Tragedy struck our household just after Christmas, when my beloved kitchenaid professional stand mixer jammed up. So much for its vaunted planetary action, where the beater blade spins on its axis while simultaneously rotating around the bowl. Instead my machine let out an increasingly angry buzzing noise from the machine and an increasingly panicked response from me. My kitchenaid is just over 3 years old–I whined, as if rationalizing with it would guilt it into replying, well then, nevermind, I suppose I’ll start working again.
I eventually learned that in the great state of Massachusetts, there are only two locales that service stand mixers. The one in the Boston area turned out to be in Salem. As in, the witch trials. Hmh.
I’m still waiting for the new gear piece to come in from the manufacturer, and in the meantime I have had to make do. (Oh, we grew up without a stand mixer, though I coveted them on TV cooking shows. But one gets used to luxuries so quickly…). As dear readers know, my kitchenaid is often hauled out for bread making, not so much because I hate kneading but rather so I can have my hands free chasing down a speedy crawler and his equally energetic older brother. What to do?
So, yeah, I found an excuse to buy another bread book.
But I can justify it!
Even among my (far too) large collection of bread books, this one stands out. In part, it’s Chad Robertson’s method in Tartine Bread: simply fold the dough over itself every half hour for about 3 hours to develop the dough. Time + water + folding builds the gluten just as kneading would. The other genius of the method is to use a dutch oven to replicate the steamy environment of a professional oven. (No throwing of ice cubes into heated cast iron skillets preheating on your oven floor, or spraying down the sides of your hot oven with water). It’s a bit of a delicate operation dealing with a very hot and heavy cast iron pot and lid, but as long as you have a good supply of kitchen mitts and potholders, you’re good to go.
The bread is amazing. It has that rustic, chewy european bread crust, a mild sourdough flavor, a complexity from a touch of whole wheat flour. The crumb is equally marvelous, filled with little pockets of air, but moist and toothsome. The loaf keeps well and is fresh-tasting even 5 days after baking. And it’s beautiful to look at–ruddy browns, heat-blistered surface.
Rather than putting the recipe here, I’ll link to the article in Martha Stewart Living where the basic recipe was featured.
I don’t want to scare anyone off, but the recipe as posted there is so detailed I couldn’t do it justice here. But the length of the recipe is a good thing: answering and anticipating any question you may have such as “does this look right” or “what is this supposed to smell like?”, and to boot, there are probably more progress photos than you’ve ever seen before in any recipe. You could, in fact, almost skip reading the recipe, if all those words are too intimidating.
I’d (surprise) recommend the book if you like this bread, as several easy variations on his basic method are given, plus delicious recipes for soups, mains, and desserts that bring out the best of the bread. There’s also a brioche recipe made partially with sourdough–but that one requires the stand mixer…
*A note on sourdough: Yes, this does require sourdough. Fear not, as this recipe explains how to make your own. As you know I’ve had my troubles rearing up my own colony of yeast, but something about this book inspired me to try again. Patience, patience: on day EIGHT my sourdough finally came to life. And it’s very much alive, even if it was slow out of the gate! I’ve also found that when all else fails, rye is a great “first food” for yeast; you can always stop using the rye once your starter gets going if you don’t like the taste. (Otherwise, you can just order sourdough cultures online for pretty cheap–ask me if googling it fails you).