Tartine Book

I don’t usually do book reviews here. Obviously, I love books, especially of the how-to variety as they help me out on the farm making cheese or kraut or beekeeping.  While I love novels and literary non-fiction (except for the sacred few) I find that I lend those out or give them away. But I keep the how-to books. They’re for reference of course, and they are books to use when I teach classes or when I have an open house and I want to invite people to see the books firsthand. Often visitors will have some of the same books (Wild Fermentation, Encyclopedia of Country Living) on their bookshelves and we’ll laugh about our crazed how-to gurus.

There’s a new book out by a crazed how-to guru that I was so pleased to find at Green Apple books the other night. Bill and I had gone to San Francisco for an evening out which involves going to Rainbow to buy olive oil when they’re open, spend a few hours doing something else, and returning to Rainbow when their mighty-fine dumpster gets put out and can be perused.

So there we were, wasting time at Green Apple and I see this book, called Tartine Bread. I read the first paragraph and knew I had to buy the book, even though it is not in my budget ($40). The rest of the night we went diving, then got home tired and dirty. The next day was so hot, I just sat around and read Tartine Bread instead of going outside. I found myself completely blown away how lovely the book is, how measured, how perfectly the book captures the essence of what matters right now with people today. It took my breath away; and I realized, this is probably what happened when my mom read the Moosewood Cookbook or Diet for a Small Planet. The book captured what is important to me, the author finds what I find beautiful, he crafts and cares and loves. He’s–yes–speaking for my generation.

His name is Chad Robertson, and his careful prose paints a portrait of a man obsessed with craft and doing one thing very very well. From what I’ve heard of him, this is all true–by all accounts, he is a humble craftsperson. There are also perfect photos which show you how to make the Tartine loaves which so many people in SF gladly wait in line for. The secret is a series of steps–coaxing a wild yeast to become your friend and live in a jar of flour and water; making a sticky wet dough that you don’t really knead, but turn instead; cooking the dough in a cast iron pan with a lid–to make a big, unique crusty loaf.

Now, I just got the book, I haven’t started to make my wild yeast friend yet, but I will. I had originally thought I would make the bread in my cob oven, but Chad insists that wood fired ovens aren’t necessary (I’m still going to try…) I have made a recipe from the other part of the book, which details how to make bready-recipes like roasted tomatoes, Bahn mi, and a dino kale caesar with croutons. Since I have a million dino kale plants in the garden, I busted that out last night (using the far less superior bread from Brioche Bakery to make the croutons). Lordy, it was divine.

So, there’s my first book review. The end.

11 responses to “Tartine Book

  1. After teaching my husband to bake his own pretzels (he was really blowing through them and making them got old fast) I found him the no-knead bread recipe in the Mother Earth News one day at the library. He went home and researched it further, and has been making our bread ever since- leaving it in a tub on top of the fridge overnight, and baking it in our cast iron Dutch oven.

    We haven’t managed a natural leaven, though. Maybe this book would make a great present for the end of the year. I mean, if he can buy me self-serving gifts, why can’t I return the favor? I love how-to books anyway- they make up the bulk of my library.

    BTW, I think it’s notable that you guys include dumpster-diving in your night out on the town. You’re not fattening a pig again, are you?

  2. Interesting. I thought the Tartine bakery was helmed by a woman. Liz Prueitt? I have a recipe for scones that apparently comes from Tartine, and I’ve got to tell you, they are the. best. scones. ever. I do miss bay area breads. World class bakeries are a dime a dozen out there. No place like it that I’ve ever been to. The sticky wet dough in a sealed baking container is the basic method for no-knead bread. If you haven’t tried that I recommend it.

    You’re not doing a drawing for this book then, I take it. Drats. On to my list it goes. Thanks for the recommendation.

  3. hey kate;
    yeah, chad is liz’s hubby and they run the place together. i think she wrote a book about pastries a few years ago. he talks about their adventures in france in the mid-90s, and it sounds very intense. sorry girl, this copy is just for me and billy…

  4. hey paula;
    no pigs, thank god, just greens-loving rabbits and chickens. and billy enjoys pears.

  5. Boy that “foraging” habit sure can get hardwired into one’s makeup ;-)
    I know, ’cause I too am a unrepentant forager.
    And yes this is the best way to make chewy , tasty bread with a MINIMUM of effort. Yeah! cast iron!

  6. I love this review, Novella! I was already excited about the book, but now, having read your impressions, I really want it – thanks to you!

  7. Mmmmmm. Banh mi. (Banh moi!)

  8. I need another cookbook like I need a hole in my head, but I cannot resist after this review. I love baking bread and homemade pretzels sound delightful too.

    Thank you.

  9. I just (like literally 10 minutes ago) finished Farm City and had to find your blog right away. I’ve promised myself that I need to start filling up my freshly constructed raised beds (pictures up tomorrow) with sheet composting materials before I can spend any time online, but I’m so glad to find you here.

    Also, I am exactly the same with books, only own a few cherished fiction books, but have a library full of how-to’s. I will definitely be checking this one out from the library soon. Thanks for the book recommendation and also thanks for your book! (I’ve been gardening in fits and starts over the last couple of years and your book has definitely been an inspiration.)

  10. Thank you SO MUCH for posting about this book! I didn’t know about it at all. My bf has the Tartine pastries book, which he absolutely loves and makes so many things out of. He used to bake a lot of bread but hasn’t as much lately. I immediately ordered two bread book copies – one for him, and one for my brother. My bf has been soul-searching in the way of farming for a living (especially in the biodynamic vein), and when I received my brother’s copy in the mail, I was delighted to read about the author’s experiences in the largely biodynamic farm communities in Northern California and his amazing account on his quest to find his dream loaf. I think this will really help my bf re-connect with his love for good food during his farm career quest. Thank you so much, again! Unrelated, have you ever thought of raising guinea hens? Seeing an invasion of harlequin beetles in my front yard (or I think that’s what they are?? Homegrownevolution made a post about them but I can’t seem to find it) makes me wish I had a flock of them.. chickens seem more interested in grubs than beetle bugs.

  11. I love Green Apple. And B*Star and The Plough and the Stars down the street (best pint of Guinness around, and good folk dancing on Thursdays).

    I hadn’t considered the dumpster…sounds like a good plan for when/if I have some free bookshelf space.

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