Tartine Bakery in San Francisco is well-known for their rustic country bread as well as cakes, morning buns, and other baked goods. Chef Emily Pruett released the Tartine Bakery cookbook, which has great recipes for brown butter shortbread lemon bars, croissants, and tea cakes. Chef Chad Robertson released the Tartine Bread cookbook two years ago, and it had been sitting on my shelf because the recipe for bread, at 37 pages, was quite intimidating. But actually most of these pages are filled with step-by-step photos and explanations and adjustments of a bread recipe that, as I finally found out recently, is not that much more difficult than Jim Lahey’s super-easy No-Knead Bread recipe.
Unlike No-Knead Bread, Robertson’s recipe requires a yeast starter. This can be started at home from wild yeast present in your kitchen, in a method explained in the book. Or one can obtain starter from a local bakery. I went to the Oakland Eat Real Festival earlier this year and obtained a starter from Sour Flour and have been feeding it in anticipation of finally using it to bake bread. The starter should be fed every day, but it is pretty forgiving. For example, it can be fed less often if stored in the refrigerator. On the night before bread baking, a leaven made with starter, flour, and water is set up to aerate overnight. The leaven is then mixed with additional flour and water, followed by a rest period of 25 to 40 minutes, and then a bulk fermentation of 3 to 4 hours. During the bulk fermentation, the dough is turned every half hour. The dough is then shaped into a round and then undergoes a bench rest for 20 to 30 minutes. The dough then undergoes a final shaping and rise for 3 to 4 hours. I had difficulty scoring the bread, so I used Ken Forkish’s method where he puts the bread in the baking vessel seam side up (this will make sense once you bake the bread). Like with No-Knead Bread, the bread is baked in a Dutch oven to trap steam from the dough itself during the initial twenty minutes of baking. The last twenty minutes of baking is performed with the lid removed, allowing for the development of a crackling crust. This is a full-day project, but most of the time is non-active time. The Tartine Bread recipe produces outstanding bread. The bread emerges from the oven and fills the kitchen with a delicious aroma and the crackling sounds of the “music of bread.” There is a crunchy crust and spongy, flavorful interior that makes the day well worthwhile.
The book has variations on the bread recipes, such as olive bread, and also recipes for baguettes, pizza dough, and brioche. And there is a great section of recipes for using the bread in salads, soups, and sandwiches. I tried the meatball sandwich recipe, with a very garlicky pesto, pillowy soft meatballs, a simple tomato sauce (add some salt to taste) and provolone that combined for a great Italian sandwich.
My favorite recipe from the book is the French Toast, the most amazing recipe for French Toast I have ever tried. A thick slice of country bread is soaked in a custard of eggs, milk, vanilla, sugar, salt, and lemon peel. The lemon peel I think is really the key flavor note that elevates this recipe. The bread is cooked on a skillet until the bottom forms a seal. Then more custard is added and the entire skillet is transferred to the oven for the additional custard to set. The result is a beautifully caramelized crust and soft, delicious custard. There is also an recipe for Maple-Glazed Bacon – I didn’t realize how easy it was – just cook some bacon, then coat with maple syrup and bake along with the French Toast. Highly recommended.
Link to Tartine French Toast recipe here.
Link to Tartine Bread cookbook here.