Sunday, September 11, 2011

A laywoman's solution to Tartine's highly hydrated dough

Yesterday I decided to make bread off schedule. I started the levain in the morning instead of at night before bed, so that I would be able to bake the following morning instead of late in the afternoon. I did this because I wanted to experiment with a long proof - and I wanted to have my Sunday totally free for once, since my bread would need to be baked when I woke up in early in the morning. Taking advantage of the evening hours for my proof made my bread baking more efficient, especially with the longer proof.

City Loaf, Enduring Proof

I could not photograph the results of the dough as I moved along because of lighting issues, but at this point I think that we have enough posts under our belt to see what the dough is supposed to look like as we are working with it.

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.

Kale salad with anchovy vinaigrette, and torn City Bread croutons (recipe found here at Farm To Table Geek)

So, I have received a few emails from people having difficulties with highly hydrated doughs, and the advice I give is completely non-expert, but may help nonetheless. What is most mentioned is that shaping the dough has been giving people problems, and I think you might want to know a few things so you don't feel like you're doing anything wrong with your bread. With the exception of the whole wheat loaves that I've made, pretty much every dough has been a challenge to work with because of the high hydration, but over time my perception of what's difficult has changed, because I am getting used to handling dough. What was once difficult no longer is. But if you are still struggling with shaping and trying to get your dough into the combo cooker before it oozes onto the floor, I totally get it.

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.

City Bread, the crumb

2) Chad's are high-hydration doughs. I seriously thought that the polenta bread was going to eat my dog, it was that terrifying. It was beyond hydrated, I don't even know what to call it. It was like a humongous bowl of polenta Jello. The rye bread is also a difficult one to work with, but that is the nature of rye. It is a flour whose properties are more extensible than elastic, that means that it does not snap back very easily when working with it. Even the country loaf is not simple at the start, and you have to be gentle in handling the dough so that it can develop that lovely, open crumb. Resist the urge to overwork the dough or to add flour to it, or to pull back on hydration. Just dive into working with unruly dough, and over time, you will simply learn how to work with it. Keep reading to find out how I was able to get a grip on high-hydration doughs. You might find my cheatin' ways useful. In fact, it turns out that the main way (using refrigeration) adds to the development of flavor in sourdough breads.

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.
Fully proofed City Bread dough on the peel

  • 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.
City Bread after 30 minute steam

  • 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.

Here is the formula and instruction for my City Loaf with an 8 hour proof:

150g KA whole wheat flour
350g KA bread flour
100g levain, using my rye starter
440g + 25g h20
10g salt

1. To make the levain, mix 8g of active rye starter (or whatever 100% starter you use) with 50g h2o and 25g each whole wheat and white flours. Let it sit out on the counter for 8 hours covered.

2. Mix the flours and 440g of the h2o with the levain and autolyse for 1 hour at room temp.

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.

To the staff of life!

This post was shuttled off to Wild Yeast Blog's Yeast Spotting.


  1. One thing to add to your baking rack at the top trick, in case it helps anyone - if you still have trouble with blackening the bottom of the loaves after doing this, I can suggest trying putting a light colored (e.g. aluminum) sheet pan on its own shelf inbetween there and the bottom of the oven. This completely eliminated the problem for me. N.B. that the added sheet pan must not be touching the bottom of the oven or the thing you are baking - it's being used as a heat shield. Forget where I found out about this trick but they deserve a few non-burned loaves in thanks!

  2. "...a piece of work that would allow the reader/breadmaker to find their own bread"
    so true! this is my favorite loaf to bake right now. i have made small adjustments to fit my schedule and dough preferences. i was home with a newborn several weeks ago and went to town making this bread (at least two dozen loaves), changing little things here and there. what a wonderful loaf. my family and neighbors agree too :).

  3. Jonathan, thank you so much for this. I recall reading this somewhere too, but had totally forgotten about it. I think Hamelman's 'Bread'? Alas, THANK YOU. for the reminder! This is awesome. It sucks when you make this beautiful loaf and the bottom is black, or worse, in the beginning of my bread journey, I would pull the loaves too early because the bottom was black, only to find an underbaked interior. Much much thanks for this!

  4. Hi anonymous, yes, I think this is the case with the Tartine book. For one thing, this guy is not going to give out his secrets, not all of them anyway, right? ;) And, there are so many little variables in baking that in a book, I feel like you should name them all (Hamelman/Reinhardt), or let you figure them out (Robertson). Put the two resources together, and you can become a pretty good baker. I agree with the 2 dozen loaves, you have to bake the same one over and over again and change things in small increments, an hour less proof, 50g more water, and see what it yields. I'm sure people are going to get bored of my city bread after a while, when every post is a small detail changed. Alas, I love that this process of sharing can help other people who are novices with bread see what these small changes will yield. Happy baking. Get that blog up!

