Tartine Baker Goes Pre-Industrial with Book No. 3 | Civil Eats

Tartine Baker Goes Pre-Industrial with Book No. 3


Since it was published in 2010, Tartine Bread has become the bible for DIY bakers. Written by Chad Robertson, owner of the acclaimed San Francisco bakery Tartine, it is a hefty yet appealingly light-hearted ode to old-fashioned, country-style loaves. Now, Robertson has taken the craft of bread making to another level with Tartine Book No. 3: Modern, Ancient, Classic, Whole. (The first cookbook in the trilogy, Tartine, which Robertson wrote with his wife and business partner, Elisabeth Prueitt, focuses more on pastry.)

Inspired in part by Prueitt’s gluten intolerance, Robertson drew from traditions that have long been overlooked in Tartine Book No. 3. Working within his wheelhouse of naturally fermented dough, Robertson pushed his craft further back in time to explore pre-industrial baking, and discovered a world of possibilities when incorporating ancient grains, whole grains, and heirloom grain varietals in bread. The book provides flexible and accessible modern recipes, while illuminating the ways in which bread has changed over time.

We spoke with Robertson recently about whole grains, creativity, and what’s next for the baker and Tartine. He also shared a recipe from the new book (see below).

Chad_visorIn your introduction, you say that you finished writing Tartine Bread, just as the “home-baking movement seemed to reach critical mass.” How will Tartine Book No. 3 engage this more informed audience?

The goal of the last book was to give basics. I still get emails almost every day from someone sending their bread picture thanking me for the recipe, saying, “Wow, my family loves it.” I think a lot of people got it and were making bread and from my own perspective, it’s almost like everyone did their homework and that let me throw a lot of other variables out there. This one is showing readers how we took our own basic recipes and evolved them.

What inspired you to bake more with whole grains, some of which might seem less-traditional and challenging, like quinoa?

The mentors that I first baked with were all from the whole grain movement, even though they were French or French Canadian. My mentor in France was a macrobiotic hippie in the 60s, but was also classically trained in French baking and more interested in nutrition and baking whole grains.

The aesthetics and the flavor were what took me away from whole grains when I started Tartine Bakery, and I focused on fermentation to develop the flavor. Now, I could have my own influence on whole grain flavor [more] than I could have before I started the bakery and refined the methods of fermentation.

Just being in California, and the astounding variety and quantity of produce here–I saw that approach trending with grains. [There are] many different varieties of wheat here, including heirloom varieties with different flavors and colors. With what my friends were doing in Europe—Italy, France, Scandinavia—there was definitely a resurgence of the types that were used before the industrialization of grains, which inevitably led to breeding grains not for flavor but for greater yield and productivity. Now there’s a huge shift back to breeding for flavor.

How can we best support farmers who grow unique ancient grains — or how and where might we best find them?

Everyone’s coming out of the woodwork, all these farmers growing grains. The bigger question is: How do we build bigger local sustainable grain economies, and how we make sense of it economically? This is the first step for sure, getting people exciting and tasting this stuff.

It happens with everything–like coffee. I remember when Brandywine tomatoes used to be incredibly expensive because one person was growing them. Now as they become more available and more people get to enjoy them, the prices drop.

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What advice do you have for readers who can’t find a specific grain for a recipe in your book?

The point is not to use exactly what I use but to expand your mind. I found this baker in France I wanted to collaborate with and he uses purple barley. Where you live, there’s always something better. Most of my family is living in North Carolina, and there’s just a ton of these older varieties of wheat being grown around there.

What were the biggest challenges about working with whole grains as opposed to more processed bread flours?

It’s not radically different. It ferments a lot faster because the bacteria in wild yeast thrives more. When you’re using more whole grain, everything grows faster, and the fermentation happens faster. It’s a little bit more delicate. I would just say to keep control of the fermentation. If it goes too fast it can just get too sour.

What can we expect next from both the bakery and your writing on the subject?

We are working on another book; we were still making recipes when Tartine Book No. 3 was due, which happened with the last book too. We just kept going.

