Chad Robertson's Tips on Mixing Bread Dough

December 17, 2013

This week's guest editor is Chad Robertson, the man behind San Francisco's über-popular Tartine Bakery. He'll be walking us through how to make one of the Porridge Breads from his latest book, Tartine 3, and sharing bits of baking knowledge along the way.

Yesterday, Chad discussed the importance of making and maintaining a strong starter. Today, he's moving on to mixing.

Mixing Bread on Food52  Bread Mixing on Food52

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Yesterday, I talked about the importance of building and maintaining a healthy starter and levain. Once your leaven is ready to use, you must next make your dough, or premix. 

Bakers think in terms of ratios, and everything is always measured against the flour. The amount of water relative to the flour is called the hydration percentage -- I tend to use high hydration. In the bakery, our breads typically use hydration percentages in the low to mid 90s. But it’s important to consider the type of flour you’re using. For example, spelt, a softer type of wheat, is less tolerant to super hydration, as are porridge breads, since the porridge inherently imparts additional moisture to the mixture.

Oat Porridge Bread

Makes 2 loaves

500 grams high-extraction wheat flour
500 grams medium-strong wheat flour
70 grams wheat germ
750 grams water
150 grams leaven
25 grams fine sea salt
500 grams cooked oat porridge, cooled
200 grams almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped (optional)
50 grams almond oil (optional)
Coarsely chopped oat flakes (rolled oats) for coating (optional)

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flours and wheat germ. In another large mixing bowl, add 700 grams of water. Add the leaven to the water and stir to disperse. Add the flour mixture to the liquid-leaven mixture and stir to combine until no dry bits remain. Cover and let the premix rest for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours to hydrate during this rest period, taking care to keep the mixture where it is at warm room temperature. After the rest, or autolyse, add the salt and the remaining 50 grams of slightly warm water, folding the dough on top of itself to incorporate.

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Chad Robertson

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A Texas native, Chad Robertson always knew he wanted to devote himself to a profession that involved the craftsmanship of his hands. Robertson enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, New York but quickly became entranced by the art of bread baking. Robertson's first apprenticeship was at Berkshire Mountain Bakery under the guidance of Richard Bourdon. There, Robertson worked 12 hour shifts where he would pull 3,000 loaves a day. From there, he - and wife, Elisabeth Prueitt - journeyed to France and the French Alps to continue learning the intricacies of working with wood fired ovens and naturally leavened, long fermented breads. Upon their return, they became involved with Dave Miller in Chico, CA where they continued to hone their skills and understanding, this time with a larger focus on whole grains. Soon after, Robertson and Prueitt moved to Pt. Reyes, CA where they built a modest bakeshop called Bay Village Bakery. It was here that Robertson baked for 18 hours straight with the intent to perfect his technique by focusing on "three ingredients and a world of possibility." After five years in the country, the hum of city life beckoned. In 2002, the couple opened Tartine Bakery, which almost instantaneously became a San Francisco institution. In 2005, the couple opened Bar Tartine, a restaurant that continuously redefines itself and draws inspiration from all corners of the globe. In 2006, Robertson and Prueitt published the Tartine Cookbook (Chronicle Books), in 2010 Robertson published Tartine Bread (Chronicle Books), and in fall of 2013 Robertson published his third book, Tartine Book No. 3 (Chronicle Books). He is the recipient, with his wife, of the 2008 James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef and has been featured in a variety of premier media outlets, including Bon Appetit, Elle, Vogue, Food Arts, Food & Wine, Saveur, and The New York Times. Chad Robertson is considered one of the leaders in naturally leavened bread baking.