  5. how do I subscribe to your blog? One month ago I made bread for the first time and now I am totally devoted to learn how to make the perfect loaf. this post was really informative (even if I still haven't read it all). the methods you are showing are pretty demanding but with time I know I will give them a try. Tartine Bread is already in my shopping cart, among other books on bread. If you wish, check my blog and see my attempts with bread so far. my first trial with sourdough was spotted yesterday (some type of traditional Italian bread with autolysis, much easier than the tartine stuff, but not as "tall"). it is interesting to see how many different persons all over the globe are trying to learn how to make bread. it feel like some type of revolution...

  6. Hi MyItalianSmorgasbord, you can subscribe just below this comment via email or in a reader.

    The thing about this bread is that it is demanding. I mentioned that it's a commitment, and that you must become 'one' (lol) with the dough. Funny, but true.

    the book is incredible. its one of my favorites (obviously, given the name of my blog) and I like it because it really challenges you to try to find the path to YOUR bread.

    Thanks for the link to your blog. I would love to check it out today. I intend to keep working on 'my' bread and intend to post all of my findings.

    Here's to the quest for the perfect loaf!

    - Frankie

  7. just subscribed. gosh am I absent-minded at times. thank you for stopping by. mostly I wanted an opinion on my no-knead sourdough. do you think that the flour-water proportions were right? I am having a lot of problems adapting Italian methods (based on a 50% hydration starter) to my non-Italian 100% hydration starter. the dough is either too loose or too thick...

  8. hi there my italian smorgasbord. well, i am certainly no expert, but if i was making a bread that called for a 50% hydration starter, i would transform my 100% hydration starter to a 50%.

    i dont know about your bread, I've not seen the flour percentages or what your methods are for fermenting and proofing. it would be hard to know if it had too much or too little hydration, which affects your crumb, or if you are not fermenting it/proofing it long enough for the culture to metabolize the sugars in the flour properly. so many things affect the crumb of your bread. if you are getting a dense loaf, it could be: not enough hydration, improper handling, overfermenting or overproofing, not a long enough autolyse...

    why don't you send your formula/method over to susan at wild yeast? she has always been immensely helpful to me. i hesitate to give real 'advice', since i am a novice too. all i can do is keep posting what i have found with my own bread. but i will mention that it is worth purchasing a few great books (hamelman and reinhart to name two bread gurus), and read as much as you can about the process of making bread.

    i tend to prefer a pretty hydrated dough. i like the crumb that it provides, and it helps the starter to metabolize the sugars in the flour thoroughly so that i get that gelatinized texture (which is an indication that the sugars in the flour have been properly digested by the bacteria in the culture). and while i use the techniques/formulae from tartine as a starting point (his turning technique is invaluable, by the way, as are the flour/water/starter ratios as a starting point), i do play with autolyse times/proofing/fermenting times and refrigeration/room temp toggling through all of it, which is why, i believe, mr. robertson planned his book the way he did. i don't think that he mean to ever write a 'cookbook', but a manual so that people who are truly interested in following a 'bread path' will have an excellent place to start (continued below)

  9. i put all of my experimentation/findings in my blog, so, feel free to have a look. i do plan a more advanced baking schedule beginning week after next, so you will see a few more loaves from my oven with all the notes attached to how i arrived at them.

    hamelman's 'bread' is an excellent resource in tandem with the tartine book. i would not rely on the tartine book alone if you are a beginner, its too advanced. its a lovely book, and certainly the impetus for my project, and i also love the way that it allows me to be the master of my own bread, but you really have to spend a lot of time making many loaves and experimenting tons in order to understand his methods. wonderful bread can be made from his book, but it's not a 'cookbook' (one with recipe that you follow which will come out perfectly every time), it's an invaluable handbook for those who are dedicated to honing their bread. the bottom line is that it is not a sunday afternoon bread, it took me a long time to begin to get the results that i have, and that came from practice, experimenting, adjusting to the variables in my own kitchen/life/environment, and taking a huge amount of notes.

    you need something to round out your education, and hamelman has written an exhaustive tome about everything you need to know about hydration, flour, fermenting etc. (in his book bread), as has reinhart (in his book bread baker's apprentice).

    finally, in your experimenting, try to make small changes rather than large ones from experiment to experiment. yes you will make loads of loaves, but this is how you will learn how water works in your bread, how different flours work, how different fermentation times affect your bread. it seems (to non bread nerds) like 30 - 60 minutes more or less fermentation time would be no big deal when working with dough, but a little more or less time can yield immensely different results from loaf to loaf. so, practice a slight hand when making your changes, take copious notes, and keep baking as much as you can about flour properties, how weather affects your dough, and precisely how your starter will behave in a given bread. also, pay attention to how you handle your dough. which leads me to this...

    i don't believe in no-knead. it negates the purpose of why i began baking, and it allows for a disconnect with my bread. if i can't feel the dough, i have no idea what's going on. you have to get your hands in the dough if you want to hear what it is saying. just a thought

  10. thank you for your articulate response.

