The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

troubleshooting tartine sourdough please :)

namrac's picture

troubleshooting tartine sourdough please :)

I've been practicing Tartine's method for awhile and gets decent results except for a few consistent problems.

Timeline for this bake

Wed 9am : mix leaven
Wed 7pm : mix bread dough -> autolyse -> add salt+water -> stretch and fold for the next 3 hrs in oven with breadproof setting
Wed 11pm : divide -> bench rest -> final fold and goes into bennetons and cold final fermentation
Thurs 7pm : baked in oven together (trying this steaming technique from the Perfect Loaf so i can do both at the same time) Loaf #1 in dutch oven, Loaf #2 on pizza stone with steaming kitchen towels


Loaf #1 - pretty typical of my regular bake. somewhat flat, big holes towards the top. crust was great thanks for dutch oven method

Loaf #2 was kinda a disaster, dull crust even with steaming towels and a tray of hot water, also it blew out from the bottom and the whole loaf turned into a square more or less. also bottom of bread is slightly undercooked and gummy. these two loaves stayed in the oven same amount of time tho. Also massive drill holes only on top half...

my initial plan was to bake both thursday morning, do you think it was overproofed in the fridge? I've always run into 'flat loaf' and this time I paid more attention to building the strength by stretching and folding a bit more. Used KA breadflour and find that it rises abit better than AP, but they still look flat compare to ones i see on this forum.

Thanks for the help!


Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

Looks great to me. The only issue about those large holes I think is shaping. That's it.

2nd one was baked differently. I can see the scoring opened up somewhat but not as much as the first loaf. Was the steam sufficient? It looks like it might have crusted over before the oven spring was finished hence the blow out at the side.

What is confusing is the huge difference between the two loaves. The 2nd one looks like from a different dough altogether where the starter may have been immature. But these two loaves were from the very same batch.

namrac's picture

2nd loaf definitely suffered from the steam (or lack of). U don't have lava rocks and wet towel in a tray didn't work. It makes sense the bottom blew out coz the crust formed too fast like you mentioned... Thank you! I scored them both equally as deep so it was the Dutch oven that saves the day! I was hoping to do 2 at a time without two DO -- 

Any tips on what i messed up with shaping that causes big holes on top and dense crumbs at the bottom? I'm consistently getting similar results. Thank you! 

Lechem's picture
Lechem (not verified)

If you don't have two dutch ovens then why not stagger them? They'll only be baked 40 minutes apart and you can keep one on the fridge while the other bakes.

Another idea... try scoring one and use the natural seam of the other as a scoring by proofing seam side down so it's on top when you turn it over. Would be a nice experiment to see how they come out.

As far as shaping goes I can only advise to watch videos and get ideas. It's difficult to explain and I'm hardly the one to advise when it comes to shaping high hydration dough as I too find it very challenging. But I can definitely advise you to watch Trevor's videos from his website

Here you'll get many recipes, ideas and techniques.

P.s. about bread height... how's the gluten development? Does it feel ready by the time the bulk ferment is done? You can employ a small knead after adding the salt to give the gluten a helping hand at the beginning before going onto stretch and folds. If it needs it! Or include an extra stretch and fold or two (you can slightly decrease the space between the ones you do already to fit them in). Tartine is high hydration and if you're using a weak flour it'll suffer more. Where is your flour from? European flour can't handle as much water as North American flour so you might want to think about hydration.

fupjack's picture

I've been trying to figure out the same sort of pattern to match working during the day, so I appreciate you posting your times.

As for your other loaf...  Since we know the yeast/mix/etc was all the same with the other loaf that turned out so well, the only difference was the technique.  With that mismatch between top and bottom, it's almost like the stone wasn't hot enough, or maybe that the towels cooled it too much and it took off after removal?  I'm making guesses.

Buying another cast-iron skillet with lid seems like it will get the best results.

dabrownman's picture

the problem.  You want to get the stone up to baking temperature 450 F and it lags the temperature of the oven  by 15-20 minutes.  If found using an infrared thermometer that if it had a pan of water in the oven heating up with the oven under the stone,  the stone never got close to 450 F.  But once I switched to putting the pan and lava rocks in the oven with out water and heated the towels and water up in the microwave instead and added the towels right before the bread and tossed a cup of water on the lava rocks ad=s I closed the door - all was well and the bread made was almost exactly like a DO - I say almost a DO is better.

The other way to do it is to heat the oven to 500 F and when it is at temperature add the lava rocks and towels with the water in both and let it go for 15 more minutes before adding the bread.  This also works Ok.

AlanG's picture

I think dabrownman is correct that there was probably an issue with steaming.  FWIW, my technique using a baking steel is to preheat the oven to 500F for 45 minutes. I use the towels technique and they thoroughly soaked and microwaved at high for four minutes.  Towels go into a baking tray and into the 500F oven for five minutes while I am getting the dough ready and scored.  Bread goes onto the steel, about 3/4C of boiling water added to the towel tray and the oven door closed and temp lowered to 460F.  Steam tray comes out after 15 minutes of baking. 

One thing that might have happened to you is that you did not get adequate steam circulation.  There was a discussion of this the other day and you need to make sure that the towel tray has sufficient space from the baking steel/stone; otherwise most of the steam is hitting the bottom of the steel/stone rather than filling the oven.  My steel is on the middle of the five possible shelf heights and the steam tray on the very bottom so there is six inches or so between them.  It is also possible that the DO was interfering.

namrac's picture

sounds like the steaming with towel and lava stones is more finicky.. i'll stick with one loaf at a time until i get a decent loaf =)

I'm watching a lot of shaping videos and i noticed in chad's shaping video his dough seem to be able to stretch a lot thinner and longer than what i encountered during final shape (mine was very pillowy but when i pull on the corner to shape they somewhat spring back and stayed thick.. if that make sense). does this mean i should turn and fold durin bulk more?

namrac's picture

this time i paid more attention to shaping (making sure i sealed better in the final folding). I also changed bulk ferment in room temp to fridge for 12hrs, the final proof from fridge to room (2-ish hrs). I noticed the dough in the benneton were way more 'puffed' and softer..which made it ALOT harder to score (the skin dragged) and the dough spreaded quite a bit more than normal. but the crumb turned out more even so i was happy with that!

one day i'd love to achieve both, beauty inside and out hopefully