Has Tartine Bread turned into a culinary movement?

 Rye bread

It's fair to say that country-style breads, enriched with whole grains, are a hot trend in bread baking. Today you can walk into almost any US grocery store and find a "craggy-edged bread with a custardy crumb tinged the color of a plank of walnut by the presence of whole-wheat flour." According to the San Francisco Chronicle, this trend is no less than a culinary movement and can be traced to Chad Robertson of SF's Tartine Bakery.

The story offers anecdotes from several up-and-coming bakers who say they were inspired by Robertson and his books, 2010's Tartine Bread and 2013's Tartine Book No. 3. The latter book came out "just as interest was spiking in local heirloom wheats and ancient grains, many of which lack the right gluten to produce high and delicate-crumbed breads on their own. Tartine Book No. 3 suggested ways of folding in grain porridges, or blending small amounts of alternate flours, to capture their flavor without sacrificing texture."

But is it fair to credit Robertson for this movement toward high-hydration, low-knead breads with long fermentation times? After all, many other cookbooks in the same vein predated his books, as wonderful as they are. For example, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François was released in 2007. Two years after that, Jim Lahey published My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method and baking veteran Peter Reinhart released Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day. (I would be remiss not to include Reinhart's 2001 opus The Bread Baker's Apprentice in a list of influential baking books.) Nancy Silverton came out with her groundbreaking book Nancy Silverton's Breads from the La Brea Bakery in 1996. This short list just scratches the surface of the many respected books in the genre.

Perhaps we can forgive the Chronicle for a bit of home-town pride, and Robertson's focus on incorporating ancient grains does set his more recent work apart. But he builds on a long tradition that should not be overlooked. As Peter Reinhart told the newspaper, there are no real secrets in the baking world. "It's more about execution than it is about formula," he said.

Photo of René's rye from Tartine Book No. 3 by  Chad Robertson

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