The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Can't get the Tartine Bread right

doughdontfailmenow's picture

Can't get the Tartine Bread right

I don't know what I'm doing wrong. I literally followed the directions exactly as written in Chad's Tartine Bread book and also watched YouTube videos. The first time I thought I knew the problem, I used cold flour and I think the temperature fluctuated too much between high and low. I can't keep temperature exactly the same but this 2nd try, I measured the dough directly and it always was between 78 and 82 degrees in bulk fermentation, for 3.5 hours. I used my oven as a proof box. I still can't tell when it's done with this step and ready for shaping/bench rest. It seems to all fall apart after/during bulk fermentation so I think this is where I am making mistakes.

The first time I did this, I made the full recipe and had two flat, dense, spongey loaves. I halved the recipe this time, doing 1 loaf and same exact result. Both times, the dough was hard to handle, meaning it wouldn't keep it's shape and was overly sticky. I had to add a bit more flour or water (switching between the two) to get it to be manageable. This time, I did many more shaping and foldings than mentioned because it just didn't hold and I thought that the first time I was not working the dough enough. During the bulk fermentation I folded more vigorously in the beginning than the end, every 30 min. I did the final rise in the fridge for 10.5 hours this time, took it out let it sit at RT for 2 hours before baking and had to shape and rest even more again. Poke test made it seem like it was ready but it was struggling to hold. It seemed like the more I handled it with water and turned it into a ball, it held shape more. Scoring failed, but easier than last time when it was so overly sticky I just couldn't do it at all. When I scored this time, it just spread like a pancake and it wasn't deep enough. 

My starter was used after 12 hours and passing the float test. It's been going strong for 2 weeks now since my first batch. Followed Chad's starter instructions.

The loaf flavor is good - a little more acidic than I like it, and crust is good. But the inside is a dense and spongey, raw mess. Loaf is heavy. I can't tell if it's over or under proofed. Every website says different things and I can't tell. Please help! Thank you.

Abe's picture

Have you tried any other recipe with good results? 

doughdontfailmenow's picture

No, this is my first recipe for sourdough. I've been baking for a while but not this. Any beginner friendly recipes?

Abe's picture

Work on your starter as it isn't ready yet. Find yourself a small jar (I think Chad builds quite a lot at a time which isn't necessary for the home baker) and start feeding it once or twice daily, should the starter require it, with slowly increasing the feeds as the starter responds well. 

So begin with 1:1:1 and see how it responds. If it bubbles up no problem and does well with two feeds a day then increase it to 1:2:2. And so on till you get a strong and steady starter which has no problem with a 1:5:5 feed. 

For example... Begin with 30g starter + 30g water + 30g flour. If it only needs feeding once a day then wait. If it matures within 12 hours then twice a day. Then go onto 1:2:2, for example 20g starter + 40g water + 40g flour. Once you get a strong and steady bubbling up twice a day then switch to 1:3:3 and so on never building too much. Keep it under 100g. 

Will take another few days to a week but it's worth spending some time doing this. Then try the recipe again however I recommend following Weekend Bakery's version which is slightly tweaked and walks you through the whole process.

doughdontfailmenow's picture

Thank you, right now should I just throw my starter out and start over or just continue with it, on the 1:1:1 schedule 1x per day feed? How do I know it's ready? It's really confusing because Chad says the starter is ready in about 7 days. And mine passed the float test.

Abe's picture

Recipes don't factor in many variables. One can't set ones clock by these things. They take however long they take be it 3 days or two weeks. 

So for now 1:1:1 using you starter. Try once every 24 hours. If it's bubbling up, peaking and falling within 12 hours then go onto twice a day. Again, every 24 hours unless it's peaking and falling within 12 in which case twice a day. Once you have a strong and steady rhythm with the 1:1:1 feed twice a day then switch to 1:2:2 and so on. 

When you've worked your way up to 1:5:5 twice a day it's ready for another trial bake. As Benny said it would be a good idea to switch to wholegrain flour with wholegrain rye being an excellent choice. 

Benito's picture

Follow Abe’s advice, I have to agree with him.  The photo of your crumb shows solid gummy dough.  There was little fermentation in it.  Your starter needs to be strengthened before you bake with it again.

What flour are you feeding your starter with?  I have found that whole rye can really get your starter going.  You could consider feeding it whole rye to really get it active or use a portion of the flour as whole rye.

WatertownNewbie's picture

First, I agree with what Abe and Benny wrote.  Your starter is not doing its job.

When you get an active starter, you might want to read my blog post ( on this bread.  Some people benefit from photos, and the blog is a step-by-step illustrated description of one of my bakes of this bread.

Welcome to TFL and good luck with your baking.

Happy baking (and stay safe during the pandemic).


idaveindy's picture

Just in case there is more going on than the starter...

Could you please let us know...

  1. what country you are in.
  2. what brand and type of flour you used.
  3. what kind of oven you have. Gas, electric, convection.
  4. Your baking method, dutch oven, baking stone, etc.
  5. If not using a dutch oven, how you steamed the oven.