    I was debating with myself about which books in English to order. I tried with Italian and Swedish books on bread and I was deeply disappointed by both. Not going into details but surely they were both extremely poor regarding the methods and were basically recipe books. I cannot follow recipes cause I need to understand what I am doing. Had the feeling the American books on bread are at a different level and I am looking forward to get some. Will start from your recommendations.

    I probably was too daring with the changes in my experiments with different loaves. I agree now that even minimal changes can be a disaster. especially when one does not really know what she's doing (like me at this stage).

    I consider Susan a bread guru and I will try her Norwich sourdough soon. was first experimenting with something Italian because that is the type of bread I miss as an Italian living abroad. unfortunately the Italians use a 50% hydration starter (which I am, alike you, not so fond of) and are not detailed when writing (or blogging) about bread. I will probably have to learn from the Americans (who basically learned from the French) and then reproduce all the typical Italian loaves based on what I learned "elsewhere". This will probably involve quitting my full-time job and giving my 2-year old to a foster-family.

    oh... and I like having my hands in the dough, too. I was just scared of manipulating sourdough-based dough at first, as it feels way more "unstable" than that based on industrial yeast.

    thanks again for all your suggestions. will stay tuned.

  11. yes, hamelmans 'read', reinharts 'bread bakers apprentice', and another guru, daniel leader, get his 'local breads'. daniel leader will have quite a few italian breads for you. but carol field's 'the italian baker' is what you probably really want.

    i dont dislike 50% hydration starters, i just work with 100% because its easiest, and i try not to be all over the map with bread...for now. im sticking to tartine and doing variations therein. when i move beyond tartine, i will probably keep a couple of differently hydrated cultures for ease, or just increase/decrease the hydration amount as needed. it's easy to transform your starter to 50, 100, 125% starters. it's based on basic math. you don't have to maintain 3 different types if you don't want to (unless you are baking breads that call for those hydration percentages often, in which case, you may as well keep a couple/few). to change the hydration in your culture so that you can bake different types of bread, you just need to plan ahead. in hamelman's 'bread', he gives the formula for changing your starter, and it's easy. he lays it all out on page 362 of his book. basically, to change your 100% hydration starter into a 50% hydration, you need to decrease the amount of water in your current starter. lets say you have 200g of starter, 100g of that is water, 100g is flour. just divide the current hydration amount (100) by the desired hydration amount (50), the number you arrive at is 2, which represents 1 unit in the new culture. you know that you will have 100 units of flour in your new culture, multiply that by 2. this means there will be 200g (units) of total flour in the 50% hydration culture. since you already use 100g of flour when feeding your culture, you would just increase the amount of flour to 200g, and the water stays the same. so, 200g of flour mixed with 100g of water = a 50% hydration starter. and you can do this now to work with your 50% hydration starter based dough.

    you might just keep a stiff culture and a liquid culture if you plan to bake/use both types of starter often.

    as far as sourdough being more unstable, i will agree that it requires far more attention than commercial yeast doughs. but once you get to know the properties of your culture in relation to your desired bread (and always take into account the weather), you will learn exactly what sort of latitude you have with your bread, like, how long you can ferment it and proof it, if it needs refrigeration or not, when to stop fermentation or proofing if the weather is warm, if you must watch hydration (i try never to decrease if possible) and handle the dough more adeptly if its very rainy that day.

    don't be afraid of your culture, or your new endeavor. proceed with utmost confidence so that you can experiment successfully. it is only when you never see your experiments as 'failures', but as necessary learning experiences that your growth is steady and successive. ive done things like purposefully avoided refrigerated fermentation in 100 degree weather so that i could feel what the dough is going through in that sort of heat. it was only then that i could learn what sort of latitude i had with fermentation during hot weather, and when to employ the use of the fridge. my best loaves so far have been developed in the worst heat wave of los angeles this year. i was only able to do that because i learned exactly how my dough was taxed at what point and at what temperature. (hamelman also talks extensively about dough temperatures, so grab that book). i am also very, very attuned to the properties of my starter and i know when i need to feed it more, or when i can feed it less. i know just how acidic it is, and how quickly my levain will develop. its just practice practice practice! so, quit your job, foster the kid, and make really damned good bread! cheers! - frankie

  12. thank you!!!

    your answers are so useful and inspiring. I am particularly grateful for your deep understanding of my problem and your enthusiastic acceptance of my decision of quitting my job and fostering my child. sometimes one really needs to be heard...

