Loaves made with a natural leaven keep for a week—one reason Chad Robertson, of San Francisco's legendary Tartine Bakery, prefers this time-honored technique. The resulting bread boasts a thick, burnished crust and a moist interior shot through with holes. Get the step-by-step guide where we break down how to make this delicious country bread. Recipe and image reprinted with permission from "Tartine Bread," by Chad Robertson, with photographs by Eric Wolfinger.
Robertson describes a starter -- a mixture of flour, water, wild yeasts, and bacteria -- as a baker's fingerprint. Making one is simple, but it does require a commitment: Count on feeding and caring for the mixture for three weeks before you start baking. For something closer to immediate gratification, begin using the starter after five to seven days, or order a fresh starter at kingarthurflour.com. (Keep in mind, the flavor won't be as complex.)
Another secret to baking like a pro: Weigh all the ingredients-even the water-using a kitchen scale that includes metric measurements.