I‘ve been really into bread for about the last 10 years. When I’ve traveled abroad, I always go out of my way to get my hands on the best bread I can. When I first moved back to the bay area I made a circuit of all the best bakeries and decided for myself what bakeries had the best bread, or bread philosophies. Acme had the best bread provided that it was just pulled out of the oven, a few hours was all it took for it to go stale and dry out. Arizmendi was good if you liked your bread denser and more moist. La Farine had the best parisian style baguette, etc.
Then I finally got around to eating Tartine bread in the Mission, and my mind was blown. It was so obviously on a different level than anything I had before. It was simple basic sourdough like every other bakery, but had far and away the best flavor, most open crumb, crispy crust, with lacy delicately soft insides. It was amazing. I raced out and got the Tartine Cookbook and set to work trying my hand at Chad Robertson’s set of techniques.
In it I found all the standard steps, but all tweaked and altered to serve a fresh new approach, that was brilliantly original, simple, and synergisticly perfect. I remember tilting the book away from me in awe and saying out loud “He solved bread…” I’ve since used Chad’s approach to bread as the prototypical example of developing mastery of something to such a high level that you can drastically cut through all the accumulated noise on the subject, and express a brilliantly personal truth, that’s original, and simple, yet represents a full understanding of all variables. Sort of like a master calligrapher who makes a few simple strokes, informed by a lifetime of training.
I now think about “solving” painting, or “solving” animation, or photography, or wood working etc. with the same end in view. Developing such a profound understanding of the fundamentals of something that my execution simply and perfectly synthesis a vast array of knowledge into a personal, yet classically timeless form.
I started baking Tartine style bread two years ago. First I had to develop a robust starter, after which I set about baking a loaf every day. Usually I would start the turning/bulk rise in the evening, and then final rise overnight in the fridge, and bake early in the morning before work. Here are some of the prettier examples:
* UPDATE *
I emailed Tartine to say thanks and to share the photo. And they wrote back with words of encouragement, and told me “Chad just so happened to be in the room as I was reading your message, and showed him the photo! He said it looks great. ”