The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Flax & Sunflower disaster!

ml's picture

Flax & Sunflower disaster!

Yikes! I started a WW loaf from Tartine today. Dough looked beautiful, until it came to adding Flax & Sunflowers. Way, way too much liquid. Disaster! I checked & double checked the amounts listed.

Could this be a print error?

Has anyone else made this bread?



GrapevineTexas's picture

Margie, I've made the Country Rye and the Semolina, but not this particular wheat loaf, and especially not the particular one that you are referencing. I noted the four cups of boiling water for the two cups of seeds, surely the recipe is missing a note or two.  I'm wondering, was the water to simply be poured over those flax seeds, and not held?  

I'll be watching your thread.  In the meantime, I'm going to Google to see if I can find any results from other bakers.

Thanks for the heads-up!

loydb's picture

I bet they skipped "drain the seeds."


tananaBrian's picture

I would try again, but drain the seed mix thoroughly before continuing.  And if that doesn't work, it might mean the seeds soaked up too much water ...then I'd try cutting the soak time down until both the seed consistency and the dough hydration comes out correctly.  OR ...tada... write the author and ask.  I'm betting that a "drain the seed mix" remark is missing and/or there's a typo on the soak time.  Now that I've said all that, I think I'll go read the recipe... heh heh



ml's picture

I actually cleaned away all of the seeds that wouldn't absorb (I had already mixed-not too smart). I had a really slimmy, not very coherent dough. But I hate to waste all those ingredients, so I just kept working it as a very high hydration dough, until I thought I could bake. It actually wasn't bad, we did eat it all, but definately not one I would have shared outside the family :)

Anyone else done a good job with this formula?

PiPs's picture

I made this bread once ... foul mess. The linseeds soak up most of the liquid turning into a jelly like consistency.  Dough was way to wet from memory. Remember thinking I would never use that formula again.


ml's picture

I feel better, not just me.

Does anyone have a favorite Flax/sunflower formula?


loydb's picture

I recently did a version of Peter Reinhart's Multi-Grain Struan. Flax and sunflower were the majority of the seeds. See my blog entry here for pics. It came out delicious.

PiPs's picture

Hamelman's flax seed rye from Modern Baking is a winner.

Here is a link to Hans Joakims blog where he has a link to a modified formula.

Cheers, Phil

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Add some rolled oats (they are real soaker uppers) and salt (2% of oat weight) and let the dough sit 10 minutes before adding more oats.

Next time, make the soaker only double the water of the flax by volume (one cup flax, one cup of water)  sunflower seeds don't soak up much if anything at all.  That would make it easy to reduce the amount of seeds (if one chose to)  and still come out right.

sweetsadies's picture

I have been making the Tartine country bread and it has been great so I thought I would try the flax seed one and it just didn't work out well.. I don't think you are supposed to drain the seeds because he says in the recipe it will be gooey but I didn't expect it to be that jelly like!  It just seemed to be too many seeds also.  He describes the bread as moist because of this, but I just didn't like the taste or texture.  It was almost too moist when baked.  I had a very hard time shaping it and it was slippery.  I wish I would know where I went wrong.

Maybe there was something missing in the recipe?  Has anyone been successful with it? Maybe I should have tried his ww before trying this one.


Lauraclimbs's picture

I baked Tartine's sunflower and flax loaf today and too had problems, despite only using slightly over half of the flax seeds called for (which still seemed like too many). After realizing how wet the dough had become, I decided to bake one of the loaves in a bread pan (I divided half of my dough in to 1 large boule and the other half into two smaller batards). It came out much more pleasant looking, but I still wouldn't claim it a success.

mattmwise's picture

I ran afoul of this recipe after having ongoing success with Tartine's basic approach and exploring a number of great multigrain recipes courtesy of this website. 

The major problems:

- 2 cups of flaxseed in 4 cups of boiling water turns into a slippery gel the doesn't seem like it wants to combine with dough. When I got around to shaping loaves there has about 1/2 cup of flaxseed gel that just didn't want any part of the process.

- The intense hydration (900g for 82% including the leaven - plus another 900g or so in the flax) made the dough really unmanageable.  Even after stretching out the bulk ferment there was not much structure. The loaves baked out broad and flat - like thick pancakes.

But here's the thing: my tasters loved this bread. The flax seeds plumped up nicely and combined with the well toasted sunflower to make for the highest seed density of any multigrain recipe I've tried. The crumb was tight (no eyes to speak of) and moist - Tartine's approach makes for a bread that's almost pudding-y - but toasted well this really came together: toasted seeds and wheaty sourness with a nice crunch and just the right amount of moisture left behind. 

There was a lot I liked about this bread, but it was difficult to handle and cosmetically flawed. I felt like there was a good bread recipe hiding inside this apparent clunker.

In an attempt at rehabilitation I borrowed a couple ideas from Suas' Sourdough Multigrain Bread:

- Suas' has the water for the seed soaker at around 64% of the total seed weight. Tartine is over 200%.
- Suas has an overnight soak with cold water.
- Tartine sets the hydration for the basic whole wheat recipe at 80% - excluding the leaven and the moisture in the seeds - compared to 72.8% from Suas.
- Water, water and watery water.

Using Suas' proportions I brought the water for the seeds down to 273g (about 1 1/6 cup?). The night before baking along with setting up the leaven I roasted the half of the sunflower seeds destined to go into the dough. I soaked the roasted sunflower and flaxseed in 273g cold water overnight.