We’re planning a lot of beer-making and spirit-making processes that are also based on grains. The whole idea is to take grain and to think of it like an egg: There’s a hundred different ways you can cook it. We’re trying to see how many flavors we can tease out of each individual grain.

We’re working with a brewer [Oakland-based Linden Street Brewery], but we’re not brewing our own beer at this point. We’re doing a lot of sprouting and malting and extracting those flavors from grains and using some of that liquid in the dough. It’s fun. It’s going to be a more geeky book, so we’re trying to balance it with the more approachable stuff.


Tartine Book No 3_Rene's Rye_142René’s Rye
Excerpted from Tartine Book No. 3 by Chad Robertson, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

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This hearty bread came together quickly, as I started with a base recipe generously given to me by my Danish chef friend René Bolvig. My formula changed and evolved over time to be something quite different from the original, but the loaf itself—a nutrient-dense brick of sprouted grains and seeds—holds true to the source. Sprouting the grain makes the bread immensely more digestible, and adds a natural sweetness from the rye berries themselves. We use beer made by our friends at Linden Street Brewery in Oakland, who ferment the brew using our natural bread starter as the sole culture. The buttermilk and whey used in these loaves is what’s left after our weekly production of fresh cheese and butter at Bar Tartine. The loaf can also be shaved into thin slices and baked to make lacy crisps.


Baker’s %Weight
  • High-extraction spelt flour
80400 g
  • Whole-grain dark rye flour
20100 g
  • Buttermilk
36180 g
  • Dark beer
27135 g
  • Dark malt syrup
420 g
WATER95475 g
LEAVEN62310 g
  • Sprouted rye berries
105525 g
  • Sunflower seeds
945 g
  • Whole brown flaxseeds
27135 g
  • Coarsely ground brown flaxseeds
1370 g
  • Unhulled brown sesame seeds
21105 g
  • Pumpkin seeds
945 g

Yield: Two loaves

Master method for sprouted-grain pan loaves: All our sprouted-grain recipes contain a larger percentage of non-flour ingredients. Therefore in order to maintain a yield of two loaves, we’ve scaled the flour in all these recipes to 500 grams rather than 1 kilogram.

To mix the sprouted-grain pan breads, first measure the flours and put in a large bowl. In a second large bowl, combine all of the liquids and leaven and mix by hand to incorporate. Add the flour to the water-leaven mixture and mix by hand until thoroughly combined, about 5 minutes. Let the dough rest, covered, in the bowl for 30 minutes. Add the salt, sprouted grains, and seeds and continue mixing by hand until incorporated. The dough should have the feel of wet concrete.

Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and let rise at warm room temperature (80 to 85°F/26 to 29°C) for about 3 hours, giving it folds every 45 minutes to strengthen the dough. Dip your hands in water (to prevent the dough from sticking), and scoop the dough into twice-buttered steel pans, which prevents the loaves from sticking. At Tartine we use both standard-size and miniature (4 by 6 in/10 by 15 cm) loaf pans. Alternately, use nonstick loaf pans. Smooth the tops of the loaves with wet hands. Let rise in the pans, uncovered, for 2 hours more at warm room temperature. Cover the pans with a clean, dry kitchen towel and let rise overnight in the refrigerator.

The next day, when you’re ready to bake, use a pair of scissors to make shallow cuts in the tops of the loaves to score, brush with water, and bake at 425°F/220°C for 1 hour and 15 to 25 minutes, or until the internal temperature has reached 210°F/100°C. Due to the very high overall hydration of these doughs, it’s essential to bake them thoroughly. Let cool on a wire rack for at least half a day before cutting. Typically, I wait until the next day to cut into the bread, as the crumb is very moist and the resting times make it easier to slice this bread thinly. These breads keep well for up to one week properly wrapped or in a bread box.

Cathy Erway is the author of The Foods of Taiwan and The Art of Eating In: How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove, which was based on her two-year boycott of restaurant food and her popular blog on the topic, Not Eating Out In New York. She hosts the weekly podcast, Eat Your Words on Heritage Radio Network and writes about food, cooking, and urban agriculture for numerous publications. Read more >

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