My kitchen is coated with a fine layer of flour, my nails are caked with dough, and I am eating the most delicious piece of toast I have ever tasted. Ladies and gentlemen, you have to get your hands on a slice of this stuff.
Late last night, I mixed up a spoonful of starter with a bunch of flour; in the morning I faced the moment of truth, did my levain have enough oomph to lift a loaf of bread? Thankfully, it rose to the occasion (pun intended) and bobbed beautifully to the surface during Robertson’s float test (more details on that here). This unleashed a whole new set of anxious emotions…as Sherlock Holmes would say, the game was afoot.
That day was spent carefully weighing ingredients, adjusting temperatures, and generally coddling the dough like it was a newborn infant. Although the Tartine Country Loaf requires minimal effort and absolutely no kneading, it demands unending patience. You simply can not rush the process. Every 20-30 minutes during the bulk fermentation the dough must be ‘turned’, a process which can last over four hours. I’ve found those short intervals to be the perfect span of time for maxing out my productivity on various tasks. In half an hour you can wash all of the dishes (the least appealing, but most practical option), finish a chapter in the book that you’ve been meaning to read ( I would highly recommend this one), or take a nap (just make sure to set an alarm). If you bake bread, you will get shit done.
When the time came for shaping the loaves I had already crossed off every item on my day’s to-do list. This next step was tricky for me, even with Robertson’s expertly photographed step-by-step instructions. They weren’t as perfect as his taut, domed balls of dough, but I think they turned out alright.
These little babies were left to rest for their final rise, a step that allows the dough to develop its distinctly complex flavor. Then I popped them in the oven at a blistering 500 degrees and hoped for the best! I used a cast iron combo cooker as recommended in the book and I honestly think it is what allowed me to achieve such great results. If you want to bake this bread, cough up the $40 and buy one.
When I pulled my bread out, I immediately heard the crust crackle as it contracted in the cool kitchen air. This is what Robertson calls “the song of bread” and let me tell you, it was music to my ears. As I cut into the cooled loaf, a perfectly pearlescent interior revealed itself beneath a burnished surface. The flavor was floral, milky, with just a hint of that classic sourdough tang. In short, I was in carbohydrate heaven. Tartine bread will certainly be a regular staple in my kitchen, my starter and I have a long, delicious future to look forward to.