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Brotforms and Tartine Country Loaf, a pictorial essay

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David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

Brotforms and Tartine Country Loaf, a pictorial essay

There is a lot of discussion of Chad Robertson's Basic Country Loaf, as written about in Tartine Bread. This was the first truly successful loaf I ever baked, having purchased the book because I wanted something extraordinary to bake with the sourdough starter that I had been in the process of developing while trying to figure out how to bake with yeast. 

For those of you who find yourself in a similar "boat", meaning, learning to bake for the first time, I can't emphasize enough how helpful it is to have an actual book to work from. Beg, borrow or steal one that gets good reviews, and which has given a lot of people great results.   Sure, everything is available on-line these days, and you can get great recipes everywhere, from TFL to King Arthur Flour.  But, there is something to be said for the quietude of a book, with a formula, some text, and some photographs. Lacking a dozen "comments" from those who have modified it, or did it differently, there is nothing to confuse you.  You just follow the directions and if it doesn't work out the way you liked, you do it again.  Maybe re-read the relevant pages and see what you did differently, or where you may have gone wrong.

Anyway, enough of a pointless introduction.  I've been baking the bread for a number of months now (you can see my first bake at the beginning of my blog here on TFL), and have always used a towel lined bowl,either glass or stainless steel, to let my dough proof.  I have had the dough stick twice. My loaves always came out nice, but what a pain it was to dirty so many towels.  Plus, I wanted to have rings on my loaves. And, more importantly, the towels always got in the way and made it more difficult to turn the loaves out.

This is to say, I wanted Brotforms because the heart wants what the heart wants.

My first purchase was through Amazon, and I ordered two of them. However, they were smaller than I wanted, and back they went.  Next, I purchased from The Lucky Clover Trading Company, which advertises quite a bit on TFL.  Boy oh boy, those Brotforms are considerably less expensive, and I was hard pressed not to buy more than I needed.  In fact, I bought more than I needed.

I am quite content with my purchase.  Pictured above are two 8" Rounds, 1, 12"  Long Oblong, Four Large 9" Round and one Oblong Wide 9".

Ordinarily, when I make my Tartine Basic Country Loaf, I make enough for four loaves. In other words, I use all of the Levain, divided into two batches of the basic formula.  This is why I never had enough bowls and didn't like using so many towels. Granted, I don't usually make four loaves, because I make pizzas from some of it.  But, the heart wants what the heart wants, so I ordered a bunch of brotforms. The above cost me $70.55.  A bit steep, but better to get it all done at once and have what I "need" on hand. :)

So, my process usually begins the night before.  I take the tablespoon of my starter and I mix it with flour and water to make the levain.  Usually, I do this in a glass bowl.  Pictured below, I did it in a plastic piece of Snapware. 

This time, I left it out overnight, from 7pm to 7 am, at which point I placed it in the refrigerator, took it out the following morning and let it come to room temperature.  I did this, mostly because it did not look airy enough.  When I deemed it ready, it looked like this:

I don't bother spooning out the levain to see if it passes the float test when I see all of the bubbles along the side, and have such a nice looking levain.

I have written that my levain doubles or triples in size before I use it.  This does not look like it even doubled. I think that has something to do with it being in a rectangular container rather than the glass bowl, which obviously deceived me. Still,you can see that the levain has "filled out" nicely, no longer looking so hilly.  In fact, it didn't really reach all the way to the back of the container when I first mixed it, but you can see in the second photograph that it went all the way to the back.  Here is a top shot of the final levain:

You can see a number of gaseous bubbles. I scrape out half of the levain into my bowl and add the water.  It floats "okay", or at least, it does not all sit on the bottom.  I can slide my hand underneath rather easily once the water is added.

Next, I disperse the levain in the water. You can do this with your hands, but I find it takes less time and is more easily dispersed using my danish whisk.  By the time I am done whisking, the water and levain are nice and bubbly. Looks a bit like almond milk.

Chad Robertson suggests using a large mixing bowl.  The largest bowl I have is a salad bowl. It is flat on the bottom but has nice deep sides, which helps keep the flour in the bowl.  I save my empty 5Lb bags of flour and I fill them with my 1000 grams of flour to be used for this formula.  That way I can just dump the flour into the bowl when I am ready to make the dough.  I have taken to creating a "well" in the middle of the flour, into which I pour the above dispersed levain. 

