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Tartine crust disappears ;-)


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Hi all.

I have attempted to bake Tartine's basic counry bread with some success (but with definate room for improvement - I've only made 3 attempts so far).

The taste is good and the crumb ok (although I have not achieved the large irregular holes shown in the book yet).

My biggest stumbling block at the moment is the crust. For those of you not familiar with the Tartine method, Chad Robertsen advocates the use of a dutch oven for baking the bread (with the lid on for the first 20 mins. of baking, and removed for the last 20-25 mins.) Oven temp. = 500f, reduced to 450f when the bread enters the oven.

I am currently using a deep glass pyrex dish with lid, while I save up for a cast iron dutch oven (they’re expensive up here in northern Europe!), which may well be significant.

Using this method, I get bread with a fairly crisp crust, but again, nothing like that shown in the book, and the real problem is that after only a few hours after the bread has cooled, the crust becomes soft.

If anyone has any good ideas tips or theories, they would be greatly appreciated.


204 users have voted.


Lilith 2011 August 16



I would love to know how to preseve the crunchiness of the crust myself!  I hope more experienced bakers will help with this for both our sakes!


In meantime, I wondered where in Northern Europe you are as I know that 1. IKEA do an inexpensive enameled cast-iron dutch oven (their Senior series), and also if you are in the UK, then TKMaxx is your holy grail place to buying an inexpensive good-quality dutch oven.  TKMaxx are a bit hit and miss but if you keep going to one that has housewares, there will be one there eventually.  I've bought a lot of great cook and bakeware there for very little money.


Hope this helps,


arturoenk 2011 August 16

the only thing thati can sugest is that you leave the bread in the oven with the door held ajar with the handle of a wooden spoon for five minutes or so after the "official" cooking time. This can help dry and consolidate the crust. You can turn the heat off and let the bread rest in a falling oven.

Panevino 2011 August 17

Another way of getting a crunch crust is to bake the bread twice.  After the bread cools a little and the interior moisture has finished its migratation towards the crust and softens it, place it back in the oven for a period of time.  I don't have specifics as I fly by the seat of my pants, usually.  But you get the principle.

panfresca 2011 August 17

I agree with the other posts.

A couple of other suggestions...

If I use the Dutch oven method, I often find the crust is better if I not only take the lid off after steaming, but remove the loaf from the container altogether.

Another perhaps slightly left of field thought is that ovens are notoriously temperature-inaccurate. Could it be that your oven is in fact cooking at a lower temperature than you think? An oven thermometer might surprise.

Or... one last thing, are you giving sufficient time for the oven to attain a stable maximum temperature before loading the bread?


bakerjohn 2011 August 24

After a good weekend's baking, there was some improvement in the crust, but it quickly became soft again.

I tried a couple of the suggestions (giving 5 mins. more with the oven door ajar, and removing the loaf completely from the dish after the first 20 mins. baking). the crust was more crispy than before, but only for the first hour or so after it had cooled.

Any further ideas for 'crust preservation'?

farinam's picture
farinam 2011 August 24

You say you are using a glass/Pyrex container.  Is that going into the oven cold or do you put the risen dough into the hot container?

Maybe it is taking too long to come up to temperature if it is going in cold.

Just a thought.


Panevino 2011 August 26

Try my method.  Bake as per usual, same time and temperature.  Take it out of the over when "done" and let it cool until the crust goes soft.  Then put in back in a cooler over and bake for about 10-15mins.  All you're trying to do with this second bake is drive off the moisture that has migrated from the crumb to the crust.  It really works.  I used to buy a bread where they did this.  The crust was like thick glass.

panfresca 2011 August 25

You'd be surprised how much longer you can bake a loaf without overdoing the inside. Five minutes with the door open won't necessarily achieve what you're after. I would try 15, 20 minutes, even more, and with the door closed to retain the heat. If you think there is still a lot of moisture retained by your oven then opening the door for the last few minutes will help. 

Although there can be other factors involved, my crust is almost always significantly darker than your photo. Another benefit of a darker crust is more flavour.

I would still suspect that your oven isn't as hot as its thermostat is telling you - the lower the temp, the thinner/softer the crust.

