Ok, I know I already have a post titled “Best Bread Ever.” But my former best bread has been supplanted by an even better bread. The recipe comes from Tartine Bread, a book written by Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson, the baking gurus behind San Fransisco’s Tartine Bakery.
The book begins with a master recipe involving a sourdough starter that contains equal parts flour and water — what bread baking know-it-alls refer to as ’100% hydration.’ I’m a sucker for recipes that call for 100% hydration starter because I also like to bake things off a blog called Wild Yeast, and all her recipes call for 100% hydration starter too. Convenient! (See some gorgeous bread photos on Wild Yeast’s YeastSpotting page).If you’ve never worked with a wild yeast starter, don’t be scared. Starter is less
persnickety than you might think. Some Web sites give the impression that you have to care for your starter like you would care for a tiny newborn baby, feeding it regularly and taking it with you when you travel. Not true. I’m a terrible mother. My starter sits in the fridge and only gets fed when I remember, which is not often. Yet it has never died. All it needs is a little refreshing when I’m ready to use it.
You can make your own starter (recipe here). Or, if you don’t want to go through the semi-laborious process of making your own, you can order some powdered starter here. (Supposedly it traveled the Oregon Trail!)
But it’s really the breadmaking process, not the starter, that makes Tartine’s bread so stellar. You don’t knead this bread, you turn it. You stick a wet hand into the bowl and pull dough up from the bottom, folding it over the top. You have to do this every half an hour for four hours. Then you shape the loaves and let them rise for another 3-4 hours. And here’s the second key: Robertson recommends baking the loaves in a dutch oven. Commercial bread ovens have a steam injection system that helps the make the crust all brown and crackly and lovely. The dutch oven mimics a commercial oven by trapping moisture. Voila! Perfect crust.
Chad is REALLY into bread. Watch this video . . .