I love baking bread. There is something very satisfying about spending days poking and prodding, what appears to be a mysterious ball of dough. Of course, all the great bread makers will tell you that you can read your dough, know when it’s overworked, under-hydrated, ect. And you can, but until you pull that steaming loaf out of the oven and cut it open you don’t know exactly how wonderful it will be. (I like to believe in the magic of the oven).
I had heard over the summer that Tartine Bakery was publishing a book on it’s bread and basically spent the next two months staring into Chronicle Books store front on my way to and from work to see if it had arrived. One beautiful September day it finally arrive. I somehow managed to buy it within a few minutes of them going on display, which was more the luck of my late lunch schedule, than anything else. But it was mine, all I could think about for the rest of the day was getting home and collecting me some wild yeast.
It’s never as easy as that though, there were steps and long anecdotal passages. Of course, I loved it all, but really what I wanted to was to get down and dirty, just me and the flour, right there and then. Fast forward a week, my yeast culture was finally done, and I was ready to bake. Thankfully the city was going through one of many fall heat waves, so my kitchen was at the ideal 70 degrees, and my dough pretty much kept on schedule with only a little cheating (I often will use my oven as a proof box with a pot of boiling water). My first loaf , despite being accidentally dropped from a foot or two into my dutch oven came out beautifully. I was amazed. My dough was amazing. The crust was hard and caramelized like nothing I’d ever achieved before.
Since then I have baked the basic country loaf a few more times, creating my own schedule to fit in with my job, cooler temperatures and my general inability to wake up early. I’ve neglected my starter, and brought it back to life, and am now crossing my fingers that my thanksgiving bread comes out okay despite my kitchen being about 55 degrees.
If you’ve been baking bread forever, or are just coming to it and need some inspiration, Chad’s book is a must have. Not only are there stories from other amateur bakers, there is an abundance of beautiful photographs that are both helpful and inspiring. So look out Tartine, one of these days I’ll have my own bakery!