Edit: Do you not lower the temp at all from 450°F (232°C)? That's certainly a lot higher than I usually end up with (assuming your thermo is accurate, though surely it wouldn't be that far out). I usually start off at 530°F (275°C) for the first ten minutes, then lower to around 360°F (180°C) for the remainder. It only falls very gradually to the latter temperature because of the baking stone, but at that temperature (using fan convection) it's virtually impossible to burn the crust; eventually if you left it in long enough the loaf would completely dry out but not burn/

On an average humidity day, the crust will still retain some crunch the next day.

bakerjohn 2011 August 25

Thanks for the latest replies.

A little extra info about the baking process:

farinam- The pyrex dish goes into the oven as it's switched on, and is therefore 250-260°c when the dough is placed into it.

Kymh- When the dough is placed into the oven, the temp. is reduced to 230°c.

(This is in accordance with the book recipe).


I would definately be satisfied 1 day's crispiness of crust.

I'll see how it turns out with a longer bake this weekend.

farinam's picture
farinam 2011 August 25

Can you give a time line on your crispness?  Including when and how you store the loaf between baking and cutting and so forth up to loss of crispness.  Also if you could define your expectation of what crispness entails?

To any other contributors, can you give a report on your experiences in this area of crispness retention?


HVHB 2011 August 27

Great suggestions above. My two cents-worth of contribution:

-Leave your oven on full heat for the whole bake and, as suggested, get an oven thermometer

-Bake for at least 55 minutes, with the loaf in the pot for 25 to 30 minutes

-Cast iron will more likely give you the desired finish, especially if you can get non-enamelled cast iron - try a camping store (not sure about Europe)

-Don't remove the whole loaf from the pot until it's been baked for at least, I reckon, 40 minutes

-If you've got a fan forced oven, use the highest spot you can fit the pot in and put it right at the back in front of the fan

-Make sure you preheat your oven for at least an hour

-Also, avoid overproving too far as you will then have limited residual sugar for Maillard Reactions.


and please keep us informed of your progress.

HVHB 2011 August 27

Addit:  The crumb looks really good, as does the whole bread, really.  What are you proving the dough in?

panfresca 2011 August 28

...leaving it at full heat for the whole bake would created a burnt crust and soggy core - or leaving it long enough to cook the inside would create a charcoal crust. And in a fan forced oven, the whole point of that is even heat. I know that ovens vary in how even they are, but putting the loaf directly in front of the fan would be a guarantee of unevenness.

HVHB 2011 August 31

 Panfresca rightfully points out that his oven is different, and I should probably point out that when my oven is running flat out it's highest temperature is 235 Celsius.  Once I made the mistake of using a friend's oven at full-throttle and at half an hour the crust was perfect.  Of course, it would not have been finished inside the loaf.  The point here is that you'll have to work out what's perfect for your oven with what you're trying to achieve.

I would not recommend, necessarily, running your oven at full-bore if you were just baking a regular loaf on a pizza stone.  However, for the method you are trying to perfect I would suggest, as an experiment specific to the original post, that you use some or all of my aforementioned suggestions to get the brittle, glassy crust that I achieve when I bake bread in this manner.

I will repeat the suggestion by others above to get a thermometer to put inside your oven.

I'll have to partially disagree with , or at least further clarify, what Panfresca has disputed from my previous post regarding the evenness of heat.  I won't guarantee it as such, but in a cast iron pot the heat "evens out" a bit, regardless of the direction of the heat, although this does have its limitations so, depending on your oven, you will probably want to rotate the pot 180 degrees when you take the lid off.  Pyrex doesn't have the same heat transfer properties as cast iron, so you might want to rotate the pot 90 degrees four times throughouut the bake, although this then decreases the temperature inside your oven as your are opening the door more times.

I also use casserole pots, made of glazed china - or whatever you want to call it - which I prefer to pyrex, but they're not as good as cast iron.

bakerjohn 2011 August 30

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There was definite progress after this weekend’s baking!

One of the conclusions I came to after the many good replies was that I shouldn’t be too worried about giving the loaves a little extra baking time in the oven, and this helped.

I would estimate I baked for 5-7 minutes more than I have done so far (this was attempt no.4 at this recipe).

Apart from time, appearance and instinct, I normally judge when to take a loaf out from the oven by taking the core temperature.

99°C would be my normal target for predominately white bread, but this time the temp. was 100.4°C.

