The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Tartine country bread

dvalentine10's picture

First time making Tartine's Basic Country Bread - please help!

September 30, 2012 - 1:04pm -- dvalentine10

So I'm sure nobody here is remotely sick of reading posts about beginners who struggle making Chad Robertson's Basic Country Bread. Nobody at all. No problems. Please continue.


Today I baked my first basic loaf using the recipe (err, formula) described in the widely-read, wildly-quoted Tartine Bread cookbook. Very nice book. Loved the pictures.

theuneditedfoodie's picture

Tartine bread has been quite a quest, first in San Francisco, CA., and then here in my lovely little casa, where I basically toiled 25 hours for my two loaves of the basic Tartine country bread.  Let’s start the discussion with San Francisco, CA.; two months back when my wife and I were on vacation to that part of the world, we decided to visit some local bakeries there. Tartine bakery in the Mission district was one of the places we had decided to go. Unfortunately, when we did arrive there, we were told the loaves didn’t come out of the oven by 5pm, and then too there was no assurance if one would get anything or not. Personally, I was a little mystified by the person on the counter, who offered me no pledges even if I stuck around the area till 5pm. Evidently, later through my google searches and endless hours of browsing through the world wide web, I came to know that evidently the new policy of Tartine was that one had to call three days ahead to reserve any bread.. What kind of a bakery is this that even though you may stand long hours waiting outside there is no guarantee of a loaf; obviously there seems to be a problem. My reaction to that was in some ways similar to the SF Weekly’s Jonathan Kauffman, “screw all of you cult-of-Tartine members who use your insider knowledge to screw walk-in customers out of one little loaf of bread.” At least, I am not the only one grunting on my bad luck with Tartine.


To read more on Kauffman’s Tartine bread quest/grunt go here:


Personally, I was a little more than disappointed at Tartine, because in my quest to get loaves from Acme or even Linguria Bakery in North Beach, I didn’t have any major issues. I mean sure on December 24th, I stood 3 hours outside Linguria Bakery, starting at 8 am, to get some of their delightful focaccia, but at least I didn’t go back empty-handed.


A couple of months post my major disappointment at Tartine bakery, I eventually got a hold of their bread book in my library. In some ways, I thought this would be the perfect solace to my disappointment at their bakery. Perhaps, by baking the Tartine bread at home, I may be able to taste what exactly their bread feels/tastes like.


And so, eventually, on Feb 17th at 11.45pm, I started building its leaven. Now, the Tartine leaven asked for a tablespoon of the mature starter, alongside 200 grams of water with 200 grams of 50/50 flour blend (bread flour/ whole wheat flour).  In a perfect world, now that I look back at it, I should have fed the starter to make it more active and bubbly.  For it probably had been close to 3 days since I had last fed it. Perhaps, I was just little tired. Anyways, building the leaven process in the Tartine bread book suggested to leave it overnight. In the morning around 8.45am, I checked to see the leaven and it wasn’t all bubbly. So I dropped a spoonful of it into the bowl of water, to see if it was actually floating or not? Unfortunately, like Titanic my spoonful of leaven sunk too. This was a bad omen, because if the leaven had fermented perfectly, it would have floated, so I decided to increase the temperature of my proofer and kept the leaven there for 3 hours more. Post the 3 hours of wait, I did experiment the same thing, however, this time the results were positive.


The next step was to dissolve the leaven in 700 grams of water, and then gradually add the 900 grams of white flour and 100 grams of whole-wheat flour and bring it together by mixing with bare hands. After that the dough mixture was left to rest for 25 minutes, to what Professor Raymond Calvel (Julia Child and Simon Beck’s teacher for the bread chapter of Mastering the art of french cooking, Volume 2) termed the autolyse.


At the end of the resting period, 20 grams of salt and 50 grams of water were added to the dough mixture. It is after this step where I perhaps created my biggest blunder for the Tartine bread. After combining the salt and the second batch of water was the beginning of the bulk fermentation period for 3 to 4 hours. This is where I forgot to read further instructions, which clearly stated to fold the dough every 30 minutes. So after about 3 hours at 3.30 pm, when I actually did read further, I realized my blunder. So to make that up, in the next hour between 3.30-4.30pm, I actually folded the dough four times, at the interval of 15 minutes. Then in the period from 4.30 to 5.20pm, I folded twice again, at that point of time, I thought I could take out the dough and continue further, that is when disaster struck. The dough just came out as a beast from the sea and took over my wooden cutting board, and like the old man at the sea, I vigorously tried to scoop it with my scraper and tame it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t, clearly the gluten structure had not developed in the dough. So I put it back from where it came, in the glass bowl, and let it ferment for 2 hours more, folding it every 30 minutes. In the mean time, I jumped onto YouTube and started feeding myself with videos on working with higher hydration dough. I would say this procedure did help somewhat, because when I went back at around 7.20pm even though the dough was quite wet, I could work my way through to build two pancake like structures, which were left for 20 minutes on the cutting board.


