The Tartine Country Loaf and an inquiry from my brother in law were the real reasons for starting YE OLDE HIGHLANDS BAKERY SHOPPE. On a casual visit from San Francisco my brother in law asked: “How come I cannot get a good rye bread anymore?” Well I do brake for most culinary questions and I had also just coincidentally tasted this amazing loaf coming from a bakery in San Francisco called Tartine . More on the rye bread in upcoming blogs but for now let us praise the Tartine Loaf.. (your July Offering.. )
There was a neighbor who would casually drop off chunks of this stuff as he was trying to perfect the recipe… I could tell this was something amazing.. He said he tasted it in San Francisco at a bakery owned by Chad Robertson and Elisabeth Prueitt.
QUICK BIO SNAPSHOT OF CHAD: Born and bred (no pun intended) in West Texas, became a tennis pro–playing in competition he dislocated his knee so changed careers. He thought he would get into architecture at Rice University but the waiting list to get in was too long…. he left academia with his sun visor and sideburns and buttoned up shirts and said: “My priority is just to GET OUTTA TEXAS.” He thought if he could learn how to cook he could always get a job so he lands in NY at the Culinary Institute of America… and it was there.. on one of his field trips with the class .. he met his future wife and also went to visit the BERKSHIRE MOUNTAIN BAKERY.. he became obsessed with Richard Bourdon.. the baker. His wife says: “He studied baking with the same kind of obsession, determination and discipline that he put into Tennis..”
He next became a California surfer dude and started what people like to call A NEW WAVE IN BAKING..
I did not buy his Baking book called Tartine.. but I did glance at his 38 page manifesto describing how to bake his signature Tartine Country bread.. and then I promptly got cold feet and sweaty hands and closed the book….. but that is just how any obsession starts.. I thought why do I have to go all the way up to SF to get this.. I need to be the one who is making it down here in my neck of these here woods.. so I began.. As Johnathan Kaffman in the SF chronicle recently described it: “its this craggy edged bread with custardy crumb tinged the color of a plank of walnut.. ”
Sure there are breads like this in Germany and France and Denmark and other European Countries but it seems that Chad was the one that said: Okay America… its time we bring real good bread BACK! Its kind of like when Julia Child brought the baguette craze to USA.. everyone wanted to try it.. well chad did that for the big old beautiful burnished round loaf using a natural home made starter… and long slow ferment using very precise technique for the flavor, the texture and the beauty…. He demands that you pay attention to the dough….and not just the dough but even before that.. the grain.. Who grew the grain? How was it milled? What kinds of flavors can we coax our of different grains when blended? How can the home baker get real crust? the kind that snaps? Well.. he made it all seem possible. THE WORD KNEADING was replaced by the phrase STRETCH AND FOLD… Instant yeast was now your own blending of flour and water which over time pick up the microorganisms within the air which reacts with the enzymes glutenin and gliadin which creates the gluten particles which then are able to trap bubbles and make the bread rise..He created the oven within an oven “effect” which gives the dough the magnificent color and crust. You heat a cast iron pan with lid and then plop your cold dough into this magnificent heated chamber and half way thru.. remove the lid and the steam duplicates a professional bakers oven that mechanically injects steam onto loaves.. all of a sudden with enough practice and flour stuck into your cuticles and bodily crevices and dried dough cemented firmly to parts of your furniture and clothes.. you are bound and determined to give birth to this new breed of bread!
This is the loaf you could say that spawned the renaissance of using home made starters again, bringing small batch baking to your own neighborhood, helping start the conversation of a new grain economy.. meaning one in which we take back our grain and not just accept what the industrial agriculture is calling whole grain.. .. deciding to take back the flavors in grains and make that be the start of really good whole some bread… Now did I inspire anyone to tear off a chunk and get baking???
Cheers and onwards to the next bread…