My most recent effort, a fermented oat loaf from Chad Robertson's Tartine Book No. 3, was this gorgeous loaf.
|Fermented oat bread|
You get a lovely and deliciously earthy loaf.
|Lahey's no-knead loaf|
|Lahey's no-knead loaf with three seeds|
I then heard about Chad Robertson, whose Tartine Bakery in San Franciso is a legend, and his first book, Tartine Bread. Robertson dispenses with yeast altogether, using natural levain starter. This is like sourdough starter in that it consists only of flour and water exposed to the local wild yeasts until it begins to ferment. Good French bread in France is made with levain, not yeast, so this is nothing revolutionary.
Once it gets going, the starter must be "fed" often, preferably every day; this means discarding 80% of the starter and replenishing with flour and water. When you are going to bake, you take a tiny bit of starter, add a bunch of flour and water, leave overnight and then incorporate in your bread. There follows a detailed set of steps: letting the mix sit, then turning it every 30 minutes for four hours, shaping again, letting it sit for 3-5 hours, then baking in a Dutch oven in a very hot oven for nearly an hour. From start to finish, my last effort took 22 hours although there is very little active time. Robertson's highly illustrated description of this process takes up 25 pages of Tartine Bread. Of course there's lots more commentary and there are many variations, such as country rye, polenta, ___ and __ breads, as well as pizza dough, baguettes, etc.
Try as I might, I could not get starter to start from scratch, even after two one-week tries. So I cheated, and bought sourdough starter from King Arthur, which I then treated the way Robertson suggests, and got nice levain starter.
However, my first levain loaves, although they tasted good, were a flat. Somehow my levain did not have enough oomph.
|Tartine olive bread|
|Tartine plain loaves|
|Tartine semolina loaves with three seeds|
|Tartine country rye loaf|
So far I have made several breads from Book No. 3, including the one first pictured above and this oat porridge bread, and all have come out well.
|Tartine oat porridge bread|
Happy bread baking!