got me for pretty much 10 hours so that I can poke it and keep an eye on it, and mostly so that I can be at the ready when it decides it wants to be baked.
3) Refrigeration is your friend. This hot summer forced me to really get creative with my dough and as a result, I am seriously married to refrigerated fermentation. Not only does it add to the flavor of my bread, but it allowed me to learn how to handle this dough without backing off hydration. Long, cool fermentations develop flavor. Fast, hot fermentations just aerate your bread. Let me just say, even with refrigeration, this dough needs to be handled quickly, adeptly, and gently. Once you invert it onto your peel and get it scored, don't go make a phone call or pet the dog. You need to get it into the oven pronto.
There were even some loaves whose hydration I was able to increase because refrigeration allowed me a little more flexibility and a lot more leniency in handling what would otherwise have been a temperamental dough. Use the fridge while you are learning, and beyond. It is your friend. Remember, professional bakers have proofing chambers that regulate the temperature of their dough. You have two options: refrigeration, and room temp. I seriously doubt that Chad has 100 loaves of wilting dough laying around his hot kitchen. He has climate controlled advantages.
4) Here are 10 tips to help you from shaping through baking:
- For those of you who are having difficulty shaping the dough and handling the high hydration, my suggestion is to complete your turns at room temp, then pop the dough in the fridge for the second half of fermentation (i.e., 2 hours room temp fermentation with turns, 2 hours final fermentation in fridge).
- When you pull the dough out for preshape, do a loose preshape, which allows a shorter bench. A tighter preshape calls for a longer bench, but then the dough warms up and might make it harder for you to shape later.
- During shaping, do your best. It does not have to be perfect. Dough is a pretty forgiving thing, especially at this point. Just try not to overwork it, and if you feel that you have, lengthen your proof (in the fridge) which will give it enough time to rise properly. I also avoid using a floured surface as I work. I use either nothing at all, or olive oil. I have ended up with raw flour in my loaves, and that pretty much killed any desire to flour my workspace. A little olive oil in your bread never hurt a thing, in fact, it probably makes it more delightful.
- Proof in the fridge. For a couple of reasons. For one reason, it will make it easier for you to handle when it's time to invert it onto your peel. For another reason, it allows you to control the proof and develop the flavor of your bread. It also allows some flexibility with your baking schedule, since proofing dough can be refrigerated for up to 12 hours.
- When you are about to bake your bread, don't slap the dough right into the combo cooker as the book suggests. It makes for a situation where you can really burn yourself and deflate your nurtured dough. Instead, cut a piece of parchment, lay it over the bowl, lay the peel over the bowl, and carefully flip the bowl with the peel over so that the bowl is inverted. Remove the bowl. Peel off the linen. Score.
- Pull the combo cooker out of the oven, slide the dough into the combo cooker. Put the lid in place, and close the oven while you are working your second dough. I find this arrangement safest and easiest and there is less risk of deflating your dough. If the dough lands crooked, give the combo cooker a shake to place it properly. If you only have one combo cooker that's fine. Just keep the second dough in the fridge till you are ready to bake it. The dough can be in the fridge for up to 12 hours proofing, so, nothing bad will happen if it waits.
- Don't be tempted to lift the lid of the combo cooker before the first 30 minutes is up. The lid provides the steamy environment needed for proper oven spring. It just took you 10 hours to coax this bread into being, another 30 minutes won't kill you. Looking prematurely and causing your bread to flop might make you die a little inside.
- Toggle the heat. I never bake my loaves at 475. It's too hot, I find. A baking stone certainly helps to diffuse the heat beneath the pan so that you don't end up with a black bottom crust, but if it's too hot, turn the heat down. I find that baking my loaves at 450 allows me to get a deeper brown crust that is more evenly toned. 475 was burning the bottom of my bread while leaving the top too blonde, and then the inside was not baking long enough and had raw spots. 450 allows me to keep my loaves in for the duration of the bake, and I've been able to get those chestnut colored loaves that we are all salivating after. I also bake my bread for an hour, and some as long as an hour and 10 minutes. These days I can tell by how it looks and how it sounds by thumping the bottom of it if it's done, but for the sake of the blog, I also take the temperature and post the temp on the blog so that newbies will have something more concrete when pulling their loaves if they are not sure that they are done. Look for chestnut colored loaves with a strong crust.
