Saturday, April 19, 2014

Sweetie Pie

Hello and YES! This is the blog formerly known as the Tartine Bread Experiment. Please visit  me there for a very fun, very satisfying bread journey. That is where all the magic began...
. . .

I know, I know, sweet potato bread should be a winter thing, right? Well, I defy that opinion, since I can buy sweet potatoes year round, and in plethoric sacks no less. Hence, last week's loaf, and now this. Speaking of. If I made a 'Plain Jane' last week, what might naturally follow is one that is decidedly not plain, perhaps one decked out with sultanas and toasted pecans. Mm. I mean, it makes sense, right? Sweet potatoes with this sort of thing?
Sweetie Pie

Which brings me to this.

So, today I have an ingenious discovery to share. I actually had been wanting to perform this fancy maneuver for a while now, but every time I make a fruity nutty bread I forget. Here, let me explain. Whenever I make fruity nutty loaves I am never keen on the 'saltiness' of the surrounding bread. I have tried lowering the salt, but then you just have bland bread surrounding the little nuggets of fruit. And I'm not really that taken with adding sweeteners to my bread, I mean, I have no serious objection to it, but it's not something that I want to do on the regular. In comes the grand idea: what if I used the dried fruit soaking liquid as the water for my bread? Ingenious. Yeah.

I had this idea a while ago. Wait, I'm totally not kidding, it was actually about two years ago. But since this is not a bread that I make often, I always forget about it. Well, this time I didn't forget and man-oh-MAN, did it work like a dream! Our Sweetie Pie was ever so gently sweetened by the soaking liquid, like, everything was magically pulled together. The crumb was nice and tender, the sweetish bread in harmony with the fruit and nuts, the crust was shattery and fabulous. Another winner for our repertoire, and I dare say, you don't have to wait for the cold months to appreciate this jeweled beauty. She will be divine in clement weather and beneath harsher skies alike.

Have a look.

So, I have been feeding my starter 3x a day. Two days before you plan to make your Sweetie Pie, levain, kick your starter into high gear by feeding it 4x a day. It loves this intense feeding schedule, and will reward you with lofty loaves.


10g 100% hydration starter, kicked into high gear as mentioned above
75g freshly stoneground white whole wheat flour, I used Bluebird Grain Farms wheat berries
75g h2o

Mix all of this up together until you arrive at a medium viscosity paste. Ferment until it gets loose and bubbly, active looking. Mine went for 7 hours 15 minutes.


100g freshly stoneground hard white spring wheat, I used Bluebird Grain Farms
275g Giusto's Artisan flour
125g Heartland Mills Golden Buffalo high extraction flour
150g sweet potato, baked and sent through a ricer
280g raisin water (*see note below)

75g toasted pecans
100g golden sultanas & 100g Thompson's seedless raisins soaked in 300g hot water
10g salt

Early on dough day, bake your sweet potato(es). They should be soft when pierced with a knife and will ooze their sugars. Speaking of, make sure you lay down some parchment or the potato sugar will fall to the oven floor and cause a horrible, smoking mess. When they are cool enough to handle, peel and send them through a ricer. Set aside to cool completely before adding to the dough.

While the potatoes are roasting, soak your raisins in the 300g of hot water. Leave those raisins in there till the water goes cool. This is going to be the water that you use for your bread, so do not discard it.

* When the raisins are plumped and the water is cool, fish them out with scrupulously clean hands and squeeze them firmly, letting the excess water fall back into the vessel where they were plumping. Set those raisins aside. Weigh the water. Mine came to 244g, so I added 36g to this for a total amount of 280g of water for our dough.

When the levain has successfully fermented, dissolve it in the sweet water then add the flours and the cooled, riced, sweet potato. Squish all of this up and autolyse for one hour.

After autolyse, squish the salt into the dough until it is thoroughly incorporated.

Bulk fermentation time. 4 hours, as usual, perform your turns every 20 minutes for the first hour. After this hour, add the raisins and toasted pecans. Stretch and fold the dough so that it all of the fruit and nuts are completely enveloped. Now perform your turns every half hour for the next hour and a half so that the fruit and nuts become totally distributed throughout the dough. Try to keep as much of it in the dough as possible, because whatever is exposed on bake day will burn. And yes, I know, the dough is so full of goodies that it's challenging to turn, but employ a ginger hand, and once you feel that the fruit and nuts are incorporated, you can stop turning and let the dough ferment, unmolested, for whatever remains of the bulk.

After the bulk, scrape the dough onto a worktable that has been dusted with rice flour. Pull in the sides to make a loose round and rest for 10 minutes.

After the bench, shape the dough into a boule.

Pop the boule into a banneton or a bowl that has been lined with a linen piece dusty with rice flour.

I swear by my 4.5 quart Kitchenaid mixer bowls. Perfect size and shape to ferment the loaves. I have four of them solely for this cause. You can get them for about thirty bucks on eBay. Pop the dough into the fridge and ferment for 12 hours.


One hour before you plan to bake your bread, preheat the oven to 500 degrees, this that has been outfitted with your stone and combo cooker, both halves.

When the oven is preheated (full hour! no cheats!) pull the dough out of the refrigerator. It should have expanded nicely.

Place a piece of parchment over the mouth of the bowl, invert the bowl onto a peel and remove the bowl and cloth. Now is the time to brush away any excess rice flour so you don't end up with a snowy loaf.