Eventually, the time came to do the final shaping of the dough—though, in my case, not exactly. For after 3 hours of final proofing, when I tried to take out the dough, it was still quite wet and sticking to my proofing basket cloth, even though I had plenty of flour in there. Somehow, I managed to take the dough out of the basket-however, it had almost gone flat, so I had to shape it again- one last time, before I put it on parchment paper and scored it and then lifted it into the Dutch oven.  By the time I put my first bread in the Dutch oven, it was 10.30pm and by the time, I got to bake my second bread and clean the kitchen it was about 12.30 pm. Since, the loaves were still cooling, I decided to cut the bread the next day and waited with breath abated.


So the following day, I decided to have some of my Tartine bread with good old butter and some Thimbleberry jam, which a friend of mine got me from Michigan. I would definitely recommend this jam to all the jam lovers; in fact you can even order it online at Now, coming back to my bread, the crust and crumb were quite decent. The crust as I have previously, repeatedly said, in a home oven the best crust can only happen in a Dutch oven. The performance of the crumb was quite delightful. The wife was also pleased that the bread had a sour note to it. I am guessing my overnight leaven build, did help accommodate the sourness to it. Looking back on, I thought a lot of the members had varied feelings about the Tartine country bread. Some thought the recipe was just too long, which I can understand to a point, but then you tend to indulge in a lot of fine details that only helps you improve the overall performance of the bread. 

Jonathankane's picture

Tartine Country Bread in Dutch Oven – without getting burned.

September 25, 2011 - 11:12am -- Jonathankane


This is my third batch of Tartine country bread with very good results each time-this is one my favorite breads.  I Followed his instructions for preparing the leaven and dough, I retarded the dough in the refrigerator overnight in the baskets.  

MadAboutB8's picture


I came across the famous Tartine Morning Buns when I was searching for croissant images of Tartine Bakery (as I was on my mission to perfect the croissant making, I figured I should look up to the best:))

The buns received rave reviews on the blogosphere and I was curious to find out myself how good they are. I just bought Tartine cookbook (the pastry version) recently and look forwards to Morning Bun recipe. However, the recipe wasn’t included in the book.  I managed to locate the recipe online on 7x7 website. The bun is an indulgence version of cinnamon rolls and made with laminated (croissant) dough. That’s perfect, another recipe I can try to keep practicing on croissants.  The rolls are filled with the mixture of brown sugar, cinnamon and orange zest. Doesn’t that sound like a recipe for success, buttery flaky pastry filled with orange cinnamon sugar? Indeed, it was the success. It tasted soooo good, pure heaven.

 The rolls were baked in muffin tin coated with butter and sugar, which gave it sticky caramelised bottom. A nice touch to the buns.

 Though I enjoyed the bun made with croissant dough, I had the feeling that sweet bread dough should have been used in the recipe instead of laminated dough. A close look at the actual Tartine's Morning Buns gave me that impression. The bun didn’t have layers of pastry. It was simply a bread bun. Moreover, baking laminated dough in muffin tins somehow limited its ability to expand. As a result, the pastry didn’t achieve its full flakiness potential and became slightly doughy, especially the parts that were sitting inside the muffin cup. If I am to make these Morning Buns again (which I’m sure I will), I will make them with sweet bread dough or brioche dough instead.

 Full post and recipe is here (


Onceuponamac's picture

Tartine Country Bread - 85% Hydration

May 8, 2011 - 9:30pm -- Onceuponamac

After trying 80% hydration with good success - I decided to try 85% hydration.  The crust was very crisp and the crumb quite moist - but I'm not pleased with the oven spring.  I think this dough would be great for pizza.  I used the "slap and fold" method for three turns on the bench after following Tartine's recipe for the initial turns in a combi square container.






ph_kosel's picture

I recently "discovered" an absolutely marvelous eatery fairly near me here in Sacramento called Ravenous Cafe.  We first tried it a couple weeks ago and had a delightful meal, but as a bread freak I was astounded at the really great bread they served, unlike nothing else I remembered.  I called them a few days later to learn more about that surprising bread and had the chance to talk to the chef, Mark Helms, who described it as basically a "Country Bread" inspired by Chad Robertson's book Tartine Bread.  He offered to give me a bit of his starter which I gratefully accepted (consuming another great meal at Ravenous Cafe on the way).

I tried the starter out this past weekend using a version of the recipe from Martha Stewart's website (link) .  The dough is basically a moist sourdough (75% hydration) made with a 90/10 blend of unbleached bread flour and whole wheat flour (I used King Arthur brand).  The recipe calls for a 100%-hydration starter made with a 50/50 blend of unbleached bread flour and whole wheat flour.

