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…