It’s true that I am a repeat offender of saccharomycicide (2008, 2012). But I am proof (no pun intended) that rehabilitation works! It has now been more than two years that we have been making bread almost exclusively with our Jane Mason starter begun in July 2017.
The few times over the past two years that we have used commercial yeast instead of wild yeast have been slightly more reliable: rising quickly, and creating really lofty breads. But the resulting bread made with commercial yeast doesn’t taste and smell quite as wonderful – it’s just a little one-dimensional.
Thus, sourdoughness isn’t just confined to September! (Did you notice my attempt at eliminating “so” from the beginning of that sentence? I hope so; I hope so. )
Most of the time, the recipe we use is based on one in Chad Robertson’s wonderful book, “Tartine Bread”. Every time we make the bread using our Jane Mason starter, it is stellar. But it occurred to me recently that I have ever so slightly revised what I have done to Robertson’s recipe – to make things easier for us and to make the bread taste better than ever.
Here is our revised Tartine Bread recipe:
Tartine Bread, revisited
based on the recipe for ‘Basic Country Bread’ in “Tartine Bread” by Chad Robertson
earlier version (2017); recipe revised 2019
makes one round loaf:
Leavener and refreshing the starter
- dessert spoonful (about 40 grams) bubbling wheat starter from the fridge
- 85 grams 100% whole wheat flour, divided
- 85 grams water at body temperature, divided
- 120 grams (or so) leavener, bubbling madly (note that some of the flour and water from above has already been put in the jar in the fridge)
- 325 grams (or so) water at body temperature (depending on the air humidity, this amount may be as high as 350 grams)
- 100 grams 100% whole wheat (no additives) flour, sifted(reserve the bran for after shaping)
- 400 grams unbleached all purpose (no additives) flour
- 5 grams wheat germ
- 5 grams malted wheat, rye, or barley berries, crushed
- 5 grams dark rye flour, optional
- all of the Pre-Dough mixture
- 10 grams salt
- 25 grams water at body temperature
- rice flour
- brot-form (or bowl)
- cast iron Combo Cooker (or: either Le Creuset Lidded Casserole Dish, or cast iron frying pan and large stainless steel mixing bowl)
- leavener: On the evening before baking the bread (I usually do this after dinner), put a dessert spoon of starter from the fridge (if necessary, drain off any alcohol that is lying on top of the jar) into a smallish bowl, along with 55 grams whole wheat flour and 55 grams water. Using a wooden spoon, mix everything until all the flour is incorporated to create the leavener. Cover the bowl with a plate and leave on the counter (or in the oven with only the light turned on) until it becomes bubbly and frothy like mousse (8-10 hours).
refreshing the starter: To refresh the starter, put 30 grams whole wheat flour and 30 grams water into the jar. Stir this in with a wooden spoon or chopstick and replace the lid before putting the starter back into the fridge.
- mixing the pre-dough on the morning of the day you will be baking the bread: Check that a small spoonful of the leavener floats in a small bowl of room temperature water. If the leavener does not float, stir in a little more whole wheat flour and water – even amounts by weight – cover with a plate and leave for about 30 minutes more. Chances are that it will now float. Once it is floating, you can go ahead and mix the pre-dough.
- Put a sieve over a large mixing bowl and dump the whole wheat flour in. Gently sift to separate the larger pieces of bran. Set the bran aside in a small bowl to add after shaping the bread. Now add all the rest of the pre-dough ingredients, including the now bubbling leavener, to sifted whole wheat flour. Mix as well as you can, using your dough whisk (or wooden spoon if you don’t have a whisk), until all the flour is incorporated. Cover the bowl with a plate and leave on the counter to rest for about 40 minutes. Chad Robertson says Do not skip the resting period. Working with the nature of the dough, the resting period allows the protein and starch in the flour to absorb the water, swell, and then relax into a cohesive mass.
- mixing the dough (adding the salt): Put salt and 25 grams water into a small container and swirl the bowl to mix it together. Pour the salted water over top of the mass of pre-dough.