For the dough I modestly reduced the hydration to 75%. (If there's a good reason to go back to 80 please let me know.)

Everything else was pretty much by the book. Before final proofing I took my nicely rounded loaves, patted them down with damp hands and then rolled the top crust in a plate covered with the remaining sunflower seeds. Baked per Tartine and you can see the results below.

This was my first time troubleshooting a bread recipe with a very specific outcome in mind. I'm happy with the results.



jmwebster's picture

Hello all-

I am a first time poster here, but I have been lurking/reading posts for a while.

I am curious if there are multiple editions of the book and the people having trouble are using an unedited copy of this recipe? In the copy of the book I have, it says to pour the 4C of water over the flax seeds. To me, that is much different that throwing everything into a bowl and letting it all soak in.

I just held a little test bake for this recipe:

- 2 loaves following the instructions in the book as I read them
- 2 loaves following mattmwise's edit (minus the hydration difference)

When I followed the pour over instruction, over 2 1/2 of the 4 cups drained through the seed not having been absorbed.

I really did not see much difference between the two different methods. There was not a significant change in difficulty of working with the dough, and the loaves look almost identical when baked.

mattmwise's picture

Here's the relevant text from page 116 of my copy of Tartine Bread:

"2 cups flax seeds
4 cups boiling water
[ other ingredients skipped ... ]

Before you mix the dough, put the flax seeds in a bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Let cool. The seeds will become gooey."

So there's nothing here at all about letting the water drain _through_ the seeds. If your text reads differently I would like to see it!

jmwebster's picture

Sorry for the delay in responding.

The text in my book says the same thing, but I am reading it a different way.

To me pouring the water over the over the seeds does not necessarily imply combining the two and keeping them together. (I would expect it to say add the water to the seeds instead of pour over).

For example, with a pour over coffee maker, you do not pour water into the grounds and keep them together throughout the process. It is set up to let the water drain through the grounds.

I took the instruction in the Tartine recipe the same way. I think there is a missing step or unclear instruction here. I believe they either meant strainer when they said bowl, or meant to say put a strainer full of seeds in a bowl and pour the boiling water over them.

Perhaps I am wrong, but I had absolutely no issues with the recipe when I interpreted the instructions this way.

PetraR's picture

To me * pour * the boiling water over the seeds means that the seeds stay in the water until it is cooled down.

I am not sure how else that could be read?

Pouring a liquid over something does not mean draining unless it says * pour over and drain *

* Add * is just another word for the same thing really.

hreik's picture

Hamelman soaks his flax overnight in cold water. His 3/8 cup of flax uses 3/4 cup of water and the next morning is like a gel.  I followed that recipe and the flax addition was great.

Robertson's formulation is impossible. The flax has to have time to absorb the water. I think there's an error, either printing or formula.  Glad I found this thread as I was tempted to make the bread.  I might still only with an overnight cold soak.


rizzo47's picture

I've made this one several times.  I don't agree that the recipe says to pour the water over the seeds through a strainer.  That said, it's just a blob that can't be shaped.  I plopped it into a proofing basket and it turned out fine.  I also put it in a loaf pan for the final proofing.  This worked out well.  I think there's an error in the book. 

rizzo47's picture

The "same" recipe is in Tartine Book No. 3  However, the recipe in Book No. 3 only calls for about 1 cup of flax seeds and one cup of water for the flax seed soaking. This should probably solve the problem.  I've made the recipe in Tartine Bread book and it's a gooey mess.  It's good but a mess.  

Markohzz's picture

I followed the recipe with only minor adjustments to dough handling / cooking times and was pleased with the results.   Yes it was very hydrated and was a challenge but no need to drain or reduce flax seed amount.  The flax seeds I used completely absorbed the 4 cups of water and was a gooey pudding.  Also be sure to use the "whole wheat" bread recipe.  When I did the bench rest (30 minutes) I did not cover the dough.  I then powdered top, flipped it and formed ball for another 30 minute bench rest.  I was beginning to notice a skin on it and worried but figured the loss in moisture would help me to fold and basket.  The folding was tricky and sticky but was able to manage.  I thought for sure when I placed the dough blob onto a plate of sunflower seeds that I'd never pick it back up but it stayed together and COMPLETELY filled the basket.  After an overnight stay in the fridge I cooked it at Tartine 3 temps (500) for 20, then reduced to 450 for 15 minutes.   Then removed the dutch oven lid and baked for 25 minutes.   The end temperature was 205 and it rose up beautiful with a nice crumb.  The loaf is dense due to seeds, very moist and incredibly tasty / addicting.  Hang in there when you bake high hydration bread.  Did Chad make a mistake or did he put a challenging recipe in to test your limits / abilities.  You have to adapt to perfect.


golfermd's picture

I've looked on Amazon and there are several bread authors with "Tartine" in the title. Which author, or full title, are you referring to? Thanks...

KatinaP's picture

To golfermd - This is the book people are referring to:

I made the Flax & Sunflower Seed variation yesterday - before I read this thread. It turned out pretty good despite the flax gel situation. I probably won't make it again but I'm happy I stuck with the recipe as written, at least for the first time out. 

Pic top left after flax and seeds were added. Top right is before the preshape. Very slack dough. Had a hard time scoring it.

Flax bread