- Which brings me to this great bit of info: place the baking rack at the highest possible level to accommodate the combo cooker and its lid. The lower the pan to the gas (or heat element) at the bottom of the oven, the more probable the bottom crust is to burn. Keep it up high.
- Don't slice your bread until it's cool, unless it's a baguette. The bread is still baking and will change texture radically when it is allowed to fully 'cure'. I wait no less than 2 hours, and generally more, before I slice into it. Warm bread is romantic, yes, but it's just not ideal to slice into this style of bread before it has a chance to finish its 'bench bake', which is what I call it. If you must have warm bread, make toast later on.
These are just a few things that I learned during this bread making endeavor. I am here and happy to help you if you have any questions. I'm not an expert, but I would love to share what has worked for me since I've been learning about bread since April. I hope that my posts inspire you to learn bread in your own way and really make it your own. There is no wrong way to do this. If it's working for you, you're on the right path. Tartine Bread is a guide, and the bread that you make from it is to become your bread. Finally, bread calls to your intuitive sense. Listen as intently as possible to its language, the message will become quite clear.
3. Add the salt and the remaining 25g of water, mix well. Let stand for 30 minutes.
3. After the 30 minute rest after salting, turn the dough by dipping your hand under the dough and folding the bottom up over the top, spin the bowl 1/3 turn, repeat until you have done this three times, this is your first series of turns. Then perform another series every 30 minutes, for a total of 4 series. Total fermentation time at room temp, including the rest after salting, and the 4 series of turns at 30 minutes apart should be 2 hours.
4. Pop in the fridge and ferment for another 2.5 hours.
5. Pull the dough out and pre-shape. Bench rest for 20 minutes. Shape the dough into a boule, then pop it into a linen-lined bowl dusted with rice flour. Cover with another bowl to prevent a skin from forming. The bowl will give it enough room to rise. Pop in the fridge and ferment for 8 hours.
6. 20 minutes before you plan to bake, preheat the oven to 550 degrees with the combo cooker inside.
7. Pull the dough out of the fridge when the oven is preheated, invert it onto a peel that has been dusted with semolina, score, and slide it into the combo cooker (I bake my bread in the shallow part and use the deeper part as a lid). Get the lid in place, turn the oven down to 450 degrees and bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the lid of the combo cooker and bake uncovered until the crust is chestnut brown. Mine took another 40 minutes.
Crust: Shattery and thin. Came out very well Crumb: Largely open and beautiful but not so much so that it is not suitable for sandwiches. Tender. Flavor: Nicely developed. The long ferment added some depth and a bit of tang, though surprisingly not much. This loaf stood up well to anchovy, no doubt because of the use of whole wheat, and was delicate enough for tomatoes and avocado. A really nice 'go to' bread. Difficulty of handling the dough: not at all. Notes: This is not a Tartine bread, but it is based on Chad's methods. This is the longest that I have fermented one of his breads, and I can't say that it was necessary. I think that the breads in general work really well with his 'general' fermentation schedule. It allows for lovely flavor development, proper fermentation to produce the appropriate structure for the crumb. I might experiment with a 6 hour ferment, for kicks. I must say, this was about the brink that I think my yeast could have handled. I believe any longer would overproof the dough, because it's been hot down here and the fermentation was pretty speedy, even with half the fermentation time done in the fridge. This one was toeing that line, as you can see from the slightly peaked center and sloping sides of the finished loaf. It's a slight deformation, but one that is a sign of overproofing. As well, the proofing dough was not as vibrant as it could have been when I pulled it from the fridge. This dough could not have gone the duration of 12 hours, though I know that the Tartine book outlines that you can proof for up to that amount of time. I think that with a cooler bulk ferment, I may have been able to increase proofing time. (I can't wait for it to get cooler down here so that I can experiment with complete room temp bulk fermentation) I'd say, pull back proofing time, longer is not better if your loaves have endured a warmer bulk fermentation. 4 hours would have been ample, I think, given the weather. 6 might be fun. We will give that a try as well.