The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

No spring in Tartine Bread's whole wheat

rgrgeo's picture

No spring in Tartine Bread's whole wheat

I have made two attempts at whole wheat using Chad Robertson's Tartine Bread with no luck. I follow the instructions as directed for the country loaf (which I have had consistent success with for the past year). In both attempts the end result is dissapointingly flat and dense. The second time I tried the overnight autolyse, still the same result. The thing is, both time the dough, bulk rise and proofing all seem good, but I get barely any oven spring during the baking. I cannot figure out why my country loafs works so welll, and the whole wheat.

Does anyone have experience, or success with Tartine Bread's whole wheat?

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

Is that your final proofing is off which would be different from a bread flour loaf. Whole wheat doesn't need to almost double for final proofing. It needs less! If everything goes well during the levain build and bulk ferment then there's no reason why it shouldn't go well in the baking stage unless the final proof is off.

Lazy Loafer's picture
Lazy Loafer

Is this the Country Brown from Tartine 3? I've made that one and it turned out okay. As Lechem says, you need to really watch the final proof on this one though. Robertson's recommended proofing times have never worked for me (too long). I like to watch the dough, have the oven ready early and pop the dough in as soon as it looks to be risen by about half. I poke it to see how it feels (though the traditional poke test doesn't work quite a well with whole wheat doughs, you can still get a feel for how soft or springy it is).

dabrownman's picture

Just cut down the proof and get them in the heat at no more than 80% proof .  Whole wheat is much faster than white bread

kendalm's picture

When in doubt, underproof !

rgrgeo's picture

It's true that both times I did a long proof.  Still getting used to watching the dough in general.  Thanks for the feedback.  Looking forward to my next attempt with this in mind.

fupjack's picture

I was trying to see how far I could push it, chilling the dough and leaving for work... I got the same result; a nice tasting Frisbee.

rgrgeo's picture

Tried the Tartine whole what again, still no spring.  This time, dough was 85% hydration, bulk rise was 2.5 hours, proofed for about an hour.  Flat loaves from first bake to last.  Taste was great, crumb was even pretty good, just flat.  Better than the first try though.  I am getting the idea that whole wheat just doesn't spring like white.   


Benjamin Holland's picture
Benjamin Holland

this general style of bread for about a year. I may be able to help a bit. First, I do think it is possible to get better oven spring. What you are already getting is impressive, by the way. A few questions. What flour or flours are you using, exactly? How exactly is your levain built, and at what level of development is the levain used? How much salt? Keep up the good work. The unmatched flavor of real, whole grains is worth it!

rgrgeo's picture


Thanks for the encouragement.  

I used 90% whole wheat and 10% bread flour for the final dough, mixed the night before for an overnight autolyse. 

The levain, 15g mature starter (fed daily- up to 3 days prior ), 200g 50/50 (ww/bf), 200g water (78F).  

The levain sets up after about 12 hours overnight at 69F.  At that point, I add 20g salt with the 200g of mature levain to the autolysed dough.  Bulk rise and proof temps are 77-80F.  

All of these steps and factors are the same as when I have made the Tartine Country loaf with great success, which is why I am stumped by the lack of spring occurring with the whole wheat.

Still going to keep at it, though.  I want to explore bread with other grains, but feel I need to Master whole wheat first.  




Benjamin Holland's picture
Benjamin Holland

1. I would try 35g starter, 200g flour, 200g water for the levain, or at least make sure that your levain is getting quite powerful by the time you use it, making sure it rises from the starting volume of about 400ml to about 700ml. I recommend going by volume (using a cylindrical container is helpful) rather than just time and temp or even float test. Volume is where it's at. I have found very uniform results that way. There are many other variables (exact temp, exact state of the starter, etc.). Volume is generally most closely correlated to yeast activity in levains, I believe.

2. I recommend using lower fermentation temperatures. I believe that whole grains need a lot of time. I bulk ferment at about 23 C, turning every 30 min for 2 to 2.5 hours (it should really gain a lot of observable structure by the last turn, ballooning nicely in the container--this will depend on finding the right hydration, which for my flour is about 85% these days; I think whole wheat needs essentially as much water as you can possibly give it while still being able to get some structure), and then leaving it alone for another 2 hours. I would then proof at about 5 C (fridge), for 12 hours.

Another thing here. I have found that the Tartine book's one little line about turning the dough more gently as time goes on is especially important with whole wheat. Although, I would state it as turning it really a bit more enthusiastically than most people do at the beginning. I stretch and fold it maybe 5 or 6 times pretty vigorously (though still trying not to tear it much, no digging thumbs in) during the first turning, maybe 4 to 5 times during second turning, and then during last 2 or 3 folds be very cautious, folding 4 times gently. Still a good stretch, but a gentle one, with very minimal tearing of the dough surface. Come to think of it, I have also come to use the dough mixing time as a sort of stretch and fold session itself. So rather than cutting much, or mixing violently, I stretch and fold the salt and levain in, doing so quite a bit till it feels well mixed. This allows you to use the mixing time as a head start on structure development, while still not overwork the dough. This in turn affords you the ability to touch less and less as time goes on, allowing the dough to develop on its own for the most part.

3. I would ignore the common wisdom that bread dough should significantly increase in volume as it ferments. I've found it just doesn't apply to whole grains. Good structure is what matters.

Hopefully that's helpful in some way.

rgrgeo's picture

Thanks for sharing Ben.  I agree about levain volume as an indicator, the float test was not working for me early on.    

I haven't attempted proofing ww in the refrigerator yet, that may be next.  

I also will take your softer approach regarding turn and fold.  I had never even considered this and is probably better practice in general

I have noticed the minimal volume increase as well, and hope focusing on the structure will help.  

I hope to give this another shot in the next month or so.

I appreciate the advice.