Tartine: Modern Ancient Classic Whole (Anglais) Relié – 1 décembre 2013
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And an aside: I see in other reviews beginning bakers who had difficulty - I don't think this is a book for beginners, start with Tartine Bread, and even then only if you are dedicated. These methods make the best breads that exist, but not without a learning curve.
The flaw of this book, and of many baking books and the food publishing industry in general, is that they are simply recipe books. Recipes are nice, they give you a place to start, and they slowly but surely add to one's intuitive knowledge - but they don't teach you much about the big picture. I was really really hoping that this book would build on Tartine Bread in that direction. Tartine Bread laid out a good foundation, both in technique and in some background theory, but it left me wanting so much more. I had high hopes that this book, focusing on whole grains, would have dived deeper into the nuances of naturally leavened baking, both in general and with the variety of different grains.
There are some simple examples: He has bumped up the salt percentage to 2.5% from the 2% used in Tartine Bread. Why? Has he changed his overall opinion on salt, or does the change arise from using more whole grains? He adds wheat germ to every loaf in the book; why? That seems so random, and yet there is no explanation (unless I missed it). The time in the dutch oven in this book has been extended to 30 minutes before the cover is removed. Why? Even the basic structure of the recipes lacks important explanation.
But more profoundly, I think there's a lot he leaves out about the overall skill of baking - and for me, I want skills, not blueprints. My loaves turn out pretty good, but I've never pulled a loaf from my oven that has the open, creamy crumb structure I have seen at Tartine or in his pictures. There must be so much to say about the nuances of managing a leaven, about the feel of the dough at different stages, about the final proof and what you look for and how that pertains to whole grains, about hydration and how it affects each variable in the process.. and about how each grain reacts differently to the whole baking process.. not to mention all the factors that affect the crust and structure of the loaf through the end of the bake. And there still isn't one book with practical, comprehensive information about milling and flours.. (aging vs. not aging fresh milled flour, flour strength, how fine vs. course milling affects the loaf, etc etc etc..)
Again - I write this as a baker who is a voracious learner who is never satisfied with his skills and knowledge. For someone that just wants a recipe book, it's a great recipe book - my favorite. 5/5. But as a tool to learn, 2/5.. Basically, I'm bummed that a guy who clearly has so much passion and knowledge and wisdom seems to be holding back. I'd much rather he focus on the craft itself than page after page of pretty photos which are a reminder of my elusive goal to develop as a baker! So I write this review largely to cast my vote: I don't think we need any more recipe books. I want to learn the knowledge and craft that are behind it all..
The reason I'm giving taking a star off the rating for this book is that it needs attention in the accuracy of some of the recipes. I'm going to point one as an example. The Chamomile-Kamut Shortbread recipe was obviously not given enough attention to detail by the editor. It asks for 10g of chamomile flowers to be infused into 53g of honey. Well, that's great on paper, but trying to do this in reality produces a sticky mess of the worst quality. You'll end up with almost all of your honey being bound by the flowers and/or tea-bag you're using. You may be able to squeeze out 1 tablespoon out of the original 1/4 cup quantity of honey. The recipe goes on to tell you to "Remove the chamomile and discard." Then it never tells you what to do with the chamomile infused honey. And later at the end tells you to "then fold in the lemon zest and chamomile flowers". Well, for someone with experience it's not going to be a problem to figure out to whip the honey with the butter and ignore the chamomile flowers instruction, but for someone relatively new to baking it would be a problem. These kinds of confusing instructions could, and should have been avoided in a book of this quality. UPDATE: I just finished baking these and noted yet another error/inaccuracy in the same shortbread recipe. It instructs to cut the shortbread into 1x2" cookies and that the recipe would yield about 5 dozen cookies. That means 60 cookies at 2 sq. in. per cookie, or 120 sq. in. of shortbread needed to get that yield. I'll let you decide how to get that from a 6x10" pan (i.e. 60 sq. in. of baked surface). In other words, the actual yield is half of what the recipe promises. Yes, the book was definitely rushed to print before it was ready for prime time.
I also agree with one of the previous comments that points out that the book has an air of pretentiousness about it. Though, as they say, it ain't bragging if you can do it, and they definitely can do it at Tartine. Still, let's remember Charlie Trotter and pause...take a breath...and be human again.
One more thing that I was thrilled about was the primer on kefir and making kefir cream and butter. It was sort of a synchronicity for me as I had just started culturing raw milk kefir about 3 weeks ago and made kefir cream and butter about 4 days before the book showed up. I was super stoked about this and will be making the Lemon-Poppy-Kefir Pound Cake as soon as my next batch of kefir cream is ready so I can beat it into butter. On that note, if you have not yet had real kefir-cultured butter from raw cream, well, I'm simply hoping you will do yourself a favor and make it so that you can understand what an incredible difference it makes.
I would like to second another reviewers recommendation of another book for those who are seriously considering baking their own naturally leavened breads: The Bread Builders: Hearth Loaves and Masonry Ovens by Daniel Wing and Alan Scott, it too my mind has an excellent description of the biological, physical, and chemical events that are going on at all stages of the process of creating this type of bread. This knowledge will make you much more comfortable in making the adjustments that are required to the Tartine Method due to the variables of flour, temperature, culture, etc.
Buy this book and "Tartine Bread" to inspire and the Bread Builders for the theory--then go bake a loaf--I expect you will be happy.
PS--the additional recipes in both this book and Tartine Bread are also excellent for creative ideas on what to do with your bread once its baked and on extending your baking skills into the pastry realm.