Slash or snip the dough in a pattern of your choosing, then slide the dough into the shallow half of the combo cooker, pop on the lid and bake for 15 minutes at 500 degrees. After 15 minutes, lower the temp to 475 and bake for 15 more. After this 15, take the lid off of the combo cooker, and nestle the shallow half into its mouth. This will create a buffer between the hot stone and the bread's butt, and keep it from burning. Ohh and ahh at your oven spring and your perfectly steamed loaf.

Slide back into the oven and toggle the temp between 475 and 450 degrees. Sweet potato bread browns quickly, and loaves with fruit brown especially quickly because of the added sugars. You may have to bake on the lower (450 degrees) end so don't end up with a burned exterior and undercooked crumb. Spin the pan a couple of times while it is baking for even browning. And you will get a seriously caramelized crust when all is said and done. Take the loaf to 210 degrees. With breads containing such ample amounts of fruit, you want to be sure that it is thoroughly baked. I use my Thermapen to ensure that I arrive at the right temp before pulling it from the oven.

Cool at least 2 hours before slicing.

To the staff of life!

(This sweetie pie has been shared at wild yeast blog's yeast spotting)


  1. Hi there! Long time listener, first time caller. A couple of questions if you have time:

    1.) With your 3x or 4x /day feeding schedule, does your starter rise that fast so that it's fully expanded before you dilute it for the next feed? Mine usually takes about 10-12 hours to reach its max volume after feeding. (my ambient temps here in Tokyo may be a fair bit lower than yours this time of year) About where in the starter's cycle do you hit it with the next feeding?

    2.) When you do your final proof in the fridge, do you cover the loaves? If not, how do you avoid them forming a skin? (my technique for this is to wrap the bowls in a plastic bag, twisting the top underneath and trapping some air inside so that the bag won't contact the surface)



    1. Hi Dave. My starter is a monster! It's expanded within a couple of hours. Within less than an hour there is serious activity, so no, it does not 'dilute' the power of the starter. In fact, in enhances it. Starters are really yielding things. You don't have to feed it as many times as I do, but they do like to be fed. I would feed it at least twice a day if you are baking regularly. I don't really ever measure how much it expands. I look for the gas activity, and I really know my starter, so, it's more about intuition for me. I can tell by the consistency of it how powerful it will be, along with the gas activity, along with always knowing what time I have fed my starter. I can feed my starter every 5 hours and it's like jet fuel. So, 6am, 11am, 4pm, 9pm, for example.

      Yes. I cover the proofing loaves with a plate.

      Happy baking!



    2. (thank you for being a longtime follower!)

    3. Cheers - thanks again for making a great bread resource for us hobbyists! My starter seems a fair bit more active now than when I began it in January; likely the ambient temps make a big difference. (not so much for you SoCal folks) Will be interesting to keep it under control in the summer, I expect.

      One other question: I find that putting my loaves in the fridge pretty much completely stops all rising, doesn't just retard it. I'm wondering if the fridge temp differs; things at the back of the shelves occasionally freeze in mine. My workaround has been to do a few hours proof at room temp until the loaves get to proper size and then put in the fridge to make the scores easier to manage.

    4. I think my fridge is like 42 degrees.

      Your workaround sounds great! Whatever works, right?

      Don't put it in the back of the fridge ;)

    5. Ok - really last question. ;) I've been mixing everything by hand, but was thinking of firing up the Kitchenaid to see how it does with combining everything. Have you tried this route? Does it change your timings / turns / bulk rise? What's the process at Tartine? (I'm assuming that with so much more dough, mixing by hand would be prohibitive)

  2. France - slightly off topic, but is Farm to Table Geek (Mangia...) going to return? Perhaps I'm not able to find the link to some of your old cooking posts. On topic, I did the Lazy Loaf, but somehow scaled the WRONG flour (not Community Grains, but a Purple Whole Wheat). I pushed ahead to see what I could learn. Surprisingly, it looks great and will be better tasting than now. Thank you for your encouragement to all of us. At another time, I might have just dumped everything and wasted the opportunity and ingredients.
    Merci, ss

  3. oophs, I mean better tasting later than it was a couple of hours after bake.... sheesh.

    1. hm. no time soon (geek/mangia). i will keep you posted if i do, though.

      YES! this is what girl meets rye (by way of tartine bread experiment :) is ALL about. experiment, experiment, experiment. and NEVER ditch a levain or a dough. see it through. aways. this is how we learn!



  4. Hey France,

    Sweet stuff you got going here, figuratively and literally : ). Love it as always. What's the difference between four 20 gram feedings and one 80 gram feeding in a day? Is there some biological phenomenon that occurs during re-feeding that accumulates momentum?

    1. It gives bread some oomph! You don't have to feed it four times though, two or three is sufficient. I just like the power it gives to my bread. However, ONE feeding, no matter how large, is not sufficient before a bake. A starter will eat through the sugars at the same rate as a 20g feed, given that the feed is equal to the amount of starter already present in the jar. Even if you are feeding a larger starter, you need to feed it at least twice for a few days before a bake. Cheers!

  5. My original question wasn't worded correctly, sorry.

    20 grams starter fed with 40 grams water 40 grams flour twice a day seems like it would be equivalent to four 20-gram starter 20-gram flour/water feedings. What do you think?

    Also, which linens are you using?

    1. Hey Christian. Not sure I follow. My feedings are always 20/20/20. Whether I feed twice a day or four times a day.
      I have a bolt of linen left over from my design days. I just snip off a new bit when the old ones get nasty ;)

  6. Beautiful work and beautiful blog. I love this sweetie pie. It has a great crust by just seeing the photos and lovely place to score.


Hey. So, I answer all of my comments, but it may take me a few days to get to it. Go ahead and leave a comment or ask a question and I will respond the best I can!