I'm not used to working with dough that moist but I muddled through as best I could - shaping the loaf was problematic for me.  The starter I mooched from Mark Helms performed beautiifully, and I wound up with a moist tasty bread with a very open crumb.


I didn't have a cover big enough to put over the loaves and they wound up toasty on the top and barely done on the underside, but it's pretty good for a first attempt.  Never made bread like this before, it's a real eye opener for me!

Onceuponamac's picture

Happy with the oven spring here :) I've been struggling to get cuts I'm satisfied with the disposable razor blade on a stick idea, so I decided to find an old straight blade razor (think what a barber would have used years ago).. I found one and had much better results - I've often admired Della Fattoria's breads (rosemary lemon, in particular) and have wondered how they cut the designs in the top.  I find when I use the disposable blade on the stick - the edge of the blade occasionally get's caught when I'm making a cut and tears the bread slightly. Using the straight blade razor worked great - it will be my new method of choice - now I just need to learn how to sharpen the blade on a leather strap.


GSnyde's picture

But, first, the weather.  Thunder, lightening and hail may not be a big deal to people in  some localities.  But in Northern California, they are rare as reliable weather-forecasting.  Saturday, our morning coffee was interrupted by a crashing downpour of (admittedly small) hail.  It went on for many minutes and accented our garden with glistening ice.


Now, back to bread.

I posted a question here a few days ago, asking how to achieve an airy, tender crumb in a sourdough bread, like the ones I’ve had from some local artisan bakeries.  Several wise advisors suggested higher hydration, and mentioned Tartine’s Basic Country Bread in particular.  I am among the diminishing group at TFL who had not previously baked that bread.  This weekend I ended my holdout.  And the result was just the crumb I’d been hoping for.


I found the formula at the breadexperience blog (  I refreshed my basic sourdough starter (70%AP/20%WW/10%Rye at 75% hydration) on Friday morning.  On Friday evening I made up the Tartine Leaven (50% white flour and 50% whole wheat at 100% hydration), using Central Milling Organic Artisan Baker’s Craft (malted) white flour and KAF whole wheat flour.  By Saturday at 9 a.m., the leaven was bubbly, and passed the float test noted in the formula.

The final dough was very fluid, but after a 30 minute autolyse and four hours of fermentation, with a four or five stretch and folds every 45 minutes or so, it became somewhat firmer and silky, though still quite sticky.  The sticky dough did not cooperate in the pull-stretch-rotate boule-forming technique, but I tightened the sheath as best I could, and plopped two blobs into well-floured 8-inch wicker brotforms.  They proofed for about four hours at room temperature, and grew about 25%, passing the poke test.

Then the real mess ensued.  Those blobs did not want to come out of their brotforms.  The edges of the blobs stuck to the rims of the brotforms and the “loaves” (if you can call them that) spread out on the parchment, defiantly declaring themselves to be pains rustiques.  I had decided to bake the loaves on stone with lots of steam, instead of in Dutch Ovens.  And the spreading blobs didn’t quite fit on my stone.  They melded together in the middle and almost oozed over the edges of the stone.

Thank goodness for a fully-preheated stone and the steam power of Sylvia’s Magic Towels plus a cast iron skillet with lava rocks.  The steam heat quickly gelled the oozing masses into something like loaves before they totally lost all form.  And they rose up like they were full of gas.

After 20 minutes of steam, I turned the oven from 450F to 420F with convection, and let the loaves bake for a total of 38 minutes, then left them on the stone with the oven door ajar to dry the crust for another 10 minutes.

Though these are not the best formed loaves I’ve baked, I could tell from their weight the moment I moved them from the oven to the cooling rack that they were going to be light-crumbed and open-celled.



This is pretty close to immediate gratification.  I go to TFL with a question.  I get some answers.  I follow the advice.  And it works!!  The crust was fairly thin and crispy when just cooled yesterday (or toasted today), and only slightly chewy today.  The crumb is deliciously tender and moist, even the day after.  The flavor is subtle, compared—say—to San Francisco Sourdough or the Hamelman Vermont, but very nicely complex in a delicate way.

We made a “bread dinner” of things that go great on sourdough—tuna salad, proscuitto, gorgonzola and a spread of chopped pear, chopped pecans and gorgonzola.  Washed down with a nice Pinot Noir Rose'.  And it was gooood!


Thanks to all for the very good guidance.  I got a happy result, but my crumb quest continues--can I achieve this crumb texture consistently? 



HLozada's picture

Questions on Shaping bread

February 26, 2011 - 12:57pm -- HLozada

Greetings all!

I am following the instructions for the Tartine Basic Country Bread recipe and have some questions on the initial shaping.  The description is, basically, "use your bench knife and work each piece of dough to a round shape".  I think he means to shape a boule, but I can't make sense of his description and the photo sequence (usually pretty clear on other parts of the process) is not very clear here.  

Subscribe to RSS - Tartine country bread