The really first thing I remember making on the kitchen was bread. Two basic recipes my mom used to make, onion bread and “homemade” bread that in Brazil usually means a very soft crumb resembling brioche or sandwich bread, very cakey. It comes as a movie in my head: blending liquids, measuring flour, mixing, kneading, proofing, baking, eating.
Big loafs should rise under the sun. Aside, a glass of water holding a small piece of dough waiting to float, the first sign we should get it into the oven. No scales, no thermometers, no bulk fermentation and no questions.
But I was a rebellious person, I had questions, I asked too much and I ended here, with the “Tartine Bread Project”.
Tartine is a bakery and café in San Francisco and its name is everywhere, at least on the food world. Elizabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson, it’s owners, were nominated three times for the James Beard Foundation Awards, “the Oscar of Food”, and won as the best pastry chefs in America in 2008. They are also authors of Tartine, more focused in pastry (by the way, the book also has the best brownie recipe I’d ever found!).
It’s hard to not be impressed with all the amazing pictures of Elizabeth, Chad and their team folding, glazing, filling, covering, baking, smiling.
Last year, after an intensive effort to adapt their recipe bread to home bakers, Chad launched his second book, Tartine Bread.
The first recipe, their legendary Tartine Country Bread is a result of a “search for a certain loaf with an old soul” as he says on the book. And a lot of people, including me, are very happy for Chad’s obsession for the perfect bread.
As soon as I started reading the book, I wanted to get my hands dirty with flour and started what I called “Tartine Bread Project”. But this bread is complex!!! It’s made by using just three basic ingredients, flour, water and salt thought a process involving long rising, natural fermentation and artisanal shaping. Its recipe fills 37 pages with words and step-by-step pictures, its starter needs at least two weeks to get ready and you gotta be prepared to fail.
Surprisingly I found a bunch of other people involved on the same craziness. Food bloggers I better not mention (so I don’t forget any), tutorials, successful and disastrous experiences and even a Facebook Tartine Bread Community with people’s attempts, pics and a lot of good advices!
Now you have been asking why somebody would spend so much time in a bread, a thing you could easily buy at the grocery store?
I could say it’s anxiety fault; anxiety for better flavor, better crumb and better taste. But there’s something bigger behind this desire.
A few days ago my second daughter spent all morning cutting, folding, taping and came with a real size paper bag. An ordinary thing she could easily have if had asked me. But the process of creating is something inexplicable, isn’t it?
So, bread is my paper bag!
Calm down, I don’t want, at least for now, to push you into this adventure. First, let’s just consider the importance of bread in our meals and how good it can make a simple dish be!
This salad is a perfect exemple. It calls for a country bread but you can use a mild sourdough too. A little of sourness will pair well with the sour vinaigrette. Here comes the ingredients for two servings:
Heat the oven to 350˚F. Place bread already cut in irregular pieces in a baking sheet and toast for about 8 minutes. Take the bread off, toss it with the other ingredients and toast for extra 10 minutes or until sesame seeds are golden in color. Set aside.
Meanwhile prepare vinaigrette:
Hit oil in a small saucepan and add onion; sauté for two minutes until translucent in color. Add mustard, vinegar and reduce to 1/3. Turn off the heat and don’t let it boil again, otherwise olive oil can lose its qualities.
Place spinach in a medium bowl, add toasted bread and pour vinaigrette on top. Mix well, add “chips” of parmesan and serve. As an option, you could use kale leaves or romaine lettuce too!