Monday, June 25, 2012

Land of Dreams? A Visit to Tartine Bakery

Tartine's Bakery
This has been quite a stressful quarter. So I came up with a crazy scheme to go to Anderson Valley with a bunch of my friends. Catullus II, upon hearing this idea, actually did all of the research and set up the trip. So Egnatius, Catullus II, and some other friends jumped in an SUV and toured Anderson Valley. On our way back, we stopped in San Francisco for the day. One of the places we went was the magical and wonderful Tartine Bakery which produces the book that saved my ability to bake bread, Tartine Bread.

Tartine Bakery is in a little unmarked building in the mission district. It's cute and all of the tables inside were taken. There were delicious chocolate cakes in the display case and you could smell it from an entire block away. I was really excited to be there at exactly 5pm to get the bread and I thought there would be a line out the door and only a few varieties of bread available like they say in the book.
Bannetons waiting for bread.
We got there at around 4:40pm. The bread, as it turns out, actually comes out of the oven at 4:30pm these days and there are tons of different varieties. The woman behind the counter listed at least five, although I only remember country, spelt, and white whole wheat. I bought a loaf of country and spelt.
You can barely see the country loaves rising on the shelf behind the glass.
I also got a croissant which was incredibly delicious and looked exactly like the one in the book. I was happy.

However, the bread did not look as it does in the book. The country loaf was great, but it was a tiny bit over-proofed (the crumb did not look like the gorgeous one in the book-- it was a little bit more honeycomb and thin although there were still plenty of irregular holes). However, one fantastic thing about this bread compared to mine did have one massive advantage. I usually use a national brand flour like Gold's or King Arthur. The local flour that they use at Tartine does have a lovely flavor-- especially when toasted-- that has a richer taste.

The spelt was fantastic although (1) it didn't taste much like spelt flour and (2) the crust was a little thin and the ears didn't bloom very nicely (see below).
Tartine bread: Country (left), spelt (right)
So, while the bread was still quite good, it was not quite the place I'd been imaging all year. I highly recommend giving it a visit. Have a croissant while you are there. It is delicious. But, while it is true that as Marie says in the video "no one should die without eating Chad's bread," you possibly can make it from his recipe instead of trekking to San Francisco.

While I was there, I did get a glimpse of the famous Chad. he was dressed like a hipster and hanging out directly outside the bakery. He seemed very nice and a little twitchy. He obviously wasn't in the bakery that day, just dropping by. But it was nice to see him. I sneaked a bad photo on my phone.

Although I leveled a bit of criticism against it, the bread was great. Also, as Eric says in the video below, a bit of the mood of the baker goes into the loaves each day. Maybe the bakers were just having a bit of a frenetic day.

One last thought: one of the things that I was most cut up about was the fact that there was no line out the door waiting for bread. I wanted to join the fray clamoring for bread at Tartine and experience the magic with other people. Instead, it was just me with a bunch of cranky people who had been driving for too many hours together and who had just had some stuff stolen (the car was broken into in San Francisco at the Palace of Fine Arts). So I guess I just didn't get my magic moment. Maybe next time.

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