Thursday, November 11, 2010

Crusty White Bread from Chad Robertson, author of Tartine Bread

I received a review copy of Tartine Bread, another fantastic cookbook from the husband and wife team, Elisabeth Pruitt and Chad Robertson, behind Tartine Bakery. I love Tartine, their first cookbook, which is a compilation of Elizabeth’s pastry recipes from the bakery in San Francisco. You might have gathered that already judging by the number of times I’ve baked from Tartine and posted on the recipes. I feel certain I’ll be doing the same with Chad’s Tartine Bread book.

I’ve read the book cover-to-cover and have devoured the gorgeous photos and charming stories of lay people enlisted as testers when developing the recipes for the book. I’m now ready to bake away! There’s just one small wrinkle…. the starter I’ve begun according to the book’s recipe isn’t ready yet.

Unfortunately, I have a long, troubled history with starters.

The first starter I ever tried to develop was from some random internet recipe that I plucked on a lark. After a week, I gave up and threw the nasty mess out. Later, I decided to try again so I studied Nancy Silverton’s starter recipe closely and watched over my starter like a hawk. I was so obsessed that I began to resent that starter because it consumed so much time and energy. Honestly, some days it’s hard enough to make sure I feed myself - to have to worry about feeding that damn starter three times a day at set times began to wear on me.

But my efforts paid off and the starter developed. I began baking with it but still hadn’t achieved what I considered a satisfactory loaf when calamity struck. During feeding one day, I somehow mistook my mother starter for the overflow starter that is poured off and discarded. I wound up pouring my mother starter down the sink drain. Just about the time that I turned off the faucet, I realized what I had done. By then, all was lost. At that point, I was fed up and just done. I decided that the fool-proof, no-knead bread recipe that uses commercial dry yeast was good enough for me and that maybe I just wasn’t fated to be an advanced bread baker.

I seemed fine with this decision for quite a while but then I started to get a twinge every now and then when biting into a delicious piece of artisan bread with the unmistakable taste of richly developed wild yeast. That flavor is just irreplaceable. When I heard that Tartine Bread was coming out, I knew I had to give it another try.

So here I go again…

Hopefully the curse has broken. Cross your fingers for me!

Crusty White Bread
adapted from Chad Robertson's short cut recipe printed in the November 2010 issue of Food & Wine 

Given the detailed, very prescribed starter recipes that I’ve seen, I was pleasantly surprised at the simplicity of Chad’s instructions on making starter and thrilled to see that it only requires feeding once a day. So far, it’s been a breeze and my starter is developing exactly according to his description in the recipe. While waiting for it to develop, I’m making loaves from Chad’s short cut recipe published in the November issue of Food & Wine that uses a pre-ferment with packaged yeast. My first attempt at the short cut bread turned out really well and now I’m so excited for my starter to finish developing. This short cut bread is a nice preview of just how good the starter developed bread will be.


250 g (1 c + 2 T) warm water
1/4 t dry granulated yeast
300 g (2 1/2 c) bread flour or all-purpose flour

Bread Dough

1.25 kg (5 1/2 c) warm water
1.8 kg (13 3/4 c) bread flour or all-purpose flour
200 g (1 1/2 c) whole wheat flour
5 T kosher salt dissolved in 1/2 cup of warm water
White rice flour or all-purpose flour, for dusting

*A heavy gauge cast iron pot, casserole, or lidded skillet for is needed for baking the bread.

In a medium bowl, mix the water with the yeast and stir until the yeast is dissolved. Stir in the flour. Cover loosely with a kitchen towel and let rise at room temperature for 10 to 14 hours.


1. In a bowl, combine the warm water with the pre-ferment. Use your hands to break up the pre-ferment until dissolved. In a very large bowl, whisk the bread/all-purpose flour (I always use bread flour) with the whole wheat flour. Using your hands, mix the dissolved pre-ferment into the flours. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let stand for 30 minutes.
2. Uncover the dough and add the salt water. Gently fold the dough over onto itself until the salt water is thoroughly incorporated. 
Loosely cover the dough and let rest for 1 hour; every 20 minutes, gently fold the dough up and over onto itself 4 times. 
Cover the dough and let stand for 3 to 4 hours.
***Note: this recipe makes a large quantity of dough. Because the cast iron pot I use to bake bread is on the small side at approximately 2.5 quarts, I divided the dough into two halves and portioned one half into two rounds for bread. I divided the other half of the dough into 4 small rounds to be frozen for pizza dough. Divide the dough according to the size of your baking vessel.
3. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and divide. Using a bench scraper and floured hands, gently shape the dough into rounds, folding the dough under itself as necessary. Let the loaves stand on the work surface for 20 minutes and then gently fold the sides under again.
4. Line large bowls with kitchen towels and generously dust the towels with rice flour. Transfer the loaves to the bowls, rounded sides down. Cover the loaves with clean towels and let rise for 4 to 5 hours. Alternatively, let the dough rise for 1 hour at room temperature, then refrigerate the loaves overnight. Let the dough come to room temperature before baking.
5. Preheat the oven to 490°. Heat a cast-iron casserole, lidded skillet, or pot for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and dust the bottom with rice flour. Turn the loaves into the heated casserole/skillet/pot, rounded side up, and score the tops with a sharp, thin knife (I forgot the step and the bread was just fine). Cover and bake the bread for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 470° and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake the loaves for 25 minutes or until the bread is richly browned. Transfer the bread to a rack; let cool completely before slicing.


  1. I just about that short-cut bread in F&W last night. Looks great! I can't wait to get my hands on a copy of the book.

  2. You'll love the book. The photography is gorgeous and it's a pretty good read too! I love it when a cook book includes stories and background on the cook.

  3. Oh, boy! I bought a bunch of Richardson Farms flour last week at the market so that I can use it for a starter over the holidays. (I think that will be the only time of the year when I am home enough to nurture it.) I hope my loaf of bread turns out as crusty and yummy as that one.

  4. @Austin Gastronomist- You do have to plan a bit with a starter. I've had the book a while now but I too had to wait until I knew I'd have an uninterupted week or two. Let me know what you think of Richardson's Farms flour. I've never used it before.

  5. I've seen that book, and it is a beauty. I am not an experienced bread maker, but i do love making bread, I'm not sure if the book might be too advanced for me.
    Beautiful bread, the crust looks awesome!
    *kisses* HH

  6. @HH Thanks! I'm hoping it's not too advanced for me too. I'm giving it my best shot, though!