Breadache: The Tartine bread experiment

Last Christmas I got a copy of Tartine’s bread cookbook. Oh wait, did I say cookbook? It’s more of a narrative bread manifesto. (Breadfesto?) The recipes are interwoven with tips, advice, and pages upon pages of photos. Following Tartine breadmaster Chad Robertson’s basic country bread recipe is a serious undertaking.

But who doesn’t like a challenge?

For those not in the know, Tartine’s bread recipe is old-fashioned naturally leavened bread. That means you basically put some flour and water out on the shelf and let it go “bad,” and that’s your yeast. That’s right, no little packet of yeast; it just comes magically from the air. (Cool, huh?) So the only ingredients you need to buy are flour, water, and salt.

Tartine bread experiment
Tartine bread experiment

As you can see in the above photos, my bread actually did rise — but not enough! This was my third attempt. While the bread tastes fine, it’s still a bit too dense and not quite fluffy enough.

A couple notes for people attempting the “basic” country bread recipe:

  • Making bread takes pretty much all day. You need to pick a day when you’re going to be home at all times.
  • The book tells you that once you’ve mixed the dough, you let it sit for a few hours. But don’t stop reading, because the next thing he says contradicts this! You need to come back in half an hour to “fold” the dough.
  • Feed your leaven in the morning. This is important, because you need to take a sample from it at night in order to have dough ready the next morning. There’s no way to get around this.
  • If you don’t have a dutch oven, buy the suggested Logic Logic combo cooker. It’s a really cool invention, because it doubles as a pot and skillet when you’re not using it as a dutch oven. I found mine at my local Ace Hardware, but Rainbow Grocery sells them as well.
  • Chad doesn’t say this upfront, but you need a “bench knife.” It’s basically a piece of sheet metal with a handle. You need this for shaping the dough. Any store that sells kitchen stuff will have this.

More to come when I get this challenging recipe perfected.