tartine bread 1

Well, it took me awhile, but I’m back! I could make excuses but I guess it just boils down to the fact that I got distracted. The past three months have been action-packed as I finished up my MBA program  There was a lot of travel (Hong Kong, Vietnam, Thailand, Nicaragua, and camping in Indiana).  There were a lot of parties.  A lot of frolicking.  A lot of jokes. And really, just a lot of good times.  The past few months have definitely been more about living than documenting. PLUS I graduated. Crazy.

Kellogg graduation

So needless to say with all of that going on I got distracted and fell off the writing wagon.  This happened to me with yoga once too.  I used to do yoga at least 3 times a week.  Then my teacher went to India for a month and I basically haven’t gone to yoga regularly since.  That was legit like 3 or 4 years ago.  Sigh.

While I wasn’t writing this quarter I was still in the kitchen. I had quite a few dinner parties and was still in the kitchen experimenting. One of my goals for this year was to up my bread-making game.  I’ve been living in a world of no-knead bread for YEARS and while delicious and easy I knew in my heart that a girl could not live by no-knead bread alone.  I wanted something a bit more complex and to really understand the intricacies of bread making.

tartine bread 4

I turned to Tartine’s Bread Book for inspiration and got a little more than I bargained for.  Apparently a lot of breads are made with a “starter”.

For the record, I’ve spent WEEKS trying to come up with a joke that would bridge this post with Drake’s “Started from the Bottom”.  It seems like it would be a joke that would write itself. I mean, I’m making a starter, it helps things rise PLUS I’m from Toronto, land of Drake… but, nothing.  Do know that I tried though.

homemade starter

So, what’s a starter?  It’s basically the base for making sourdough bread and a variety of artisan breads.  It uses naturally occurring wild yeast that’s just in the air as a leavening agent in place of store-bought yeast.  I found this both a bit gross and a bit fascinating.  I had no clue that there was just yeast floating around the air and it also made me wonder what else is just floating around.  But in my quest to make a great bread it seemed that using a starter was the key to making some delicious bread so I decided to give it a go.  Fun fact: some bread companies use starters that have been around for over 100 years!

Apparently you don’t really buy a starter.  Maybe your local bakery will share some with you but more likely you’re to get it from a friend or to make it yourself.  Making it yourself is easy but requires patience and two ingredients: flour and water.  You basically combine the two in a jar and wait for the mixture to bubble up.  You also have to discard some of your starter each day and feed it by adding more flour and water.  You definitely can go through quite a bit of flour… but it’s worth it.

I won’t bore you with the details of making a starter but would recommend that you read this great blog post on the matter.

tartine bread 5

Now, bread-making.  I will start by saying that Tartine’s recipe for their country loaf is the longest recipe that I’ve read in my entire life.  I don’t have the book handy (I’m in the process of moving and 95% of my earthly possessions are in a storage locker in the West Loop) but I’m sure the recipe is well over 20 pages.  Yes, over 20 pages for one bread recipe.  There’s obviously a LOT of detail.  It’s a fascinating read but the kind of recipe that will force you to question your entire existence.  Since there is so much detail I would re-read sentences over and over again to make sure I didn’t miss a step.

The country loaf, not surprisingly, is a multi-day project.  From making sure your starter is ready (you can keep it in the fridge to avoid feeding it every day but you do need to activate it a few days before you want to bake) and giving the bread adequate rising time… you definitely have to plan making this ahead of time.  The actual steps aren’t too difficult but if you’ve never made bread before it can be intimidating.

So, was all the work worth it? I would say yes. Not a resounding yes, but a yes.  Don’t get me wrong, the bread was delicious but it didn’t bake up as high as I would’ve liked which could be attributed to me over-handling the dough as I was transferring it to the pot.  BUT the use of a starter did make a difference in flavour.  Definitely a lot more depth and a nice sourdough tang to it.  Also, I swear, using a starter is like magic!  How a simple mixture of flour and water turns into something that can cause bread to rise is pretty amazing if you ask me.

Want to tackle Tartine’s Country Loaf recipe? Here’s the recipe.

tartine bread 2

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One Response to Bread Making: Tartine Country Loaf

  1. That is one beautiful loaf Tonya! And CONGRATS – you did it! So proud of you, friend!

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