    I actually have been playing with the hydration of my starter quite a lot, managing to alter the acidity and the "power" of it quite nicely. I feel in control of my starter but not yet of my dough. about the starter... at some point it was too acid so I multiplied the proportion of water and flour compared to that of the starter (used 1/3 starter, 1/4 and 1/5). I also tried a 50% hydration (and then back to 100%) which reduced massively the acidity and made the starter look "healthy" again. good suggestion to alter the starter rather than the dough water/flour proportions. I will try this way next Saturday (my baking day until I still have a job). excited and nervous.

    looking forward to get all the books and discuss them with you, like a junior college student would do with a 3rd year one.

    one question: why bread is so addictive?


  13. my only recommendation is that you be really consistent with your starter and the flour/water percentages for a given starter rather than making arbitrary changes. you should always know the properties of the starter. this way you can determine its qualities consistently and know what it needs in terms of feeding.

    lol. im no third year. i'm a beginner just like you. you all don't get to see all of my loaves ; ) but i am seriously devoted to experimenting. i just made two horrible loaves last night because i forgot about an appointment i had and my dough overfermented. i knew the bread would be bad by the time i got home and peeked under the towel (it went for 7 hours), but i kept going with the loaves through baking because it was a great opportunity to see what happens when you overferment during bulk fermentation. i figured it would be gray, dense, ill-flavored, spent looking bread, and that is exactly what i got. it was empowering to see the result was exactly what i thought it would be given the things i have learned so far. lessening the proof was no fix either. once it loses its elasticity in the bulk fermentation its gone. i have learned that bulk fermentation and proof fermentation are distinctly different through that trial. how valuable. with bulk fermentation, we have to really understand what the dough should look and feel like in order to control the extent of the elasticity. it's like a rubber band. once it snaps, there is no putting it back together again.

    why is bread addictive?

    the making of bread is a spiritual pursuit, for me anyway. it allows me to work on the things within that require attention: patience, consideration, a finely attuned ear, the willingness to make 'mistakes' and see them as learning opportunities instead of blaming myself for screwing up. bread has contributed to my growth. its allowed me to be more focused and committed to something, and to take care of something that would otherwise die if left to its own devices. had you told me that i would be an avid baker a couple of years ago i would never have believed it. but now i cant imagine living without it. the sound of a preheating oven is music to my ears!

    on a hedonistic note, it goes really well with a fantastic cheese and a glass of wine! ; )

    talk soon! - frankie

  14. Hello,

    I just stumbled onto your blog and i just had to say that i think it is absolutely fantastic.
    Your images are beautiful and your posts are really educational.

    Thank you!

    Kind regards,

    Jan -

  15. Thank you for your kind words Jan!

  16. I was born and raised in San Francisco and now live in Florida. It is embarrasing but true that I miss the wonderful sourdough bread more than my own family, LOL. I love your blog and look forward to following it to learn how to bake some of these loaves.

    I have a question that I haven't seen addressed (might have missed it) yet and I don't see it in The Tartine Bread book either. When you put the dough in the refrigerator do you wrap the basket in plastic, simply leave covered with a towel, or??


    1. Hi cookcooks. I cover mine, usually with another bowl or a lid for a pot. Glass is best, so you can see it rise ;)

  17. Hi cookcooks. I cover mine, usually with another bowl or a lid for a pot. Glass is best, so you can see it rise ;)

  18. in some grocery and dollar stores you can find bowl covers(similar to shower caps) that work perfectly for covering all sizes of bowls while being able to view the rise. I have been struggling with the 'perfect loaf' of Tartine bread for 3 months and have yet to nail it. Appreciate all comments on flexibility and knowing your dough. I have been trying to figure out where my methods have strayed from the instructions, rather than relying on my past experience and instincts. I find myself re-inspired. Thanks

