Heat is a good thing. We like it when we put our palms to the fire after coming in from the wind-whipped snow. We like it when we blow on a spoonful of split pea soup with ham before gulping it down. And we like it when we bake bread.
I got this book, Tartine Bread, as a present for Christmas from a fellow baker. She’s given me other great baking books and tools and this is the newest jewel, filled with food porn close-ups of bread and the baking process. Even if you never plan on baking a loaf of bread, go out and buy this book because it will remind you of the elemental joy of good bread.
As I’ve read through it I find the author has a similar passion to mine: getting just the right crusty bread. He’s much more accomplished and driven but the impetus is the same—crispy crust, rich wheat flavor, open delicate crumb. Somewhere deep in the brain is an idealized bread, an amalgam of the best breads we’ve had in our life. I still remember the deep brown flaky crust on a dinner roll I had in a restaurant in Bethesda, Maryland three years ago. I marveled at how it was obviously baked at high temperature yet had parchment-layered delicacy in its crust.
This gets me back to heat. Flip through Tartine Bread and you’ll see beautiful breads with espresso-brown and black-highlighted crust, the products of a really hot oven and a fearless baker. Just after reading this book I made a batch of sourdough with the goal of an elemental rustic bread. Rough edged, hand-crafted from the simplest ingredients—flour, water, salt—and forged in a roaring hot oven. No fear. Just heat.