Once the liquid is sitting in the bowl, I just mix it up, either with my hands or with my danish whisk, until it all comes together (even with the whisk, I eventually have to use my hands as the dough looks "floured" unless I squeeze it between my fingers to get this shaggy mess (mass).  By the time I am ready to let it "rest"/autolyze it looks like this:

After the 30-45 minute rest, I add the salt and the water.  I find that this makes a pasty dough, and wonder whether I should be using less water, or maybe using more of the 50grams of water in the earlier mix.  In any case, this is what it looks like after the additional water and salt are incorporated (it is back in the plastic container as I need the bowl for round two).

Here it is from the side:

I went for a 2 hour walk and can't recall if I did any stretch and fold's before I left. If so, I did only one.  When I returned I did another, and then another two over the remaining two hours.  I never know if the dough is "ready", and here is what it looked like when I scraped it out onto the counter.   Hopefully, this photograph is helpful to others wondering if they have it right.  I don't know if this is correct, but if yours looks like this, at least you know that your bread can come out looking like mine. :)

My second set of the dough came out looking like this:

 I sprinkle a wee bit of flour on the surface, perhaps less than I ought to, but I find that I like the dough to stick to my counter when I flip it, because it makes it easier to shape whether pre-shaping of final shaping:

I cut the dough in half, never bothering to weigh the pieces, flip them over and then fold them (because the flour is on the outside, even the little bit of dough sprinkled above does not wind up in the crumb, as it stays on the outside where the crust will be).

These are then shaped, more or less, into balls. The french call their balls "boules". I am cosmopolitan.

This is not perfect, and I think the lack of flour causes a bit of tearing (look at the upper right of the photo. That is because the dough stuck to the counter.

My second set of dough was used to make two smaller boules and two pizza doughs. After dividing and shaping, it looked like this:

The smaller ones were weighed, which is why they look so awful, as I had to keep handling the dough.  But for pizza, I don't mind so much because they just wind up going in the fridge for a day or two before being shaped and baked.

And now, I had to flour my brotforms -- I used a 50/50 AP Flour/Rice Flour mixture and tried to rub it around with my fingers.  I had no idea how much.  I figured it should be enough to coat, but not so much as to drench.

Here are the large boules after the bench rest.  I sprinkled the tops with some more flour. I can't recall if I used the 50/50 mix or the AP.  I do this because I want the surface that comes in contact with my baskets to be non-sticky. That should maximize my chances of getting an easy release the next morning when the dough is ready to come out.

And here are the smaller boules and pizza doughs, after the bench rest:

And now the boules go into the baskets. They really don't look like much at all, and I wonder whether they will actually turn into decent loaves or whether I will get something unpleasant. I had yet to get an unpleasant loaf, so my hopes were pretty high.

Into the fridge they went.  One had a shower cap on top of it, one a towel, and two shared a large clear garbage bag.

The next morning, the expanded a bit. Here are the larger rounds followed by one of the smaller:

The real question was, of course, will they come out?  I assumed the answer would be yes, because the cold dough did not seem too sticky.  I brought out my super peel and added some flour to it, as well as to the top (soon to be bottom) of my loaf  I turned the basket over onto the peel and nothing happened. So I lifted it 1/4 inch, and tapped it down a bit harder and out the dough came!  Wahoo!

The photo below shows my lame scoring. No pun intended.

The smaller boules were actually quite tiny.  I was afraid they were not going to bake up well at all.

But, they baked up very nicely.

They still look small compared to my hand, but whereas my fingers could touch the table when palming the dough, that was not possible when palming the loaf.

Here are the two larger loaves -- I think the square scoring looks the best.

And here are all four loaves chilling.

I froze three of the loaves and cut into the fourth this morning.  Here it is sliced.  This is the top shot of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Photo

Photo

Comments

golgi70's picture
golgi70

And great photos.  And a lovely finish to the bread taboot.  You have come a long way fast.  i think this is the reason that Tartine Book 1 is so regarded.  It really does make it so anyone can make a very fine loaf of bread at home and success comes relatively fast.  It then becomes a stepping stone to branch out and be confident with most any bread.  

