The Fresh Loaf

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Tartine Country Loaf 2nd Attempt

wafflesandbeer's picture

Tartine Country Loaf 2nd Attempt

This is my second attempt at the Tartine Country Loaf.  Overall, I'd say that it turned out ok.  The flavor matches that of the Tartine loaves exactly, but the crumb is much more dense and the loaf is heavier than it should be.  I can't tell if this is from under or overproofing.  

As I'm a beginner at this, I tried to follow the recipe exactly.  I also used the videos from the Sourdough Journey website to facilitate.  

The main issue I had during the process was that my fermentation took a lot longer than typical for both the leaven and the BF.  My leaven sat in a 65 degree F room overnight about 10 hours as the recipe suggests.  I had to bring it to normal room temp for an additional 3 hours for bubbles to appear, and for the required scent and rise to happen.  It also finally passed the float test at this time.  

Bulk Fermentation took 6.5 hours instead of the 3-4 hours the recipe suggests, and it barely got to about 25% rise in this time.  Stretches and folds went well and it passed the windowpane test, but it just took forever to start rising.  

I'm trying to figure out why my fermentation is taking so long and if this is what is causing the crumb to not be as open as it should.  My first thought was a weak starter, but my starter is almost a month old and it is consistently tripling in size in 4 hours after 1:2:2 feeds.  It seems very strong and I wait until it peaks before making the leaven.  Another common reason I see in other posts is a lower room temperature that could hinder fermentation, but I was able to use my oven with the light on as a proofing chamber and the dough was consistently around 80 F the whole BF.  

Any thoughts on what I can try the next go around is appreciated. Thanks.

Country Loaf


Abe's picture

Excellent! What could you try next? Perhaps being a bit more adventurous with the bulk ferment. Looks like it could be further improved with more time.  

WatertownNewbie's picture

As Abe observed, this is a nice loaf that could be improved (but I repeat is a nice loaf as is).

What flour are you using?  Different flours have different properties, and that can affect the time it takes for the BF as well as the final proofing.

What sort of working of the dough are you doing during the initial mixing?  Early in my journey on the path of baking I tended to knead some and then let the dough sit.  For me the breakthrough occurred when I watched some videos by Trevor J. Wilson.  He worked the dough much more than I had been doing.  What I then did was keep tugging on the dough until I could feel the beginning of the gluten network developing.  For an open crumb you need something to hold the gas.  That is the gluten network.  Working the dough helps that process along.  For a while Trevor had a website, but I heard it had become dormant or went away.  Recently I heard that his videos are again available. 

wafflesandbeer's picture

I'm following the recipe exactly which is 50/50 bread and whole wheat for the leaven, and then 900/100 Bread/WW.  

An interesting thing about this recipe is that the dough is not worked much.  Flour is mixed just until combined.  From what I understand, the gluten is formed from the 5-6 stretch and folds that take place every 30 minutes at the beginning of BF.  

There's a test called the windowpane test where you pull a portion of the dough up and stretch it in your fingers until it becomes translucent.  If it can do this without tearing, you have good gluten developing.  I was able to do this after the last stretch and fold.  

WatertownNewbie's picture

By what kind of flour I meant the brand (and should have been more specific in my question).  Different brands of a type of flour will differ in their performance.

As for the Tartine method, at first I was unsure about the "white" flour that Chad Robertson intends.  It is clear what he means by whole wheat.  On pages 45-52 of Tartine Bread he does not really pin down his intent, but on page 70 he discusses the flour itself.  Included is the following: "Most wheat flours labeled 'all-purpose' will work for making bread."  He then goes on to describe a test at Tartine using three different kinds of all-purpose flour.  Hence, I began using all-purpose flour (in my case King Arthur all-purpose) for the Tartine breads.

As for the amount of initial mixing, I think he is too brief in his wording.  On page 52 he writes: "After the resting period, add the 20 grams of salt and the 50 grams of warm water to the dough.  Incorporate the salt by squeezing the dough between your fingers.  The dough will first break apart and then will re-form as you turn it in the bowl."  What he neglects to mention is how long this turning of the dough in the bowl might take and what that process involves.  It does take a bit of turning before the dough breaks apart and then a bit more before it re-forms, so it seems this is not something that happens in only a few seconds.

You are correct that the very first mixing (preceding the autolyse) is limited to making sure that there is no dry flour.  There is no focus on gluten development.  I can tell you, however,  that I could never achieve the look of his mixed dough (a smooth surface such as appears in the photos on pages 59-64) until I began mixing the dough vigorously in the initial mix (i.e., after the addition of the salt and held-back water).  The dough in his store is mixed in large commercial machines and is anything but a no-knead dough.

The stretch-and-folds do serve to help with the gluten network, in part by redistributing the sourdough yeast throughout the dough, but my belief is that the initial mixing is very important for that process too.  That is why I work the dough until I feel some resistance beginning, which to me is an indication that the gluten is forming.

The fact that you can achieve the windowpane is good and shows that your dough has gluten.  For what it is worth, I have rarely done the windowpane test and instead rely on the feel of the dough as I go through the series of stretch-and-fold sessions and the other factors I described in my blog post.

Lastly, my preference for the crumb has gravitated to something less open than what some persons mean when they use the term Tartine bread.  I still make Tartine bread following the recipes (the Country Rye is one of my favorites), but I focus more on the flavor than the openness of the crumb.

This is a fun discussion because we get to exchange ideas about making bread.  Happy baking.


wafflesandbeer's picture

Thanks for the lengthy reply! I'm using King Arthur, bread and whole wheat.  That is interesting about all-purpose.  I may try another loaf with all purpose, and maybe a little more working of the dough initially.  

I'm also definitely going to try fermenting the leaven at a higher temperature than 65 overnight to see what that sort of increased activity will do to things.