Tartine Bread

Chad Robertson’s Tartine Bread cookbook isn’t your typical baking book; it overflows with arty photos and an incredibly long master recipe (at least 8 pages, by my count).  It’s the latest in a  long line of cookbooks from independent artisan bakers, following in the footsteps of Amy’s Bread, Breads from the La Brea Bakery, Leader’s Bread Alone and Local Breads, Lahey’s Bread My Way, and others.  All of these books aim to make their handcrafted baked goods accessible to the home baker, with varying degrees of success.  I own a few of these, and I just couldn’t justify buying another one, so I checked out Tartine Bread from the public library.

So back to that incredibly long master “Country Bread” recipe, which produced the bread pictured in this post.  It certainly didn’t need to be so long; the writing style is highly personal, never using one word when a phrase will do.  I read and re-read the instructions, flipped back and forth between pages to understand the process, and finally attempted the bread after two or three days spent trying to soak up all the details.

Tartine’s Country Bread is a wild-yeast loaf, though it is made from a very young, very liquid levain, and it isn’t kneaded in the traditional sense.  Instead, after mixing and autolyse, the dough receives a “stretch and fold” every half hour for three or four hours before it is divided into loaves.  Once divided, it ferments an additional 2 to 3 hours before it is baked inside a pre-heated, covered enameled cast iron pot.

Hmmm, none of the technique detailed in Tartine Bread is new ground.  Dan Leader covered liquid French levains in Bread Alone back in 2007; Hamelman’s Bread (2004) has an unkneaded, six-fold baguette recipe (along with liquid levains and just about every other useful baking technique), and Lahey’s no-knead, baked-in-a-pot sent thousands of people into the kitchen to try out a loaf of bread back in 2009.  Badgett’s Kneadlessly Simple (2009) extended the no-knead technique beyond peasant loaves.

Though I rushed along the initial fermentation a bit, and I retarded the shaped loaves overnight in the refrigerator, the resulting bread looked great and tasted fine.  I’ll bake the Tartine Country Loaf again, but I’m returning the book to the library.  No need to buy a copy for myself when I have Hamelman, Reinhart, Leader, and Michel Suas on my bookshelves.

Go over to “YeastSpotting” at the Wild Yeast blog to see more bread…

4 thoughts on “Tartine Bread

  1. I think the tartine book is amazing but I’m having crazy problems with the ambient temperature of the room. Scotland is a lot colder than the US. Once I manage it I’ll post the results. Should help any of your readers that’s got the book

    • I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum: the book describes several bakers as using a long, cool, overnight rise at ambient temperature (65 degrees). My kitchen is never as cool as 65 degrees…ever! So the starter & dough always move faster than the recipe’s descriptions, and I have to figure out ways to slow things down–like using ice water, and the overnight refrigerator rise as described in the blog post.

      Have you tried an electric heating pad or blanket? Most have a “low” setting and will cycle on and off every 15 minutes. The top of the television set (not a flatscreen, LOL) also gets surprisingly warm.

  2. Hi Celeste, I love the way your Tartine looks. I’m baking Tartine to learn more about baking bread and it helps. Even dough most of my Tartine breads don’t show the crumb I would like to see, they all taste great. I’m working on that.

    • Thanks for the compliment on the bread! The Tartine recipe is interesting…but I’m a bigger fan of Hamelman’s Bread, as I think it contains more detailed information on the hows & whys of baking.

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