Cheers

Josh

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

I really did enjoy the book and the process. And I really do need to bake more of the other breads in the book. I keep saying that, but when I run out of bread, I panic bake what I know I love. ;) Plus, I don't see myself making a PB&J on a baguette. One of these days I will have it figured out.

In any case, do look forward to my next steps... and as soon as I get the crib out the nursery and into the spare bed room (my last chore before I am allowed the grain mill), I am going to take that step!

Maine18's picture
Maine18

Can relate to your whole process (including the Lucky Clover splurge).  Thanks for sharing!  Did you bake these on a pizza stone or in a dutch/combo cooker? Also, did you do a final shaping before retarding the loaves in the fridge, or did you transfer the pre-shaped loaves to the baskets?

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

I bought the lodge combo cooker together with the book.  The reason being that I kept hearing about baking bread in a dutch oven, but had no idea what size to get.  And then when people were suggesting a 5-6 quart oven (or whatever), I was thinking, "but how much dough will I need to use that size?  Finally, I came across the lodge combo cooker and the reference to Tartine, and all of my questions were answered.  Well, not all of them, but the important ones... the cooking vessel and the book to fill it.

After the bench rest, I flip the dough, stretch right and over, then stretch left and over, stretch top and over, and bottom and over, rolling it up, just like the book.  Of course, MY dough doesn't look anything like his.

My photo-essay may not have made that clear. And, I don't know whether my boules as shown are after the pre-shaping or the final shaping. The truth is, the boule before the bench rest and the final boule after the bench rest before it goes into the basket, look very similar to me so I can't tell from the pictures which ones those are.

CAphyl's picture
CAphyl

David:  Thanks for all the detail.  Really liked it.  I have lots of bannetons I ordered online as well.  Love them. Thanks again for sharing the breads and the story! Best,  Phyllis

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

Glad you enjoyed the read.  One of the reasons I suggest that people buy a book rather than read a blog such as this, is because people are always forgetting things, and in this case, I appear to have forgotten to discuss the actual shaping. :)

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

David

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

I appreciate the kind words and have my eye on some of your formulas for the future!

emkay's picture
emkay

You can open a small bakery business will all those brotforms! :) 

You mentioned that you left your levain at room temp for 12 hours, then put it in the refrigerator. Do you make your levain more mature for flavor reasons? Or is it simply because the levain did not appear to be ready?

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

Mostly, I do it for convenience. If I make the levain Friday night, I want to be able to mix first thing Saturday morning. However, sometimes the levain is not quite ready and that is very inconvenient for me.

So, instead, I often make the levain Thursday night. I work all day Friday so I put the levain in the fridge in the morning.  I am not ready to mix the dough Friday night, but come Saturday I can be certain that my levain is ready.

Note, this is not a young levain, but I have not noticed any particular ill effects from doing it this way.  That said, my absolute favorite bake may not have been done this way. However, I don't know if it was my favorite because I cut it open and ate it the same day I baked it, or because I used a younger levain.

I do need to keep better notes so I can answer this question. Or just eat all of my bread immediately. But that would cause other problems.

emkay's picture
emkay

After reading about your levain schedule, I've decided to use a not so young levain for my Tartine loaves. Partially for convenience and also in hopes of getting a more sour loaf. I mix the levain and leave it at room temp (~68-70F) until it is aerated and doubled in size, but has not collapsed yet. This has been taking about 4 hours. Then I put it in the refrigerator for about 12-18 hours depending on my schedule. I let it sit at room temp for about 1-2 hours before mixing my final dough. I've done this twice and my baked loaves seem to be fine.

On a separate note...

I have looked at a lot of photos and videos of the Tartine basic country bread being made. One thing I've noticed is the raw dough appears to be very white and lacks brown flecks. Even though I am following the 90% white / 10% whole wheat ratio in the final dough, my dough has a lot of brown flecks which I assume is from the whole wheat.

Based on the photos of your raw dough on your work surface, your dough appears very white and lacking brown flecks. I know that sometimes photos don't show all the details you see in real life. Are your photos a true representation or does your dough also have the flecks like mine?

Here's a pic of my dough for reference. This is right after I scraped it from the bucket onto the marble. 


tbcb_apr10_scrapedfrombucket

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

So, the dough is a but lighter. I do recall flecks in it, however. 