As I can't upload further photos in this thread, I would describe the crust as darker than the photo from the previous attempt (although not excessively so), and very nicely crisp. Best of all, for the first time, I heard ‘the song of bread’ (the crackling as the crust compacts after removal from the oven) as Chad Robertsen calls it. A beautiful sound it was too

The bread was removed from the oven at about 7pm, and at around 10:30pm the crust was still nicely crisp. It was then wrapped in a tea towel over night.

The next day, the crust was what I would probably describe as ‘medium’ in crustiness. It had definitely become softer, but was not as bad as previous attempts.

I should mention that I normally slice half to two-thirds of a loaf and put it in the freezer. I store the remainder in a plastic freezer bag at room temp., and it gets eaten within 2-3 days. This works just fine for other breads, but I am wondering if for Tartine bread with a crispier crust, plastic bags might be detrimental to crispiness. How do others store their bread?

I think I may give it another 2 mins. extra again with my next bake to see if this gives yet another improvement.

Once again, thanks for the input


P.S. HVHB, I proove the dough in a round cane banneton sprinkled with a 50/50 mix of wheat and corn flour.

panfresca 2011 August 31

Great you're happy with the result!

I agree with Panevino that it's better to dispense with the towel and just stand it on its end - give it a try anyway.

Plastic bags are definitely the fastest way to a soggy crust, a complete no-no for sourdough I think.

As for storing the bread in the freezer, I wouldn't slice it, but when I bring it out put it in the oven for 10 minutes at about 180°C, and it should be like new. Again stand it on its end in the oven - even wetting the end can help for some breads.

Note to HVHB, I'm of the male persuasion... : ))

HVHB 2011 August 31

 Sorry, for some reason I had thought I was responding to a comment from Kymh and I was replying to her...

Panevino 2011 August 31

The bread was removed from the oven at about 7pm, and at around 10:30pm the crust was still nicely crisp. It was then wrapped in a tea towel over night.


Wrapping your bread will change the crust.  Try leaving it cut side down on the counter.

bakerjohn 2011 September 1

Hi all.

Many thanks for your input on this topic.

I feel I'm on the right track now.

My next problem is concerning slashing the loaves, but that will be another posting...

countrygirl1 2011 September 3

I am just starting out and have borrowed this book from the library.

Thanks for the useful info re baking. I don't have a cast iron dutch oven either and may use a pizza stone for cooking and a pan with water for the steam.

How do you all usually bake your bread? Would love some tips.



anne_jackson 2012 January 31

 As per my most recent blog post, I accidentally baked a loaf on full throttle for the whole bake, and it didn't do it any harm at all. But then, even though I haven't measured it I'm pretty sure my oven isn't getting to temperature. I always let my bread cool completely before slicing or wrapping, then I wrap it in a tea towel or brown paper. The crust always stays crispy. I think your loaf looks great.

SlackerJohn 2012 February 14

 All baked goods go soft fairly quickly if not kept in an air-tight container.  Think biscuits.


A tea-towel may not be optimal for crust maintenance, but it delays the time when the bread dries out and becomes rock-hard!



patmcgovern 2012 May 15

Have you tried letting the bread cool over night without a cover?  I've found the long cooling time really helps.

bakerjohn 2012 June 1


No I haven't. Most tips I've heard recommend covering the loaf in some way or other, but I'll give it a try :-)

Karniecoops's picture
Karniecoops 2012 June 2

I've never baked in a dutch oven, but for most breads I generally have the oven churned up to about 230C for starters, then after the first 15-20mins (once steam has gone) I turn down to 200C for another 30m (or so depending on loaf).  Pretty much always get a good crust - just love the cracking noise of a good 'un when you take it out of the oven. 

Loaf usually keeps its good crust for a couple of days at least.  I never store in a plastic bag, just cut side down on a board with a tea towel draped over the top to keep the flies (and cats) off it!  Sometimes I'll cut the loaf in half, leave half out as above, then slice the other half and put in freezer, that way I can take out a slice or two at a time when life gets (sadly) too hectic for bread making!  They defrost like brand new!

Maybe the dutch oven helps retain some moisture from the steam, so some time out of the dutchie towards the end of the bake (maybe 15-20m) might help with the crunch?

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