- kneading: Use one of your hands to squoosh the salt and water into the dough; use the other hand to steady the bowl – this way you always have a clean hand. At first the dough might be a bit messy. But persevere. Suddenly, it will seem more like dough than a horrible separated glop. When it has returned to being a rough dough, cover the bowl with a plate and leave to rest for about 40 minutes.
- stretching and folding: About 40 minutes after mixing the dough, run your working hand under water. Reach down along the side of the bowl and lift and stretch the dough straight up and almost out of the bowl. Fold it over itself to the other side of the bowl. Turn the bowl and repeat until it’s a little difficult to stretch the dough up any more. You’ll notice that the dough feels significantly smoother. Cover with a plate and leave on the counter for about 30 minutes.
- Repeat the above step 3 or 4 times (Robertson says to do this 4 times in all). Robertson writes [N]otice how the dough starts to get billowy, soft, and aerated with gas. At this later stage, you should turn the dough more gently to avoid pressing gas out of the dough. […] A well-developed dough is more cohesive and releases from the sides of the bowl when you do the turns. The ridges left by the turn will hold their shape for a few minutes. You will see a 20 to 30 percent increase in volume. More air bubbles will form along the sides of the container. These are all signs that the dough is ready to be […] shaped
- proofing: Making sure that the bowl is covered with a plate, leave the dough on the counter (or if the kitchen is cool like ours in winter and early spring, into the oven with only the light turned on) for a couple of hours to allow the dough to almost double. (A good way to tell if the dough is ready to shape is to run your index finger under water, then poke a hole in the center of the dough. If the hole disappears immediately, the dough still needs to rise. If there is a slight whooshing sound and the hole remains in place, alas, the dough has probably over-risen. If the hole very very gradually begins to close, the dough is ready to pre-shape. (In our kitchen, this is generally in the late afternoon.)
- pre-shaping: Scatter a dusting of all-purpose wheat flour on the board and gently release the dough from the bowl onto the board. (When the dough is ready to pre-shape, it will fall out of the bowl cleanly.) Using wet hands, stretch the dough into a longish rectangle, then fold it like a letter, gently patting off any extra flour that might be there. Continue folding until the dough is shaped in a ball. Cover it with a clean tea towel and leave the ball seam side down on the flour-dusted board for about 30 minutes.
- prepare the brot-form: Liberally scatter rice flour into a brotform and distribute it as evenly as possible. (If you don’t have a brot-form, you can line a bowl, basket or sieve with parchment paper. You can also use a liberally rice floured tea towel (but then you have to deal with a floured tea towel once the bread is baked). If you do not have rice flour, it is possible to use wheat flour. However, it wants to stick and makes it more difficult for the bread to be released from the basket….
- shaping: Without breaking the skin on the ball of dough, press the dough scraper onto the sides of the ball to tighten it further, by dragging it a small distance back and forth on the board. The ball will become a little smaller. Once it has been tightened, spray it with water and scatter the extra bran overtop. Then, use the dough scraper to place the boule seam side UP in the well rice-floured brot-form. Cover the brot-form with the tea towel, and place an upside down mixing bowl over top to keep the dough from drying out. Leave the shaped bread, away from draughts, on the counter or in the oven with only the light turned on for about an hour or until the ball has almost doubled.
- baking: To tell if it’s ready to bake: Firmly, yet gently, press your floured finger on the side of the bread. If the dough springs back immediately, re-cover the loaf and leave it for longer on the counter. If the dough gradually returns back after being pressed, put both parts of the combo cooker (or a cast-iron frying pan and large stainless steel bowl) into the oven and preheat all to 425F.
- About fifteen minutes later, remove the hot combo cooker from oven (wear oven mitts!!) and place on a rack or stove top (unless you like burn marks on your counter… or board).
