The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Tartine Troubleshooting

dvuong's picture

Tartine Troubleshooting

With the numerous amount of Tartine threads floating around these days, I figure I should add one more.  I am posting with the request for some troubleshooting advice. 

I have attempted to bake Tartine's Country Bread numerous times now, at least 10.  My first few attempts turned out wonderful with great oven spring.  Lately though, I feel like all of my loaves have come out flat or extremely dense.  Yesterday, I started the dough and allowed for it to bulk ferment at 78 degrees for about 3 hours with S&F every 30 minutes, shaped, then retarded in the fridge overnight.  Prior to that, I had been feeding my 8-month-old starter for two days before baking, twice a day (it was sitting in the fridge for a week at 1:5:5 ratio) for about a week.  I baked it in a preheated combo cooker as suggested in the book for 20 minutes lid on and then ~22 minutes lid off.  This is the result of my bake.  I feel like the loaf is very dense and chewy compared to my previous early attempts at baking the bread.  I'm starting to feel like each following attempt is getting worse and worse.  I'm not sure what's going on.  Please help!!


jerrycentral's picture

Your starter should be light and bubbly, feed it and watch it in your ambient tempurature.  It will rise to a peak and then start to fall.  Mine takes about eight hours and it floats nicely in the water.  I use a hand Danish dough mixer wisk kind of thing to mix all but the salt and 50g of water.  I mix this fairly well finishing with a slap/fold type of working the dough.  I let that sit for 30 minutes.  I add the salt and additional water, work that in with the wisk and then by hand.... finishing with the slap/fold to a round shape.  I tried the tartine system with using the dough in the container and it did not work for me.  I slap/fold throug a couple of 1/2 hour cycles and then finish with a good stretch out the dough on the counter and fold to a total of 3 hours.  I have been baking in a very hot oven that I accomplish with adding the broiler to a preheated oven to get 550-600.  I have a couple stones in the bottom of my stove and two big cast iron pans that I throw water in for the bake.  This makes some of my favorite bread ever.  Jerry Schmidt

dvuong's picture

Hi Jerry,

Thanks for your response.  It's very helpful to hear about someone else's process and compare.  When you are slap/folding the dough, are you oiling or flouring the counter?  I would imagine that if you weren't, the dough would pretty much stick to everything. 

In terms of the starter, it doesn't seem like Robertson is recommending we use the starter at it's peak but while it is still very young.  I think when it's rising and falling, it may already be too over-ripe to use?

benmuller's picture

Having similar problems--I get decent oven spring, but a) I have massive holes towards the top of the loaf and a much denser, chewy bottom and b) my crust is extremely shiny and doesn't "crack" nicely. It does expand along the slashes, but does so in too orderly a fashion, if that makes sense (see the pictures for greater clarity).


Bread - side

Bread - loaf

dvuong's picture

Hi Ben,

Looks like we're pretty much having the same identical problems.  Our crumb looks the same but at least you're getting good oven spring.

Baker Chris's picture
Baker Chris

I just posted on another thread about a related question.

Lemme say though that Ben's crumb _looks_ OK - those big holes aren't really bad - look something like some of the pictures in the book itself.

Can you guys describe with the crumb _feels_ like to the touch?  Mine is kind of tacky moist - I compare it to the adhesive on a Sticky Note by way of description - and not unappealing.  I just want to know if this is what the Tartine Bread recipe intends, b/c it is pretty unusual (some people like it, others not as much).

Pics of my loaves:

The first and second pic are a single, @ 2 lb loaf.  The third pic is of eight loaves over a two day period, where I varied the proof to see if that would effect the consistency of the crumb.  It appears that when I extended the proof a very long time the leaven is exhausting itself, leading to the more compact and very dark outcome.  But not really changing the moist stickiness of the crumb....

dvuong's picture

The crumb was pretty moist when cutting into the bread but I don't think it was sticky like the back of a post-it note.  Could it be that your loaf is underbaked or are you not waiting for the bread to cool completely before cuttting into it?

dvuong's picture

After re-reading the Tartine book and various postings, I think the problem I was having was partially caused by the starter.  I don't think it was mature enough to fully raise the loaf during fermentation.  The water I was using was cooler (~72 degrees F) than the recommended 76F in the book. 

To prepare for my Saturday bake, I took my starter out of the fridge Thursday night and refreshed it once using a 1:2:2 ratio with water temp still at ~72 degrees (it's what comes out of my drinking water faucet).  The next morning, I refreshed again using same water temp and same feed ratio.  Friday evening, I refreshed my starter according to Robertson's forumla using 76F water.  By Saturday morning, the starter had risen about 30% and was definitely bubbly and passed the float test. (I don't think it passed in previous attempts). 

I made the dough and allowed to autolyse for 40 minutes, stretch and folded at 30 minute intervals up to 2 hours (4 S&Fs) and then allowed to ferment for another hour (total 3 hours bulk ferment) before dividing and shaping.  I preshaped and shaped the doughs into boules following Robertson's instructions using a series of S&Fs to get into boule form, which I think helped develop even more strength.  Both doughs proofed for about 3.5 hours in my garage at ~60F temp before transfering into preheated dutch oven/combo cookers using a parchment sling.  I did still have some trouble with the slashing as the dough tended to stick to the blade and drag... Also, the slashes were very shallow as every attempt to go over the slash again seemed to cause the dough to drag even more.

I wasn't able to get any pictures of the result but the ovenspring was much improved and the doughs actually rose upwards and didn't become frisbees.  My only qualms about this batch was that there were huge cavernous holes in the middle of the bread that made it EXTREMELY difficult to cut.  Some pieces of bread that I cut was mainly just crust with a little bit of crumb... The holes I was getting looked pretty similar to Ben's pictures above, but slightly larger.

So, my question is, could this be due to not pressing out some of the large gas bubbles during the shaping process?