Revisiting the Tartine Basic Country Bread
For the first time in a few months, I baked some Tartine Basic Country Bread. It remains among my favorite breads for crumb texture—it hits the perfect point for me between light/pillowy and chewy.
I follow Robertson’s formula, except I only make enough levain for one recipe (halving his formula), and this time I used Central Milling’s Organic Type 85 flour for the levain build. I made the 1970 gram dough batch into three loaves, a 600 gram boule, a 600 gram batard and a 770 gram boule.
Due to space constraints in my oven, I baked the two smaller loaves in a first batch, and the bigger boule alone (having set it in the fridge for two and half hours at the beginning of the proof, then letting it finish proofing for three hours at room temperature). This allowed enough time to re-pre-heat the oven and iron skillet with lava rocks for the second bake. The cold-retarded boule got the best oven spring.
I note a recent comment in Eric Hanner’s post on “Tartine Bread- A Dissenting Viewpoint” (http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/20544/tartine-bread-dissenting-viewpoint#comment-223087 ), asking whether there is an error in Robertson’s formula that explains how wet and sticky the dough is. The answer is “No!”. Though this dough is hard to handle, and takes judicious use of flour on bench and hands, and lots of rice flour/AP flour mix in the brotformmen/bannetons, the high hydration is one of the keys to the wonderfulness of this bread.
To shape these loaves takes a light dusting of flour on the board, regular applications of flour to the hands, and quick movements with hands and bench knife. With practice, it can be done.
My loaves yesterday wanted to stay in their brotformmen, and the sticking deformed a couple of the loaves a bit, but the results were fine. Next time, even more flour in the brotformmen.