The first true entry to this begins with a modified Tartine sourdough recipe. I’ve been working this recipe on and off for a while now and still continue to struggle. Having a feel for how elastic the dough should be, how much should rise, and all the indicators experienced bakers are able to pick up on still don’t come completely naturally for me.
In addition, I’ve had to adjust the formula here and there to accommodate my very dry climate and high altitude (~5000 ft above sea level). The following formula reflects my constant tinkering in an attempt at producing more oven spring with my bread.
Prepare the leaven – 10:00pm
The night before you plan to prepare your dough, mix the following, lightly cover, and set out on the counter overnight:
- 55g ripe starter
- 200g Whole wheat flour (I use 100% here instead of a mix of whole wheat and all-purpose because my starter is extremely active with whole wheat)
- 210g water (water is added to compensate for the whole wheat flour)
Mix the flour + water, autolyse – 8:00am
In the morning check your leaven, it needs to be at the right stage. You want it to smell like “ripe fruit”, it shouldn’t smell “sweet” like when you first mixed it the night before. If it smells incredibly vinegary you probably have a very active starter and have let it go too far.
Gather the following:
- 250g of your new leaven
- 400g whole wheat flour (Great River Organic in my case)
- 600g unbleached white flour (I use King Arthur Bread Flour here)
- 20g salt
- 750g + 50g water in reserve for the next step
- Add 250g leaven to your large mixing bowl
- Pour in 750g water and mix with your hands until the leaven is completely dispersed
- Add 600g white flour and 400g whole wheat flour and mix with your hand until all the dry bits of flour are gone
- Cover your bowl with a towel, or if in a dry climate, plastic wrap and let autolyse) for 30 minutes. Essentially just let your now fully mixed dough sit for 30 minutes
- After 30 minutes, add 20g salt on top of the dough and slowly pour your reserved water on top. Squeeze the dough with your hand (like your making a fist) to incorporate the salt throughout the dough.
- Now reach your hand under the dough and pull the side up and over onto itself. Continue to do this as you spin the bowl; grab, pull, and push. Do this just until the dough comes together and becomes super sticky. Generally, this will only be between 5-10 turns.
- Transfer your dough to your plastic or glass container, set a timer for 30 minutes.
At this stage we want to do 4 sets of turns, plus 1 – 2 hours of bulk fermentation.
A “turn” consists of reaching under your dough, grab the bottom and pull up the dough on top of itself. Do this 4 times, one of each side of your container (if it’s square, that is). Additionally, you want to do this rather vigorously. The stretch up and down on itself is what gives the dough strength by developing the gluten.
- 9:30am – Turn 1
- 10:00am – Turn 2
- 10:30am – Turn 3
- 11:00am – Turn 4
- 11:00am to 1:00pm – Rest on Counter
Pre-shape – 1:00pm
When the dough has risen about 20-30% and you see a bunch of little air pockets in your dough, it’s ready for shaping. Take the dough out of the container onto your unfloured work surface.
Sprinkle some flour on top of your dough and divide in two equal halves. Take a half, flip it over and pull each of 4 edges from under onto the top. Then, flip the folded dough over so the seam is on your work surface. You want to form loose boules here by using your hand and your dough knife. Your work surface grabs the bottom of the dough slightly as you spin the dough around to make a little ball. Repeat with the other half and cover (I cover with two inverted mixing bowls) for 30 minutes.
Shape – 1:30pm
The resting dough should have spread out, but not quite into a pancake shape. If it has formed a pancake you can strengthen it by pre-shaping one more time and waiting another 20-30 minutes.
Flour the top of one of the boules and flip it over with your lightly floured hand and dough knife. Take the part of the dough that’s closest to you and fold it up and over in half. Take the part that’s to the right, stretch it out as far as it will stretch, and fold it up and to the left. Repeat with the left side and the side of the dough farthest from you. Then take the edge that’s closest to you, pull it up and over again towards the back. When doing this last move you will lift the entire dough up and over until the seam side is now down on your work surface.
Spin the dough using your two hands to shape into a boule. As you slightly pick up the dough and spin it, the bottom snags the unfloured work surface and creates tension. I do this several times to create a very taught surface on the top of the boule. Sometimes small air bubbles will be visible.
Proof – Appx 2:00pm
Place towels into small mixing bowls and dust with white rice flour (pretty heavily). These bowls will hold the dough as they proof in the fridge overnight.
Take your taught boules and place them into the floured bowls with the seam up facing you. I place each of my bowls into plastic bags and then into the fridge.
Score + Bake – 8:00am
Gather your tools:
In the morning you first want to get your oven ready. I place the rack in the middle of the oven with a pizza stone on top. The stone isn’t necessary but I’ve noticed much more consistent baking with it absorbing the heat for about 1 hour. Turn your oven on to 450°F (230°C) and let it preheat.
Take one of your loaves out of the fridge, cut a circular piece of parchment paper, and place it on top of the bowl. I then place the pizza peel on top of the parchment paper (and bowl) and invert the whole thing quickly to get the dough out of the bowl and onto the paper and peel.
Get your razor blade out and score the top of the loaf to allow the bread to expand while rising in the oven. I have lately been scoring mine in a Roman numeral 3 fashion, as I like to call it.
Quickly take out the shallow half of your hot combo cooker (careful here, this thing is smokin’) and drag into it the parchment paper holding the dough. Cover with the other half of the combo cooker and bake for 20 minutes. After this time, open the oven, remove the top part of the combo cooker, close the oven again, and cook for an additional 35 minutes. These times and temps are a change from the Tartine book but I’ve found them to be necessary due to my elevation and climate.
I’d wait at least one hour after baking is complete before you slice into it. Good luck on that, though. My favorite is seen below: half with organic jam and half with salted butter.
Since baking this loaf a while ago at this point, I’ve modified this recipe even further to produce even better results. Head over to my new Tartine baking attempts to see how things have progressed.
If you use this recipe, tag @maurizio on Instagram and use the hashtag #theperfectloaf so I can take a look!