The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Help Please: Tartine Bread Question's picture

Help Please: Tartine Bread Question


I have successfully made, many times, the fresh country loaf out of Chad's Tartine Bread.  I have had difficulty with the dough the last couple times and I was unable to even bake.  Here's what happened.  I made the leven with no problems.  I mixed the dough (700g H2O; 200g leven; 1000g flour (900 + 100); let rest 20 mins; 20g salt + 50g H2O).  The dough does not have that elastic feeling.  It is very sticky in a wierd sense.  The dough has no elasticity,  it just tears when I pull on it or turn it (as described in the book, and as I have done numerous times previously).  I can't figure out what is going on.  I just realized Chad's directions call for 25-40 mins. rest after first mixing.  But, I have used 20mins very successfully in the past (not realizing I should have used longer).  The other thing that could have changed:  I use King Aurthor Bread Flour and I purchased this particular bag at a different store where I would not expect a high turnover of this flour.  Thus, the bag could have been old.  The last thing that has changed is humidity, which is much higher than in the past.

Any suggestions are greatly appreciated.  It is very frustrating throwing away all that flour; it's that bad.  I have zero elasticity in my dough and could never have a hope of forming a loaf.

Marie-Claire's picture

After reading this misadventure, here is what comes to mind:

(please excuse me because English is not my native language, I'm from France)

I think the moisture is very high, especially if the yeast is hydrated to 100%, it is not surprising that the dough is sticky.
If you used this hydration with another flour, and you have changed, here comes the crunch.

The very high hydrations are also very dangerous, I think.
Personally I work 65-66 percent, and I'm very pleased, it's nice and "comfortable" to work. But in France we do not have the same flours that in America too ...

To avoid having to throw the batter missed, you can turn it into waffles or pancakes.

I hope I have helped a little... hello from France !'s picture

Thanks for your response.  I have made the recipe many times and the hydration is purposefully high.  One turns (pulls on, or folds) the dough every 1/2 hour.  This serves to develop the gluten.

pmccool's picture

it makes me wonder if there might be a problem with proteolysis.  Have you noticed any changes in your levain?  A different odor, perhaps?  Or a gooey consistency?  Does the dough start out as if it is normal, then degenerate as it ferments to the condition your describe? 

I would much rather it be caused by inferior flour, which it may be.  That's easier to fix than a levain/starter that's gone rogue.


pageta's picture

After the autolyse, yes, the bread is very sticky and tacky with no elasticity. But if you do the fold & turns every 1/2 hour for 3-4 hours, you will see a dramatic change in the texture of the dough, and by the end it will be very elastic and stay together very well.

It sounds to me like you're shaping the dough after the autolyse and skipping the bulk fermentation. If so, I would expect the results to be exactly as you describe. Bulk fermentation is where the elasticity is developed.

I make very nice loaves with great elasticity and keep their rounded edge on the countertop with the Tartine recipe. There is no need to change the forumla to a less hydrated dough - just follow the directions for bulk fermentation and the results are excellent.

Are you using the recipe that you found online somewhere or do you have the actual Tartine book? The actual book had 30-40 pages just for this recipe and describes the texture of the dough at each stage, complete with pictures.

Is you leaven passing the float test before you use it? If the problem is your starter, the leaven wouldn't develop right and you'd know at that point (before adding all the flour) that something was awry.'s picture

All of what you say is true, and I have followed the Tartine directions from the book.  I have sucessfully made this recipe many many times in the past.  The dough does not develop elasticity after turning every 1/2 hour for 3 hours or even 4 hours.  It simply tears like a piece of paper.  My starter seems fine, i.e., very active.  My leaven seems excellent (floats like a cork).  I appreciate your input.

run4bread's picture

If not the starter or flour, what about the water? It sounds like something is killing the yeasties.'s picture

Thanks for taking the time to comment. My starter is healthy.  I get excellent fermentation with the same water I have always used.  I'm going to buy different flour this weekend and mix two different batches.  Funny thing is I will probably end up with 4 beautiful loaves.  Time will tell.

bennykrik's picture

your starter is too ripe. By the time the top layers of your levain begin to float, the lower layers are already too ripe for baking. Too ripe of starter, makes the dough very fragile and inelastic.


bake free or die's picture

Thanks for your comments.  I purchased new flour and performed bread making as I have done previously.  It worked prerfectly.  As far as the starter being 'too ripe', I don't have the experience to comment on the affect this may have.  However, with the 'tearing dough' experience I had very active rising of the dough, just had no elasticity.  This leads me to believe the levain or starter was not 'tired'.  I did not run side by side experiments to determine it was the flour, but the new flour worked perfectly, where my two previous experiences with the 'old' flour were disaterous.  Maybe both times the starter was too ripe, as you suggest.  But, I did not change anything substantial in the amount of time the levain fermented.  I continue to believe it was the flour, mostly because I had never had this type of problem before purchasing the 'bad' flour and the 'good and new' flour cleared up the problem.  I should note further, the the 'bad' flour was purchased at an out of state store in a location where the flour could easily have been sitting on that shelf for a long time (not a 'foodie' area where people would by the so-called higher end flour in any quantity, so I suspect very low turnover).

El Fante's picture
El Fante

Hi Brian,

It is excellent to hear the bread turned out!  I wanted to comment though not to disregard one of your prior thoughts about humidity.  Cooler dough is much easier to shape and develop surface tension with, while even moderately warm dough can sometimes be impossible, especially given the possibility of your potentially super ripe leaven or yeast nearing exhaustion.  When it is time to cut and shape your dough, the humidity will humiliate you.

In the 3-4 hours of folding, your dough should have cooled considerably compared to the warm water you began the mix with.  If it has not, consider placing the dough in the referigerator for an overnight bulk ferment, and finishing the following day.  If temperature or overripeness is not the issue (not considering the flour), try a few more folds and a longer bench rest.