    1. yes. i just use a large bowl and am fortunate enough to have a glass lid for a pot that fits nicely. tartine...its not an easy book. you have to be sort of a bull about the bread. the formulae are templates, so keep experimenting. avoid the polenta bread. and i was not terribly fond of the baguettes either. i actually dont use the book anymore. im just sort of winging it. he provides a great foundation, but to make great bread is going to take a lot of... something else. you could read more about bread baking in other books, or just do what i did and hunker down with tons of flour and experiment. ps, super high hydration is a beginners mistake. we all read early on that it is what gets you that open crumb. frankly, its using all white flour and letting it ferment long enough that gets an open crumb. try not to go for aesthetics, and focus on the feel of the dough, the needs of the particular flour you are using, the style of leavening you are using etc. and when focused on whole grain baking, stop thinking about an open crumb all together. whole grain=tighter crumb. plus they taste better and are healthier for you. i cant remember the last time i made an all white loaf. i think it was.... with my first tartine loaf?? lol. keep going!

  19. Thanks for the great post! very helpful information. I have baked several Tartine loaves, and though they were good, they were dense and the bottom was black. Still the best bread I've ever baked.

    1. elisabeth. keep working at it and tweaking the formulae. i have not made a tartine bread for a long time, so i dont remember what the specific issues were. too dense could mean too highly hydrated, not proofed enough, or overproofed. black bottoms could mean too hot oven, or combo cooker too close to the heating element (usually the bottom of the oven, try baking in the center of the oven). cheers!

  20. That is like 93% hydration in City Loaf. How does it even rise?
    Super hard to work with, i mean stretch and fold is not the issue but building tension for final shaping, that is skills ( fridge /no fridge).

    Also Chad does not say what kind of flour he is using for his country bread.
    I am sure, he mentions it some where, but as far as I remember recipe calls for white flour(that is it). I think his hydration levels needs to be adjusted according to the flour.

    Anyway, I am going to try to use parchment. As far as I understood from the post you bake with the paper. Does it have negative affect on the bottom crust?

    1. hey there. this loaf was done years ago during my hydration experimentation phase. but it did indeed rise, as the pictures show ;)

      yes. i always bake with parchment. it does not affect the bottom crust. actually probably adds some protection from blackening.


  21. Hi Francis-Olive - great blog and beautiful bread! I've been working on the Tartine technique for about a year. I was frustrated with the limited amount of dough you could bake in the combo (I used different pots) so I've been working with different hydrations, steaming methods, fermentation temperatures, flours. I'm getting pretty comfortable and happy with a 62% hydration and steaming on my stone using convection. I'm fermenting at about 67 degrees farenheit in a wine frig and this slows it a bit allowing the fermentation to go longer than Chads 6 hours at room temperature. At any rate, I love the flavor from the Tartine bread and my tweaking hasn't changed that! I'm obsessed!

    1. keep going! experimenting is the best part of all of this. yes, those older posts where i used high hydration... ive not done those breads in a while. i like lower hydration breads MUCH better. i just never had luck with those super wet doughs. so, whatever works for others is fine, its just not for me.

      try the actual refrigerator. my doughs have fermented for up to 25 hours in the fridge :) worth the experiment, and makes an awesome bread!

  22. I've enjoyed your blog. Thanks.
    My primary question is around the transition from refrigerator to oven. Tartine indicates taking it out of the oven about 20 minutes before baking it. Is it really ok to bake the still-cold dough? Your blog seems to indicate about the same. And when you don't use a long refrig-based final rise, Tartine still indicates placing it in the combo cooker and baking it for the same amount of time. Does the Initial temperature inside the dough really not matter when baking it?

  23. I have been experimenting also with the tartine bread recipe. I sort of had beginners luck. I had great oven spring, wonderful holes, and perfect crust. My starter was now in a predictable rise and fall schedule. My leaven floated perfectly. My question is, I know the crumb is supposed to be chewy, but my mine is down right rubbery! And yes I've waited the full hour to cut open, even waited 2 hours. I also experimented different steam times in the Dutch oven, tried lower protein flours, internal dough temps of 210 degrees and the loaves are like chewing on rubber. Any suggestions?

  24. Rubbery?
    Cook it longer.

    Up to an hour.
    30 minutes covered, 30 open.

    Even up to an hour and 10 minutes.
    30 minutes covered and 40 minutes open.

  25. For the amusement of all. I took up sourdough baking after having an astonishing Tartine style loaf. I wanted to make my own because it is an hour on packed roads and treacherous highways to get me to the bakery.

    As I fell into the delights and challenges of sourdough I realized that I had lost my compulsion for attending almost constantly to the depressing torrent of political news and images. I am no longer as stressed out as I was before sourdough baking rescued my perspective. Baking and I am now in control of the hours of my day. An to make things even better I always bake two breads so I can give one away to friends, family and neighbors. And, I am not nearly as crabby.



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