Last year, I bought the Tartine Bread book. There was a special on Amazon. It was $2.99 on Kindle. I couldn’t turn it down.
I remember I started reading it while on the plane to Philadelphia. The photos are so amazing and the recipes so detailed that I knew I had to try it as soon as possible. Weeks went by and I didn’t bake any bread. The thought of making a starter was intimidating to say the least. Then, on December 2nd (funny how I remember these dates), my friend brought me some of her starter.
Blog friends, meet Bernard. Bernard is about 5 years old and comes from a culinary school in Michigan. Now a part of him is with me, and through Foodologie with you too. Here’s here to help us make bread.
I love that my friend named the starter. It makes the process so much more fun. Because after all, he needs to be taken care of and fed. I feed Bernard on Monday nights and leave him in the fridge until I’m ready to bake some bread.
Some of this glorious bread. It’s nothing short of amazing. It might take days to make, but it’s worth it. And it all starts with Bernard.
The night before I want to make bread, I take a big spoonful of starter and mix it with pretty much equal parts flour and water (if we want to be specific 3/4 cup water + 3/4 cup Flour and about 1/4 cup starter will give you enough leaven, or fed starter, to make 2 loaves of bread).
So I let that sit on the counter. It gets all bubbly and smelly in the most endearing way possible. Once it’s bubbly and ready to go (you’ll know it’s ready when you drop a bit of it in some water and it floats), I mix it with flour and water. Once it’s all incorporated, I let it sit for about half an hour. After half an hour, I add a bit of salt and some more water. Then the first “bulk rise” begins. This takes 3-4 hours. You don’t have to do much, just turn it every so often. That means dip your hand in water, then dip your hand in the dough and turn it a bit. Pretty simple right?
After a few hours (assuming it’s in a fairly warm temperature, sometimes I’m too cheap to put on the heater and so I turn the oven on for a few minutes, turn it off, then put the bread in there to keep it warm), I turn it onto a well-floured surface and divide it in two.
This part is tricky. The dough is sticky. It sticks to everything. Your hands. The towel. The surface. Your hair. Everything. My first time around was rough. I think I was a little shy with the flour, but after the next few times, I leaved that a lot of flour is necessary. So you divide the dough into and fold it into two rounds mounds. Then it sits for hours. I know right? There’s a lot of sitting involved.
So those mounds sit for another 3-4 hours on the counter covered with a towel (flour that towel too, because seriously the dough will stick to it). I’ve also tried leaving it in the fridge overnight. That worked too.
After the dough has sat for a good while (either 3-4 hours or overnight in the fridge), you can start getting everything ready to bake. I bake this bread in a dutch oven. I think the dutch oven is my saving grace, because I’m pretty sure my oven is a bit messed up. The dutch oven ensures an even bake, so you can’t argue with that.
So I turn the oven to 500F and put the dutch oven in there (empty that is, with the lid on), for about 20-30 minutes. You want it to get piping hot. This also gives you bread a little more time to rise (or to get to room temperature if it was sitting in the fridge).
Again, I reform the loafs into a round loaf then score to top. Scoring apparently is important because it allows the bread to rise to it’s full potential. I have a really hard time with the scoring. In Tartine Bread, they suggest using a razor; I use a knife. We made due with what we have, right?
Then the next tricky part, putting the dough in the dutch oven without burning your hands. The dough isn’t the sturdiest. The water content is pretty high so it’s a very sticky dough. But it’s easy enough. Drop it in, re-score if necessary and put in the oven with the lid on, reduce the temperature to 450F and bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove the dutch oven lid and continue to bake for another 25-30 minutes or until it reaches the level of brownness you like.
Remove the bread from the dutch oven, allow to cool then serve. You can repeat the baking process with your second loaf now. The dutch oven doesn’t need to heat as long. I usually just put it back in the oven for about 5-10 minutes then move on.
For the full recipe, check out this write up in the New York Times. It has all the measurements and weights you need to get your bread making on. I still can’t get mine to look exactly like their bread, but sooner or later, I’ll get there. But even if it doesn’t look exactly like the Tartine loaves, it tastes amazing.
To say that I love this bread is underselling it. I seriously love this bread.
It’s great for sandwiches (ahem, grilled cheese anyone?). Awesome toasted with butter. Amazing if you spread it with jam. The process might be time consuming. Scratch that, it’s totally time consuming, but it’s worth it.
So this is my newest obsession: bread. I want to make it all the time and eat it all the time, but I probably shouldn’t, so gifting loaves of bread is becoming my new thing.
Now that I’ve mastered the basic country bread. I’m ready to move on to new varieties. Of course, croissants and brioche are on my bucket list for the year, but I also want to start experimenting with different flours: whole wheat, rye, etc.
Let’s get our carbs on!
Are you a home bread baker or just an equal opportunity bread lover? What’s your favorite kind to bake or eat?