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

Just the way it is supposed to be.    Well baked. photographed and documented. 

Happy baking

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

My wife was a bit critical of my taking so many pictures, but she does not understand the pressure I am under here.

gmagmabaking2's picture
gmagmabaking2

the only other person I know that makes such great Tartine loaves is my sister Barbra! Very nice... 

 

 

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

There are plenty of people on TFL that have posted photos of wonderful Tartine loaves. Thank you for the honors, however. 

I have to say that given my relative inexperience, I believe a large measure of success and failure comes from the oven. My oven is quite new. I don't have a thermometer in there, but am assuming that the temperature gauge in a new gas oven is pretty accurate.  I always have the cast iron pizza pan in the bottom we well.

Cant discount the fact that the Bread Gods have looked favorably on my loaves.

Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

Nicely done from start to finish...This is a bread that a lot of people have problems with so it is nice that you offer them a picture tutorial for them.

Just when I thought a home baker can not have enough brotforms....;)

Happy baking.

John

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

I see so many posts with questions about this bread, so I thought the photos could be of use to someone.

As for the brotforms, I do confess to an overindulgence. But I would be damned if I was going to pay for shipping when the cost of shipping could get me a brotform.

There was real method to my madness.  I know the Tartine loaf is kind of large, and I know I will be baking other loaves in the future (knock on wood).  So I wanted to have at least two brotforms for making smaller loaves.  And I had no idea what size oblong to get so I got them both.  Total. Justification.

Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

I know exactly what you mean about the shipping charges David.  If I knew I was going to be charged so much to Canada, I would have ordered more myself!  The shipping ended up costing me more than the goods.  I felt a bit goofy when I did that, but I wanted the brotforms and baskets quite badly at the time.

Now you can start your own business and sell me some at a lesser shipping charge ;)

John

bbegley's picture
bbegley

Very helpful photo guide through your process.  Fantastic looking loaves and crumb.

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

Chad Robertson's photography is better, or at least his subject matter looks better.  But, of course, if people were getting their dough to look like his, it is unlikely they will find this post useful. :)

salma's picture
salma

Awesome!  That's just one word to describe your breads, post and pictures.

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

Thank you for the kind words.  Excellent bread is within everybody's reach. It may take a little practice and there may be bumps along the way, but I have found them to be very few when starting with a tried and true formula and method. 

That said, I understand the reluctance to buy a combo cooker just to make a loaf of bread. However, I love my combo cooker and use it for making omelets and scrambled eggs too so it was a good investment. 

Coho6's picture
Coho6

Wow, those loaves are amazing! Getting ready to try my first Tartine Country bake this weekend, so this is very encouraging to an inexperienced bread baker!  I am looking at purchasing a few brotforms and am trying to determine which to buy.  I was thinking about a couple of 8" rounds and 1-2 9" oblongs.  For a 2-loaf bake like the Tartine, would you recommend the 8" or 9" rounds?  Thanks!

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

I think they are the right size for dough for this loaf. Those are what I used for the larger loaves above. The 8" rounds were used for the dough that was left after making two pizzas. 

Raluca's picture
Raluca

Wow! These look amazing! I simply love the tiny ones! It looks like when they don't stick to the baskets they come out beauties! :)

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

I have had less luck with the whole wheat formulation. I think, perhaps, because I am over-proofing, the consequence of which is that the dough is stickier. Next go, I will watch the dough more and see if it feels right to bake sooner.  It shaped up nicely when it went into the basket -- and rose nicely, but I do believe it became much stickier over time and that this was due to being overproofed.

I say this because the dough was floured and only a tiny bit sticky when it went in, but it was most and very sticky on the way out.

Raluca's picture
Raluca

I think I've over proofed mine as well last time :( it did not rise that much in the oven, but quite a lot in the fridge!?!...

And they always come out very sticky from the fridge unless I use a lot of flour.. Will test the lined baskets again this weekend and let you know if they work better!

 

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

Part of my problem has been using freshly milled wheat flour. They say it proofs much faster than aged flour.  I will get it to work though, because I never give up.

Next go, I am going to use a lot more flour for sure.

Raluca's picture
Raluca

You are definitely a couple of steps ahead of me...Still working with flour from a mill.

Good luck!

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

Finally figured out how to upload from my iPhone.