A Tartine Bread, made in a Loaf Pan
I wanted to see what would happen if I made the Tartine recipe but baked it in a loaf pan.
Attempt #1: Black Friday Bread
On my first attempt, I might have missed a couple of folds because I had to rush out to get a computer-printer cable for my wife. I found the crowds a bit thick due to the Black Friday rush. Yes, we now have sales in Canada on that day too (even though our Thanksgiving Day is much earlier). Retailers say they have to, in order to stop the leakage at the border, but our crowds that are shopping on Black Friday will never be as big, our selection never so vast, and our stress levels not nearly so high. Still, it kept me away from my bread folding a lot longer than I wanted.
I think the best place to be on a Black Friday is not in the stores but at home, safely baking bread. I saw people lined up outside stores before the doors opened, waiting for the sales. I saw them tearing apart displays of electronics. I saw them lined up at the cash register. I saw people carrying high-def TVs out 2@ a time in their shopping baskets. Thankfully though, here in Canada we don't pepper spray each other in our frustration or shoot each other for our already-purchased items. Not yet anyway. But we do follow the lead of our more populous neighbour to the south. One day, it might come to that.
The dough had a tiny amount of oven spring, mostly at the expense of the bread, as it tore itself away from the tin, leaving gaps along the side of the loaf. I didn't score the bread because I was afraid it would deflate the dough rather than free it.
Although the bread proofed about 4 hours, it didn't really double in size prior to baking. Perhaps it required slightly longer. An alternative to a longer proofing, and a better solution to the fact that the dough didn't rise to the top of the pan, if I try this again I would increase the amounts of dough.
I was especially timid with this loaf today, and thinking that the top was browning too quickly, I backed off on the heat during the last 20 minutes of the baking, to 425 degrees F. The unfortunate consequence of this was that the bread is not well baked in the middle of the loaf. It remained somewhat gooey there, and after cooling collapsed even further.
Early results, on the ends of the loaves made me realize that this tastes quite all right. I like the flavour of this bread. I wanted something plain for a change, after eating olive bread and bread that was quite grainy.
But the middle parts of the loaf were quite gummy, uncooked, and I berated myself for my timidity.
I resolved to make these loaves again, this time I would see if the loaf pans would fit inside a roasting pan, making it into a "poor man's dutch oven". This time, I would use the newer weights of ingredients.
Attempt #2: Scaled to Perfection
The second time I made this recipe, I adjusted it as follows:
• 1400g ww flour is the new 100%
• 980g water is the new 70% hydration
• 70g water added with the salt will bring it to 75% (or total hydration 1050g)(you might want to bring this up to 80% total, or 1120g, by starting with 1050g and adding 70g of water)
• 280g of sourdough starter is the new 20%
• 28g salt is the new 2%
My take on a Bad Review I saw of Tartine Bread
Let's stop here and talk -- at length, perhaps ad nauseum -- about this adjustment in recipe amounts for a minute. I was quite surprised recently to find one of the bread experts, eric hanner, on the "Fresh Loaf Blogs" giving a bad review (dissenting viewpoint) to the Tartine Bread book.
There had been several other, earlier, positive reviews there ( e.g. one by Sam Fromartz and another by dmsnyder)
The dissenting Hanner's comments brought a torrent of replies, some in agreement, and others disagreeing -- many from people who don't own the book and now say they have an excuse not to try the techniques. Hanner did say, further along in his replies, that someone in his household said that the bread he baked from that book was the "best in a while." This has been my experience too: I might pick up Reinhart's book, and my wife will cringe. But when I pick up the Tartine book, she relaxes. She told me, "I know that when I see you with that book, the results will be good." So why the negative review?
It seems that Hanner, an experienced breadmaker at the Fresh Loaf forums, was enamoured by Robertson's "advanced techniques" of using the wild yeast leaven, but he had several smaller complaints, and at least two BIG complaints: (1) that the Cast Iron Dutch Ovens that are swapped out of the oven and loaded with dough while they are piping hot at 500 degrees F is just an accident waiting to happen, and utterly unnecessary, once you get on to the trick of using a baking stone and a pizza peel, along with adequate sources of steam. (2) Tartine's recipe contains non-standard baker's math which will wind up confusing the newbie.
To the first objection, I would agree (with one reservation). I've been burned several times, mostly on my forearms, as I reach for pots in the middle of the oven and touch the side of the stove. That, however, is because I jam 2 dutch ovens in there at a time to save heat. In other words, I'm not following the actual Tartine instructions, which would have you use one pot twice. But I can see how someone with a little less strength might have some trouble moving these heavy pots around. My reservations about the objection, however, come when you consider the alternative that Hanner suggests: a newbie to breadbaking, shaping, proofing and handling these high hydration doughs gently enough for the use of pizza peels. That is significantly difficult for noobs, and you will not obtain consistent results that way -- I tell you that from my experience. The dutch ovens ensure that your loaves, no matter how wet, will retain some shape. I've been burned both ways, literally and figuratively, in the past.
