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For serious bakers, 'Tartine Book No. 3' is a modern trip through ancient grains

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Now that we’ve got a new flour mill in town — Grist & Toll in Pasadena — aspiring bread bakers and those who love them will want to invest in this third tome from Tartine master baker Chad Robertson, “Tartine Book No. 3: Modern Ancient Classic Whole” (Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 2013, 304 pages, $40).

2012 marked the 10th anniversary of Tartine Bakery & Cafe in San Francisco, and Robertson found himself wondering, “Where could we take our recipes next? Could we make them taste even better while adding more nutrition?” The result of that question is book No. 3, which chronicles his discoveries baking with whole grains for a good part of two years.

“Here we look to the past while pushing forward. It is, in some sense,” he writes, “a journey backward, an attempt to recapture the flavors of ancient grains, to rejoin our nascent age of invention.”

Robertson takes the reader on his journey through 85 recipes. Some of them are whole-grain versions of recipes for breads in the his previous books, subtly adjusted to give the best results with techniques he specifically developed for working with these kinds of flours.

The world of hearty loaves he explores is large, and along the way he visits iconic bakeries in Denmark, Germany and Austria, France, Mexico and farther afield. The stories of his encounters with other dedicated bakers are some of the most enjoyable in the book.

He also includes sections on ancient breads, such as hearth loaves with sprouted grains and denser, sprouted-grain loaves. Another section explores porridge, and cracked and flaked grain breads. Never had one? You’ll have to bake a loaf. And you'll want to after seeing the gorgeous photos.

The section that pulled me right in is the one on crisp breads. This, I know right now, is going to be one of my New Year’s cooking projects. To make such thin breads, he either rolls the dough out by hand or puts it through a pasta machine. Some have tarragon, chives and their blossoms, borage and marigold petals sandwiched between thin layers of dough. How beautiful.

Robertson also includes a final, very extensive section on pastries made with whole grains. He’s sold me on buckwheat, and I’m going to have to try the buckwheat-hazelnut sablés and the buckwheat-apple tart. Or what about the salted chocolate rye cookies? I'm just now making a list of whole grains to buy.

A gift for the serious baker.

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