Chad Robertson tells us why the world needs a new baking bookDecember 14, 2013 by Jane
Chad Robertson, owner of Tartine Bakery in San Francisco, has been called “a bread genius,” “one of the most admired bakers in the U.S.,” and “the cult prince of American bread making.” Already the author of two books named after his bakery, Tartine Bread and Tartine: Sweet and Savory Pastries, Tarts, Pies, Cakes, Croissants, Cookies and Confections (the latter co-authored with Elisabeth Prueitt), he has recently published his third book, Tartine Book No. 3: Modern, Ancient, Classic, Whole. In this book he revisits his subject matter – baked goods – but uses whole grains, antique grains like kamut, and raw sweeteners.
Chad took time out to answer some question we thought our members would like to ask. And to enter a giveaway for his new book, post a reply on the giveaway blog here.
EYB: How much adjustment is required when converting bakery recipes to those for the home cook? Are there any recipes you had to drop as they wouldn’t translate to something a home cook could easily manage without your large-scale equipment?
All of our recipes are calibrated for the home baker- we develop and test recipes both at the bakery, and with a group of home bakers who give us detailed feedback. Granted, some recipes are simpler and require less preparation than others.
EYB: When you convert bakery recipes to a
cookbook for home cooks, do you get home cooks to test them?
If so, how do you recruit them?
We ask friends. Lots of people enjoy testing: our baking team gets valuable insight from them, and our test baking friends get an advance look into new recipes and techniques we are developing.
EYB: There is a debate amongst U.S. cookbook authors, most especially of baking books, whether ingredients should be measured by grams, which are much more accurate than volume measurements. Have you considered that yourself?
We always use metric in bread formulas (where the weights and measures are synced allowing for much more efficient calculation); and usually provide both weights and volume for pastry recipes as lots of people still work with cups, etc at home. Personally, I use weights as it’s faster, typically more accurate, and requires less measuring tools.
EYB: In Tartine Bread your recipe for Basic Country Bread covers 38 pages (including a lot of photos). Are there any recipes in Tartine Book No. 3 on that scale?
Tartine Book No. 3 includes a much shorter recap of the basic recipe from the last book as a refresher. After, I introduce a series of new techniques that build on that basic recipe. None of the new techniques required 38 pages to describe, but many involve a few extra days to prepare components that are incorporated into the slightly evolved basic recipe.
EYB: This is your third highly successful cookbook in seven years. You also work full time at your wildly popular bakery in the Mission District in San Francisco. Are you permanently exhausted?
None of this would be possible without my talented staff at the bakery and our sister restaurant Bar Tartine. I’ve been working with my managing team for five to seven years, and we have a strong support system among us. All of our staff is involved in building these book projects together with me. Also, there’s a tolerance and drive that develops when you work in a place like Tartine alongside dedicated people who continually push themselves: once we finish one project, we are looking forward to the next.
EYB: Some of the most exciting new recipes in Tartine Book 3 are the “porridge breads” – how long did it take you to develop these recipes until you were satisfied and what was the process?
The porridge breads were developed quickly over a period of a couple of months. The related variations (in technique as well as ingredients) however, are seemingly never ending. We are still working on new recipes.
EYB: And finally, there are almost 7,000 baking books listed on Eat Your Books with around 700 of them published in 2013. Why does the world need another baking book and how is Tartine Book No.3 different to the many books that have gone before?
That question was the driving notion behind the entire book. When I started, I wasn’t sure what the answer would be. The last book told the story of how my signature bread developed over the years, starting with the mentors I had learned from up to the present time. I had to find new stories traveling to meet people, learning from them, and bringing the inspiration back to Tartine to work with my team interpreting these (new to us) techniques and recipes in ways that made sense in our time and place. In the end, we had developed a collection of ideas and approaches to working with varied whole grains that would vastly broaden the realm of flavors we were able to achieve as bakers.
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