Tartine Bread is fantastic. I recommend it most highly as an exceptional bread book. Unlike the science background present in Peter Reinhart's books (especially Whole Grain Breads-- which is great), Chad Robertson introduces bread as more of a narrative. While Reinhart bombards his reader with science, while claiming to want to form a "spirit-of-the-law baker" (Reinhart BBA), Robertson uses pictures, notes about texture, and anecdotes to push his reader toward a more intuitive grasp of bread baking. I do love the baking science, but Tartine Bread manages to do something different that is also fabulous. The writing is engaging and the pictures are beautiful. Sadly, just over half of the book is bread recipes (although the recipes which he does include seem well worth it) and the rest of the book is taken up with recipes for day-old bread, many of which are not to my liking. I would have gladly given up some of the recipes for more variations on formulae or more of Robertson's commentary, but at least the french onion soup recipe looks fantastic (minus the duck fat).
I also learned three vital lessons from Tartine Bread. I am sure that there will be more lessons as I continue to practice this bread, but these are the first three.
For fermentation: bread can rise in a warm, moist environment if you put it in a closed space (like an oven) with a pot of boiling water and this will safely decrease the time it takes for the bread to rise (as I mentioned previously).
For fermentation: There are negative consequences to letting bread rise for too long. According the commentary section, "if you let bulk fermentation go too long, the final rise will be sluggish as the food that fuels the fermentation has been exausted. The glutensin the dough also begin defrading after a certain point due to increasing acidity, which results in a tighter, more uniform crumb" (Italics are mine. Robertson 75). Although he is speaking about wild yeast, I am almost positive this was part of the problem with my attempt at a 70% White Whole Wheat Pain de Campagne.
For baking: Home ovens, even with methods like Reinhart's Double Steaming method (Reinhart 92-93). This is the reason that I have had so much trouble with inconsistent oven spring, especially since I started using the convection setting on my oven. Modern home ovens are designed to vent steam and the remaining moisture is not sufficient for the necessary oven spring (Robertson 79). I think this was why my artisan loaves had better crumb at my alma mater: our ovens were terrible, so they did not vent steam adequately. This was great for bread baking. My results here have been significantly compromised by this fact (with the notable exception of two loaves of ciabatta that had wonderful oven spring (but even they sprang very unevenly, yeilding strangely asymmetrical loaves). I will at some point acquire a combo cooker, but for now I will use my oven stone and my overturned broth pot in order to provide and enclosed environment for the number of minutes under steam.
I am making my second loaf of Tartine's Basic Country Bread this weekend (the essential recipe can be found here). Wish me luck!
The Bread Baker's Apprentice since about one week into my first attempts to make bread. This book has more hype than any other book I know of in bread-baking circles. I have a confession to make: I don't think it's that great. I like Reinhart's work--I love the two Reinhart books I recieved as gifts: Artisan Breads Every Day from which comes my fantastic pizza recipe and Whole Grain Breads which was my first real introduction to bread science. I am just not a fan and I think it's partially because I am becoming a snob. Here are my following objections:
- The introduction (Reinhart 1-25) is really self-aggrandizing and annoying. I like bakers talking about their backgrounds (for example, the Introduction to Tartine Bread pages 8-32), but Reinhart just sounds so arrogant.
- Out of the 40+ recipes, less than 30% are lean doughs (i.e. doughs without sugars or fats added) and only three are with wild yeast. To me, the most impressive thing about bread is the flavor that can be pulled from the simple ingredients of flour, water, and salt without having to add a whole bunch of "rich" ingredients to enhance the flavor. I primarily make enriched breads/rich breads for holidays and I would not want them lying around on a regular basis.
- Reinhart focuses primarily on machine mixing, unlike in his other two works I mentioned above where he seems to give hand and machine mixing more equal weight. Standing mixers are expensive and sometimes ineffective and they take away the kneading of bread which (I feel) is essential to making bread baking a relaxing and interactive process. Not to be cliche, but I feel like I taste my own labor in a wonderful loaf of bread I kneaded myself, which is why I made the bread instead of buying it. I know some doughs, usually high-gluten doughs, require a machine for adequate mixing, bu many if not most of these doughs can be made just as well by hand.
- The baking instructions are in ounces. Yes, I know, ounces are a common form of weight measurement. However, grams are much smaller than ounces and weighing by grams on my digital scale is probably more accurate than if I were to weigh the same ingredients in ounces (also, I like using the round numbers rather than e.g. 0.11oz). In Reinhart's later books, he uses volume measures, ounces, and grams which seems like the perfect compromise to me.
- There is a lot of focus on shaping. I know aesthetics are important, but I would rather have more instruction on how to make the bread taste wonderful than how to shape it into three different variations on a braided loaf. I want my breads to have wonderful flavor hidden in rustic crunch crusts and which reveal a beautiful open crumb-- it doesn't matter to me whether that bread is in a fancy couronne or a simple boule. Furthermore (and probably more importantly) a lot of the shaping instructions are incoherent, either because there are not enough pictures or because they seem to leave out important steps.
- Finally, if one eats with one's eyes before one's tongue (Reinhart says something along these lines), I cannot imagine why there are not only so few pictures of the crumb of the different breads but so few pictures of the final products. many of these formulae have no pictures at all, which is a little worrying.