Monday, October 29, 2012

Deconstructing Chad

So while the American food economy continues to move in hyperdrive, some might have missed what I would consider nothing short of a Kuhnian Revolution in bread baking.  That event would be Chad Robertson's Tartine Country Bread Recipe, published in Tartine Bread.

Here, for the first time, Robertson replicates the process used by French bakers prior to the widespread use of commercial fast-rising cake yeasts in the 1930's.  Bread baked without commercial yeast has deeper and more complex flavors, yielding a superior loaf.  Until now, breads baked with only natural yeasts suffered because the starter was typically refrigerated prior to use, yielding more lactic acid (sour) than acetic acid (sweet, tangy).  In Robertson's recipe, the starter and leaven are never refrigerated.

I will say in advance that this recipe is nearly impossible for the home baker to replicate, and for those who could replicate it, it is way too onerous to produce regularly.  But for someone that is interested in a challenge, here are my notes below.  I would add that adding a tiny pinch of instant yeast in Step 4 will double the speed things take for steps 5-14 without degrading the final flavor significantly.  The most helpful thing to me in this recipe was to discover that I could maintain a starter outside the fridge with only one daily feeding.  Previously, I had not used a kitchen scale and as such the starter would typically ferment too fast and die back too much before I could get to the next feeding.  In my most recent tests with this recipe, the starter maintained its strength well with daily feedings.  If anyone would like to inherit a bit of starter to get going, I would be happy to share so you can skip the first five days or so of the recipe.

Here I walk you through through the recipe.  Download the images to view the text cleanly.
Recipe reproduced via:


  1. I always thought the 'revolution' that was started was the 'no knead' method (; but as I borrowed (and loved) this particular Tartine Bread book last year and had to eventually return it ... I'll save my criticism for someone else and instead THANK YOU for passing along this recipe. Thanks!

  2. no knead is cool but you will get better results with this recipe if you can get all the way through it successfully.

  3. I saw your link in the Chad Q&A in the NY Times. Chad didn't set out to guide you to 'an easy way to make great bread'. What he did answer superbly is the question Can you make bread of 'that' caliber at home. I've been baking professionally since the '70s and always felt that it was an insurmountable hurdle, getting the sort of bread I could bake in a bakery or restaurant kitchen in small batches and at home. I was fortunate to be selected as one of the recipe testers for his first bread book and came in as a Doubting Thomas. Simply stated, his recipe works and rewards those who are patient. It's not for everyone and judging by your comments, it appears that you can't stand the heat. That's why they have bakeries.