Take a deep breath, and overturn the shaped bread into the shallow pan of the combo cooker (or the frying pan). Using a lame (or scissors, or serrated knife), score the bread. Immediately put deeper pan of the combo cooker (or stainless steel bowl) overtop like a hat. Put everything into the oven and immediately turn it down to 400F. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the hat and bake for a further 30 minutes or so, until the crust is a nice dark brown and the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
- cooling: When the bread is out of the oven, remove it from the pan and allow it to cool on a footed rack before slicing and eating; the bread is still baking internally when first removed from the oven! If you wish to serve warm bread (of course you do), reheat it after it has cooled completely: To reheat any uncut bread, turn the oven to 400F for 5 minutes or so. Turn the oven OFF. Put the bread into the hot oven for about ten minutes. This will rejuvenate the crust and warm the crumb perfectly.
:: salt: I urge you to weigh the salt. For more raving about this, please see Salt is salt, right?
:: leavener: The leavener is a 100% hydration, liquid levain. It takes about 5 days to create. (Please see our take on Jane Mason’s Natural Starter made with Wheat Flour.)
:: flours: The amounts of all-purpose and whole wheat flours in the “pre-dough” can be altered. Instead of 400 grams all-purpose and 100 grams whole wheat flours, the following combination works well:
- 375gm unbleached all purpose (no additives) flour
- 125gm 100% whole wheat flour, sifted AFTER measuring
- 5gm wheat germ
- 5gm corn meal, or barley flour, or finely ground flax seed, or….
Unless you are using a very small amount of whole-wheat flour in the actual bread dough, always sift the whole-wheat flour into the mixing bowl. (Set the bran aside to add to the loaf after shaping OR for another use – put it into granola, or biscuits, or waffles, or….)
:: parchment paper: I used to line the pan with parchment paper but it became apparent that the paper was more trouble than it’s worth. However, if tipping the bread out of the basket into the hot pan is too nerve wracking, here is what I used to do
(we didn’t have the combo-cooker when I typed the following):
Put a square of parchment paper on the counter (the paper should be large enough to cover the bottom and sides of the frying pan). Overturn the shaped bread onto the parchment paper. Using a lame (or scissors, or serrated knife), score the bread. Take the pan and bowl out of the oven (wear oven mitts!!) and place the frying pan on the stove (to prevent burning your countertop…). Transfer the bread to the middle of the frying pan and immediately put the stainless steel bowl overtop like a hat.
– me, our take on Robertson’s Tartine Bread recipe, 2017
It’s Sourdough September
This post is to “share the delicious delights of genuine sourdough”, “encourage more people to bake genuine sourdough”, and “help people to say no to sourfaux and avoid paying a premium for something that simply isn’t the real deal”.
Wild thing, you make my loaf spring
Since 2013, the ninth month of the year is when the Real Bread Campaign goes on a mission to help everyone discover that: life’s sweeter with sourdough!
The aims of #SourdoughSeptember are to:
▪ Share the delicious delights of genuine sourdough
▪ Encourage more people to bake genuine sourdough
▪ Celebrate the small, independent bakeries that bake genuine sourdough
▪ Help people to say no to sourfaux and avoid paying a premium for something that simply isn’t the real deal
▪ Encourage people to join and/or donate to the Real Bread Campaign
Are you in? Great!
– Real Bread Campaign, Sustainweb.org | Sourdough September
» Creating a Culture …Again (Chad Robertson starter, June 2012)
» 1st Attempt at Tartine Bread: Looks good, doesn’t it? (Chad Robertson starter, June 2012)
» 2nd Attempt at Tartine Bread (Chad Robertson starter, July 2012)
» And we have a new pet… (Jane Mason starter, July 2017)
» Wordless Not-Wednesday: who needs Le Creuset?! (Tartine Bread made with Jane Mason starter, August 2017)
» Tartine Bread: 3rd time’s the charm (and 4th and…) (success with Robertson’s Tartine Bread, August 2017 – our take on his recipe)
» Sifting: the key to lofty whole wheat bread (Bookmarked) (Ken Forkish’s 75% whole wheat bread in “Flour Water Salt Yeast”)
» If at first you don’t succeed…
(attempt at ‘all white’ Tartine Bread)