The Fresh Loaf

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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
Abe (not verified)

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
Abe (not verified)

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
Abe (not verified)

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. 

Gadjowheaty's picture

My benchmark for properly developed starter is at least a doubling at 6 hours at 78F, using 1:2:2.  I think I got the practice from The Bread Builders. 

That said, I'm wondering if that's a robust enough benchmark.  I do have some concerns about really large "seed leveraging" - all yeast only have so many buds they can form before suffering mutations and lack of both viability and vitality.  In brewing, anyway, there's a sweet spot between inducing aerobic respiration and replication (where a lot of desired o-acids are formed), and anaerobic health, i.e., a strong fermentation.  In a word 2:1:1 may rock like a banshee but fermentation will fly by in a blink and it will probably yield a comparably blander end product,

1:25:25 may bring on all kinds of wily organic acids, esters, etc., due to the radical increase in new microbe populations needed to reach population density.  But not only do you risk unwanted infection, you are hobbling your fermentation because you have some very, very tired LABs and yeasts, scarred badly from so much budding.

So, in a word, how does 78F, 1:2:2 2.5-3X over 6 hours sound, as threshold for robust starter? (I should add:  starter flour is 50:50 BF:WW).

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.


sourdoughsecrets's picture

Hello. I really want to help you and if you give me more information I definitely can because I make tartine every single day and have discovered many mistakes can be made and their corrections. First we will start at the beginning to see how things are getting like this.

First I'd like to ask you what kind of flour are you using and secondly,

are you using a digital scale for your measurements in grams and have you tared the bowl out.

Thirdly, how old is your starter and

what do you feed it with? 

what ratio do you feed it at? 1:1:1? 1:2:2? 1:5:5 and

how many times per day do you feed it?

These are VERY important and If you answer all of these questions, I can begin to help you.  Also, if you're adding flour and water to "get it right" then that means you would not be following tartine recipe exactly because he expressly cautions against adding extra flour.  




CurlyBaker's picture

I feel your pain. Looks like your starter is too young, or nowhere in the region of its peak when you baked with it. I made this mistake once when my starter was a week old and I had been fooled by the initial flurry of bubbles caused by bacteria rather than yeast.

Listen to Benny and Abe. They know their stuff. If it helps, I made a thread here about 3 weeks ago begging the wise members of TFL to help me with my starter development and the advice they all gave was like gold dust. Take a look at it here. It might offer some pointers you haven't tried yet.