Tartine Bakery is practically a must-stop for foodies visiting San Francisco. The cute bakery has top notch baked goods, breads and pastries and is owned by two James Beard Award-winning chefs, not to mention the fact that it has lots of write ups by food writers and thousands of reviews on sites like Yelp. But if you’re not going to be in the city by the bay any time soon, you might want to opt for a copy of Tartine Bread instead of making a visit.
The breads at Tartine are not simple, quick-rising loaves. They are long-rising, starter-based, artisan-shaped loaves that didn’t translate easily to recipes that could be replicated easily in a home kitchen, but authors Chad Robertson and Eric Wolfinger worked diligently to convert the bakery’s popular breads into loaves that could be produced beautiful in any kitchen. The process involved a lot of experimentation and a lot of recipe testing, much of which was done with the help of some fans who tested the recipes in their own homes as they were developed. One of the most interesting things about this book is that the experiences of these home bakers are featured in the book, giving insight into not only how the book was produced, but into how to make better breads yourself.
The book is designed to guide you through the bread baking process from start to finish, teaching first just a basic recipe and building on that to produce loaves with more complex flavors and techniques. The breads are based on “natural leaveners” (a.k.a. sourdoughs) and everything is described carefully to help ensure your success with the recipes and to make you feel comfortable working with naturally leavened breads, even if you’ve never tried them before. There are lots of photos to give you a visual guide as you work. The recipes are not the easiest, involving many steps and often being quite time consuming, but they are clearly written and if you put in the time an effort to work through them and learn the feel of the techniques that the authors worked so diligently to describe, you’ll end up a much more skilled baker and you’ll produce some great artisan loaves while you’re at it.