A Sandwich Recipe From One Of The World’s Best Bakers
Photograph courtesy of Tartine
Tartine Bakery’s Mr Chad Robertson discusses all things artisanal bread, and shares what best to put on it with his Spanish-inspired dish.
Ever since Mr Chad Robertson opened Tartine Bakery & Café in San Francisco in 2002 with his wife, pastry chef Ms Elisabeth Prueitt, he has been at the vanguard of a modern artisan bread movement. For a long time, the energy and costs – not to mention expertise – involved in traditional bread production gave way to commercially made loaves that were designed to fill us up and do little else. Today, from specialists like Mr Christian F Puglisi at Bæst in Copenhagen to Mr Rossa Crowe at Le Levain in Dublin, a more traditional international bread culture has tapped into a new appreciation of heritage and flavour.
Mr Robertson – who has attracted accolades from Mr Alain Ducasse and the James Beard Awards – rediscovered something that in France and Italy never really went away: the skill of making bread slowly and properly. But what defines Mr Robertson’s bakes, what causes the snaking queues outside Tartine – now a brand that has published multiple books on the subject and commands more than 100,000 followers on Instagram? “When we started, the focus was fresh wholegrain flours, high-hydration doughs and long fermentation. This style is what set us apart,” says Mr Robertson. “I never really used a recipe to make bread – it always started with seeing an image in a painting or photograph, and then working towards that ideal loaf in my mind.”
Alongside that intuition, there was a stellar education. Before opening Tartine, he trained with some of the US’s best bakers – Mr Richard Bourdon of Berkshire Mountain Bakery and Mr Dave Miller of Miller’s Bake House – before travelling to Europe to work with two of France’s most traditional practitioners: Mr Daniel Colin in the south and Mr Patrick LePort in the Alps – who specialised in fresh-milled, naturally leavened long rise breads.
More recently, Mr Robertson has been influenced by his own environment and is excited by “artisan bread production in the US and Scandinavia based on French or Italian techniques but developing their own regional identities”. Tartine has also brought milling in-house and begun working directly with farmers to source diverse grains from up and down the West Coast. It’s given them the ability to lead the way once more by bringing these grains and lesser-known cultivars into regular use at the bakery, itself part of an effort to build new infrastructure for the benefit of other chefs and bakers.
Can bread in the US become what it is in France? “I would love for good bread to become truly commonplace. In France, bread is mostly standardised by flour companies and price expectations, so you really have to know where to look to find a good loaf. In the US, we are not bound to an age-old bread tradition. Good bread is more of a new thing, so I hope that if it is found all over America there will be a lot of diverse styles that develop using regional grains.”
Tartine – which means open sandwich in French – is as well known for its sandwiches as it is for its baking. And, given we’d rather leave the bread-making to the professionals, we asked Mr Robertson for the recipe for his favourite snack – a riff on the simple Spanish tomato on toast. Such is its simplicity, finding the best available ingredients is critical, says Mr Robertson. “Tomatoes are coming into season in San Francisco and I love this dish because it’s as easy as it is delicious.”
Photograph courtesy of Tartine
Olive oil – your best1 slice fresh or day-old Basic Country Bread (or any high-quality sourdough bread)1 soft, ripe heirloom tomato, cut in half crosswise1 thin slice dry-cured ham such as serrano1 slice hard aged cheese such as manchego
Pour 5 tbsp olive oil into a small skillet and heat over a medium-high heat. Add the bread and fry for about 3 minutes on each side – until deep golden brown and crisp. The rough surface of the bread forms a natural grater. Rub the cut side of the tomato halves across one side of the toasted bread until the juice fills the holes in the bread with tomato purée. Top with the ham and cheese and serve.