From salt to fire, how one baker pursues the perfect loaf of bread

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“Perfection would be finding that mythical bread that’s in my mind,” said Michellene Parker of her quest to replicate an ideal loaf of French sourdough pain aulevain or pain de campagnemaybe better known locally as “tartine.”

Her quest started several years ago when a friend of Parker’s returned from an extended stay in Paris talking of nothing other than Tartine. Curious, Parker and a small group of amateur baking friends vowed to recreate the bread in their home kitchens.

Parker’s method attempts total perfection, starting with the first ingredient - salt.

“I wanted it to taste like Santa Barbara ocean water,” she said of her practice of collecting buckets of local ocean water and extracting the salt. “I did compare it to other salts and there was a difference, it was almost like a physical reaction on the tongue.” The process of taking the salt from bucket to kitchen takes about three days.

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Kathryn Barnes