The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Tartine Country Bread - help me with my crumb please!

BazF's picture

Tartine Country Bread - help me with my crumb please!

Well this is a fascinating book and trying to achieve a consistently good result comparable to some of the awesome efforts on TFL is a constant distraction.

The loaves I am baking are getting more consistent but the regular problem is the quality and distribution of the holes to the crumb. If I work the dough to make it more manageable presumably that will produce a more even crumb but less holey and irregular? If I don't then the dough is just so difficult to handle and shape and then the holes tend to be concentrated in the top third of the loaf close to the upper surface of the crust.

I know these are age old questions but can anyone help who has produced this loaf with the same look as Mr Roberston?



hilo_kawika's picture

Hi Barry,

I'm also struggling with some of the same issues, so you have my sympathy.

I suppose the first question is why you want to have the bread look like Mr. Robertson's?  From what I read in TFL, having or not having a very open crumb is both a matter of technique and to some extent what the current fashion is.

For me the issue is control.  That is, assuming I'm happy with the flavor of the bread, what technique do I use to obtain different types of hole sizes?  If I've read what's in the book correctly, Mr. Robertson suggests letting the dough rise during the bulk fermentation and then treating it very gently during the rest of the process in order to preserve the relatively large holes that are created.  This means not flattening the dough but rather pinching the edges and folding them to the center to do the tensioning of the dough surface prior to proofing, followed by a gentle rounding.  This gave me the larger - but not largest - holes as compared with a more even crumb.

I'm going to guess that having the holes on one side of the bread means that it wasn't inverted just before baking or just before the proofing process - since that's what has happened to me.

I hope this is helpful.


Dave Hurd, Hilo, Hawaii

swifty's picture

I have made the bread 4 time and the one time that I had the problem you describe is when I let the bulk fermentation go all night in my unheated work shop at 48 degrees. The holes were really big and unevenly distributed but the flavor was terrific.

Its a wet dough and I did the stretch and fold in the container like the one in his book. You can get them at Sam's Club by Rubbermaid for $14.50 for 2.


hanseata's picture

I made the Basic Country loaf two days ago for the first time, with overnight cold fermentation, and I noticed an enormous difference in the two loaves I baked one after the other.

The first time I placed the Dutch oven on the bottom shelf, directly on the baking stones (that never leave my oven). I had the oven on convection mode, and after I opened the lid the bread took about 45 more minutes to be done. When I cut it open, it had a real "maw" - one gigantic hole in the middle!

Because of the too long finishing time, I placed the Dutch oven for the second loaf on the middle shelf, and switched to regular baking mode after opening the lid. That bread was in exactly the given time done (25 more minutes). It had big and irregular holes throughout the bread, looking much like what I saw from original Tartine bread photos.

The taste of both breads was exceptional. Therefore I will bake it again, even though usually I don't think "the hole-ier - the better".