Bro. Do you even bake?

The recipe for the famous Tartine country loaf is less helpful than advertising for the bakery and new age woo woo. Pretentious garbage, really. Here is my consolidating upon a practical, clear recipe for sourdough bread. The only ingredients should be flour, water, and salt. The bread should be a crusty, rustic, (mostly) whole grain.

Grow a Starter

In the morning, add 100g of unsifted, all-purpose (AP) flour and 100g of water to a tall, lidded, glass jar. Stir with a spatula, and leave it sit, covered in a warm place all day. The environment should be distinctly warm, and so this often means turning on the oven at its lowest setting for a few hours (e.g. bake at 170°F).

Every morning, pour off all but about 125g of the starter. Use this poured-off batter to make a fry bread with sesame oil & scallions & five spice, or do something fancier. Add 50g of unsifted AP flour & 50g of water to the starter, stir with a spatula, and scrape down the insides of the jar. As usual, the environment should be warm.

Your starter is ready for bread when it is frothy & bubbly, and doubles in size by the afternoon. This will probably take a week-or-so of daily feedings.

Make a Leaven

The night before you want to bake bread, spoon a heaping tablespoon of starter into a large glass bowl. Add 75g of warm (80°F) water, and 75g of AP flour, and stir with a spatula. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, poke a few holes, and leave it to sit overnight.

After making the leaven, tuck your starter into the refrigerator and stop feeding. When you want to bake bread again, remove the starter from the refrigerator in the evening, and feed it in the morning as usual for a few days.

The next morning, confirm that a teaspoon of your leaven spooned off the top can float in a bowl of water. Your leaven may need more time or warmth. If so try again at lunchtime.

Mixing

Dissolve 20g of salt in 50g of water, and set aside. Use a salt with lots of minerals, like sea salt or even plain ‘ole iodized.

Add ??? 650g of warm (80°F) water to your leaven, and stir it until only a few clumps remain. Add 325g of unsifted AP flour and 700g of unsifted whole wheat flour to the bowl. Work the dough until all the flour is wet. Let this rest covered for 45 minutes, for the autolyse.

Pour the salt water over the dough, and repeatedly pinch to incorporate. The dough will be very wet.

This dough is about 71% hydrated, ignoring that first tablespoon of starter.

To-do: Meant to try with even less, but actually a little more.

Fermentation

Leave the dough covered in a warm place. Every 30 minutes, with your hands wet from washing, pull up & fold the dough from the side of the bowl. Do this 4 times with a quarter turn of the bowl between each folding. So that’s 4 folds every 30 minutes for 3 hours. After 3 hours, the dough should be larger and puffy. Put 6 counters next to the bowl as a physical mnemonic, removing one each folding.

First Shaping

Generously flour the counter with unsifted AP flour. Scrape the fermented dough out of the bowl and onto the counter. Cut the dough in half with a floured dough knife. Half of the dough will be about 955 grams. Roughly shape the two halves into boules by turning the floured plastic dough knife around the under edge of the dough. “Shape them into rounds by slipping your pastry scraper under the edge of the dough and then scraping it around curve of the dough, like turning left when driving. Do this a few times to build the surface tension in the dough…”

Flour the tops of the boules generously, cover them with plastic wrap, and let them rest for 30 minutes.

Second Shaping

Flip each boule over onto the countertop with the plastic dough scraper. This puts the floured side downward. Using a metal dough scraper, pull the boule of dough along the sticky countertop, to develop surface tension. Turn the football shape and pull again. Do this just until a bit of tearing occurs on the surface.

Line two bowls with clean towels. Generously flour the towels with a 50/50% blend of rice flour and unsifted AP flour. Flip a boule into each bowl, leaving the seamed side facing upward. Tip the boules in the bowls and flour the edges of the towels.

This time: Proofing in the baking containers.

Proofing

Spray two sheets of plastic wrap and place those sheets face-down to cover the bowls holding the boules. The spray will prevent sticking if the boule rises to the level of the bowl’s lip. Poke a few holes in the plastic wrap. Leave the bowls to proof for 4 hours, in the usual warm environment.

Baking

Preheat the oven to 500°F with a dutch oven inside. Pull the hot dutch oven out of the… oven, and tip a boule into its bottom. Score the top of the boule with an oiled, sharp knife. Cover the dutch oven, and bake for 20 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 450°F, and bake covered for another 10 minutes. Remove the lid of the dutch oven, and continue to bake uncovered for 25 minutes. Cool the boule.

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