To the second objection, I'm not really qualified to reply. I didn't invent baker's math, and I haven't had a course on it, I've only picked it up from osmosis. I just know that as a newbie, I had a lot of trouble with it, especially when I came to recipes that used different grains, different flours, different preferments and varying ways in which the grains are cracked open. For example, I understand the idea that all the flour in the dough should add up to 100%; but are we to add to this, for example, the cracked wheat that we might have put in the poolish? Why not then the cracked grains that we put on the crust? What about extra bran or germ that we might add to a dough or sprinkle on the crust? If we aren't to add the weight of the cracked grains, how fine must we grind the grain before we include it in the flour weight? I've seen different recipes handle these questions differently. I've also seen hydration handled differently by different people. Is honey or molasses or malt to be included in the hydration? If so, in what ratio? I've seen different experts use recipes with milk, and the amount of hydration might count all or only part of the milk (the amount that is water). So in short, I'd have to say that baker's math has a lot of gray areas.
This is not the case, supposedly, when it comes to the wild yeast leaven. Now, I personally find the Tartine method very simple to use and remember. What Chad Robertson has done is, he has simplified the weights, so I rarely have to refer to the book anymore. He does this by cleverly making the total flour 1000g = 100%. No need for calculators. Everything falls into place after that. The salt is 2%, 20g. The water is 75%, 750g. The leaven is 20%, 200g.
Woops. Wait a minute, says ehanner. That leaven contains both water and flour. "Standard" baker's math says we are to add the flour of that leaven to the flour amounts. And the water of that leaven needs to be added to the hydration amounts. That means, in actual fact, that the total flour of a normal Tartine dough is 1100g=100%. And that essentially throws off our other percentage measurements, so that the final dough's amounts should read:
- 1100g flour = 100%
- 850g water = 77.27%
- 20g salt = 1.8%
Leaven is included in above amounts, but we will also give it here as a separate percentage of the whole so we can build it:
100g flour = 100% of the leaven build, or 9.09% of the total flour
(to calculate this percentage, cross multiply to find x: 1100g : 100g = 100% : x%)
To calculate the percentages of the water in the leaven can be a bit trickier for the unsuspecting (read: "me"). Here, we have to be absolutely clear what we are comparing our water to. We know that our leaven contains 100g of water, because our water and flour are going to be same weight in the leaven. But do we want to express that water as a percentage of the total water, or a percentage of the total flour? Curiously, bakers generally give it as a percentage of the total flour:
100g water = 100% of the leaven build and x% of the total flour
(to calculate this percentage, cross multiply to find x thus:
1100g : 100g = 100% : x% x resolves to 9.09%)
Alternatively, you could express it as a percentage of the total water thus:
100g water = 100% of the leaven build and x% of the total water
*if you tried using water and cross multiplied here to find x:
850g : 77.27% = 100g : x% x resolves to 9.09%
Just be darn sure that you use the 77.27% percentage, and don't consider all of the water to be 100%.
For their recipes, I have seen both Hamelman and Reinhart give the amounts of each soaker or preferment individually and then later give a final tally for the "final dough". For this dough, for example, Reinhart might say the main dough was 1000g=100%, and his separate leaven build was 100g=100% flour, and 100g=100% hydration. And then he would give a total for the final dough to be total flour 1100g=100%, final hydration 77.27%. Hamelman does that too, and I seem to recall one of them saying somewhere "no one ever uses the final total percentages in practice". So by mentioning it, are we clarifying or complicating things for newbies?
Let me ask this a different way: would Hanner's insistence on the 'correct' way to measure things have made a difference to a newbie, or to anyone else -- besides a baker already familiar with baker's math? Or would it just have complicated the recipe and left many to scratch their heads with confusion or indifference? I figure that Robertson simply chose to leave out the final dough percentages, as they have no practical purpose, and would seriously confuse noobs to bread baking.
Why is standard baker's math even important? Well, the baker's percentage sticklers say that it makes a difference if you want to scale the recipe. Is that true, though? Let's use a simple example: let's say you want to make a lot of bread for a party or a bake sale. You want to increase the number of loaves you are baking from 2, to 20, lets say. No problem: We'll just ramp up the Tartine recipe from 1000g of flour to 10,000g of flour. The leaven you will need is going to be 20%, so 2000g -- i.e. 1000g of flour and 1000g of water. We don't even need a calculator for that, Chad has made it easy.
I will leave it as an exercise for the reader to check these amounts against the sticklers method (or rather, the "conventional baker's math method"). Get out your calculators or your pencils and papers and plug in the percentages that we've already mentioned above. I believe you will see that all we have done by using "official" baker's math is complicate it unnecessarily.
