Submitted to YeastSpotting.
Sourdough Loaves 1 (King Arthur’s Extra Tangy Sourdough)
Sourdough Loaves 2 (Northwest Sourdough’s Beginner Loaf)
Sourdough Loaves 3 (Tartine Bread Country Boule)
Sourdough Loaves 4 (Tartine Bread Whole Wheat Boule)
Boy. I’ve sure grown a lot these past few months. From the bigger things like graduation and getting a job, to the little things, like becoming a more holistic bread baker. Looking back at my first few loaves (before Chad Robertson’s Tartine Bread took over my life), I realize now that I had so little information on what I was doing. Back then I was still using volume measurements for the flour and water (which made handling dough really difficult, as often I felt that the dough was too sticky and kept adding and adding…) and kneading (specifically, underkneading) leading to really really dense, almost inedible bread.
I thank everyone who tasted my first few loaves and told me that they liked it. The sourdough tang was there, of course (35 year old sourdough starters will do that), but the holes! Where were the holes indicative of a open, light crumb? And where was the brittleness of the crust?
Tartine Bread provided not only a recipe for me to work off of, but also incentive to look more into the chemistry and science behind baking bread. I stopped working with makeshift water spray bottles and aluminum foil covers to create steam, and bought a dutch oven combo cooker. I purchased cooling racks and a digital scale to start metric mass measurements of flour and water, and converted to a 100% hydration starter. I didn’t cut the small things either - I purchased a set of double edged razor blades for scoring (and promptly pocketed a few coffee stirrers from my college’s coffee bar).
My first country boule was a revelation. Crackly crust, light, open crumb. That loaf lasted… 1, maybe 2 hours before it was scarfed down by me and my family (mainly me).
But I still wasn’t happy. Scoring those first Tartine Bread Loaves was difficult. I searched online and found recommendations (Tartine Bread Experiment Blogspot) to do the final proof in the refrigerator which, helped make the skin of the dough more taut, and easier to score. It also made the scheduling of baking easier. (Another helpful hint learned from the blog - if you lack a peel, use the back of a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper, so that you can flip the final proofed dough onto the parchment paper, score it, and THEN slide it into the combo cooker - easier to aim and you can score at a more leisurely pace).
I tried the Whole Wheat Tartine Bread Boule. I was a lot happier with the ease of scoring this time around, but was really confused about whether or not the loaves had proofed enough. When shaping the boules after the initial bench rest, the dough was particularly difficult to work with. Bulk Fermentation, I determined, wasn’t long enough, as the still active yeast exploded in activity in the oven, leading to one of the final loaves being irregular in shape.
I read and read about bulk fermentation, intent to judge the readiness of the dough by the air holes and size as opposed to simply time for this next loaf. After watching a few videos, I also altered my stretch and fold technique to be different from the in-container turns Chad performs in the book (I also did this because I halved the recipe, and thus, didn’t use the large plastic tub I usually use for bulk fermentation) - I stretched and folded the dough outside the container on an oiled surface.
Stretch and Fold
I also watched a few videos on boule shaping.
The result of the whole wheat loaf this time?
Though I’m not happy with the scoring pattern (though the scoring process itself went smoothly - I may have to revert to using a cross), I think the loaf is something good enough (and easy enough! having halved the dough) for me to want to make once a week when I start up work for Harvard in July. The process was particularly enjoyable. With each stretch and fold I really saw the pockets of air developing in the dough. I shaped the boules in a more decisive manner that actually mimicked that of the videos.
Crumb: Open, somewhat light, still more dense than the country loaf in Tartine Bread.
Crust: Not as brittle as I would’ve liked, but could be just because I let it cool completely instead of devouring hunks of bread at a time as soon as it leaves the oven like I usually do.
Bonus: Mashed avocados with salt, pepper and lime make great spreads for sourdough. Thank you mom, for randomly purchasing two avocados, saying “do something with them”.