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Tartine “Best Loaf” Webisode One

Written By Peter Reinhart
Monday, 09 May 2011 Webisodes

The Best Loaf of Bread

Tartine Bakery and Cafe is located on the corner of 18th St. at 600 Guerrero St. and is, like every shop in San Francisoc’s one block “Gastro District,” a total gem. It is the creation of Chad Robertson (baker extraordinaire) and his wife Elizabeth Prueitt (pastry chef supreme). As you will see in this webisode, you just want to eat everything that the eye takes in. If I still lived in San Francisco — and I once did live just blocks from where Tartine now is but, alas, it didn’t exist till much later — I would probably start everyday there with a pastry and a cappuccino and then return around 3 PM to grab one of the loaves you’re about to see. Our tour guide in this segment is Eric Wolfinger, who was one of the bakers at Tartine at the time we shot this video but has since moved on to a number of other interesting projects, including photographer of Chad’s new Tartine bread book. At the time, Eric lived upstairs from the bakery, so, in the next segment you will see us climbing the fire escape up to his apartment where he will make us a pizza on the same dough used to make the astounding French country loaves in this episode.

By the way, Chad was present when we shot this, working away in the background on his breads, and you will catch a quick glimpse of him shaping loaves on the work bench (he’s the one with the beard). I’ve been following his career as a bread baker ever since, as a young man, he had a bakery in Marin County, near Point Reyes National Park–one of the first wood-fired bakers I knew of who was able to build up a viable commercial bakery. But when he and Elizabeth made the move to Guerrero St. and opened Tartine, they really took it to another level. Chad found a way to transition from a wood fired oven to a much larger, gas fired French deck oven without losing any quality, and is now able to make a lot more people happy. The Tartine empire is growing, as they have now opened a restaurant and bar around the corner on Valencia St. called Bar Tartine, and the hits just keep on coming.

What’s significant about the success of Tartine is how Chad and Elizabeth, like many others of the past twenty five years or so (maybe we should call it the Alice Waters Generation, since she’s the iconic personification of what so many others are now emulating), found a way to stay true to their artisan values and bring so much joy to others. We went to “The Gastro” specifically to film at Pizzeria Delfina, yet we were so captivated by what was going on right next door that we spent an extra day just to get some of Tartine on film for you. We’ll continue this Tartine series next time, upstairs, baking a killer pizza in a small home oven, using Tartine’s perfect bread dough.



Thanks Jay, I appreciate your help. I had another question if you don’t mind. I was wondering about leaving the bread in the fridge after the rise ? Is longer than 12 hours something to be avoided or could you go longer if needed ? I am really new at this so please excuse me for being so green ! Thanks so much ! Kevin Glasky

Jay Forrest

Hi Kev!

The formal Tartine recipe does not have a refrigerated retard and Chad’s process does not have a good window for a retard during bulk fermentation because you are folding on the half hour until about the last hour. Retarding after loaf forming is possible (as Chad suggests) but Tartine loaves proof fast and a lot of people seem to have problems with overproofing using Chad’s times, so retarding is likely produce overproofed loaves. (Reason is that the loaves are likely to be halfway proofed before they cool down enough to slow down). I have had enough trouble with overproofing Tartine that I don’t recommend it though it will no doubt give more complex flavor. IF you know you want to retard I think I would reduce the amount of preferment in the final dough so it will take longer to proof. I suspect Chad’s 12 hour limit reflects his aversion to overproofing. Once cold, the dough is not rising very fast so if time dictates it needs to be 18 or 24 hrs so be it.

Noreen Wurl

My husband gave me the Tartine book for Christmas and our bread has never been the same. I’ve found the rhythm of the recipe and can make it without any effort. My grown children beg for it and friends want to buy it. I’ve found that the cooker works great for the Italian bread that I was baking before the tartine. My thanks to Chad for taking the time to share his gift with all of us.

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