Example from Life
Now let's take a different example, one from my baking today. Let's say I want to ramp up the amount of flour I originally put into the recipe to 1400g, so I can be sure to have enough dough to put in my 2 tins. I have just pulled that number, 1400g, out of the air as a rough guess of how much dough I'll need, based on my attempt #1 above.
Using Chad's method, my 1400g is the new 100%:
• 1400g ww flour is the new 100%
• 980g water is the new 70% hydration
• 70g water added with the salt will bring it to 75% (or total hydration 1050g)
• 280g of sourdough starter is the new 20%
• 28g salt is the new 2%
I think that it was fairly easy to scale the dough, this way.
|testing to see if 2 pans would fit in the roasting pan, side by side|
|Yes they do, and they plump up nicely.|
|A Sandwich-bread-like crumb|
How can we compare this to "standard" baker's math? Using official baker's math, the new 100% should include 1/2 the weight of the starter. But we don't know the weight of the starter yet, because we have expressed it as a percentage of the whole. So there is another step involved: first we have to express our 1400g as a percentage of the whole (it is 100% - 9.09% = 90.91%), and use that percentage to figure out how much flour there will be in the leaven. Now cross multiply to solve for the weight of the flour in the leaven:
1400g : 90.91% = xg : 9.09%
and x resolves to 139.98g
Now we know that our total flour, our 100%, is 1400g + 139.98g = 1539.98g. Note that using the Tartine method, we arrived at 1540g. So far, so good. We're in the ballpark. Let's use this 100% to figure out the weights of everything else based on the percentages we've previously calculated:
- 1539.98g flour = 100% (some of this is in the leaven)
- 1189.94g water = 77.27% (some of this is in the leaven)
- 27.7g salt = 1.8%
- 139.98g flour = 100% of the leaven build, and 9.09% of the total flour
- 139.98g water = 100% of the leaven build, and 9.09% of the total flour
For my kitchen scale, which doesn't do partial grams or decimal points, this rounds out to very close to what we achieved by doing it Robertson's way. But you have to appreciate that with baker's math, you cannot drop the decimal places. When I originally figured this out, I used a hydration percentage of 77% rather than 77.27% and ended up with a final weight that was slightly over 4g off Robertson's method. Not using the decimal places, or rounding off the numbers too early in the calculations, is going to introduce errors that will be magnified the more you scale the recipe. If you did the earlier exercise left to the reader, you would see that the salt in the "standard" baker's math is off by 2 grams. That again is a rounding error caused by the more complex "standard" baker's math.
I admit I'm no genius (I even have been known to misspell genious), but to me, the official way seems unnecessarily harder. And if I hadn't known the correct values to plug into it, I would have made any number of mistakes along the way.
Nope, Robertson's math is much simpler to remember, much simpler to use, and it has one dramatic effect: you think of your leaven as something altogether separate from the final dough. You treat it differently. It is different! It is not a dough, it is a leaven! It is more than the tallies you can apply to the dough. It is not at all equivalent to the flour and water the recipe otherwise calls for. Like salt, it is an additive to the flour and water that makes up the dough. Forget that it too is made also from flour and water. Robertson's method treats it as an ingredient separate from the dough.
You will treat it this way.
If you follow his recipe and method.
And I think that you can trust it.
Results of my Second Attempt
Again, I didn't fold it quite as much as a real Tartine loaf -- this time, because I was out walking the dog during some of the bulk fermentation. I decided that this was beneficial anyway, since I wouldn't get those huge irregular holes, I would have a more consistent sandwich-style crumb if I didn't fold it too much.
This time I had enough dough and during proofing it rose to the top of the tins. I scored the loaves slightly before putting them into the roasting pan. One of the tins had to sit a little sideways, but that's okay, the roasting pan lid still fit overtop of both tins. As an afterthought I put some water in the roasting pan for steam. That worked surprisingly well.
The loaves had a dramatic ovenspring, showing that I ought to have scored them deeper. Or perhaps a cross-hatch method.
This time, the loaves were well and truly baked. A bit of the upthrust crust by the score where it blew apart did blacken somewhat in the heat too close to the broiler. I rubbed a bit of butter on the hot loaves as they came from the oven, to make the top crust a bit softer. That worked well.
And the taste?
Tartine. Not at all sour. Wonderful. I'm going to go eat some now. With buckwheat honey.
Notes to Myself
- If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
- For years, Ptolemy's method of calculating the position of the planets was the "standard". But it was very complicated, because you had to visualize the planets circling the earth in different spheres, and some had retrograde motion. Copernicus, Galileo and Newton gave us a new non-standard method that was easier to calculate, was provable, and soundly mathematically modeled. It became the new standard. I maintain the Tartine Method of Baker's Math is fully adequate to build excellent bread. It could even become the new standard.
- For the second part of the baking, once you take the cover off the roasting pan, you could lower the tray, so it is not too close to the broiler.
- Don't listen to the bad reviews. Get Tartine Bread book, and start making good bread.