For this cake, the technique is to cut the fat into the flour, then gently mix in the wet ingredients. Cutting the fat into the flour creates small pockets of air in the finished tea cake as it bakes, yielding a lighter, more tender crumb. This technique is especially well suited to whole-grain or high-extraction flours, which tend to give more dense results. The goal is to offset dense texture with careful technique. The recipe also incorporates cultured dairy in the form of kefir cream or buttermilk as well as natural leaven to add additional flavor. —Chad Robertson
one 9 x 5-inch loaf cake, or two 5 x 3-inch miniature loaf cakes
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan (or two 5 x 3-inch loaf pans) and line the bottom(s) with parchment paper. Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast until golden brown and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely, then coarsely chop.
In a large bowl, mix together the leaven, egg, kefir cream, and grated apple. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger. Add the olive oil to the dry ingredients and, using a bench knife or pastry cutter, cut the oil into the flour until well distributed. Stir in the walnuts, then add the flour and oil mixture to the wet ingredients and stir well to combine.
Transfer the batter to the prepared pan(s). Bake for 60 to 70 minutes (30 to 40 minutes for miniature loaves), or until the internal temperature of the cake reaches 200° F. Let cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then use a knife to loosen the cake from the pan(s) by slicing around the edges. Unmold onto a wire rack, and let cool completely. The cake will keep at room temperature, wrapped, for up to 3 days.
A Texas native, Chad Robertson always knew he wanted to devote himself to a profession that involved the craftsmanship of his hands. Robertson enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, New York but quickly became entranced by the art of bread baking. Robertson's first apprenticeship was at Berkshire Mountain Bakery under the guidance of Richard Bourdon. There, Robertson worked 12 hour shifts where he would pull 3,000 loaves a day. From there, he - and wife, Elisabeth Prueitt - journeyed to France and the French Alps to continue learning the intricacies of working with wood fired ovens and naturally leavened, long fermented breads. Upon their return, they became involved with Dave Miller in Chico, CA where they continued to hone their skills and understanding, this time with a larger focus on whole grains. Soon after, Robertson and Prueitt moved to Pt. Reyes, CA where they built a modest bakeshop called Bay Village Bakery. It was here that Robertson baked for 18 hours straight with the intent to perfect his technique by focusing on "three ingredients and a world of possibility." After five years in the country, the hum of city life beckoned. In 2002, the couple opened Tartine Bakery, which almost instantaneously became a San Francisco institution. In 2005, the couple opened Bar Tartine, a restaurant that continuously redefines itself and draws inspiration from all corners of the globe. In 2006, Robertson and Prueitt published the Tartine Cookbook (Chronicle Books), in 2010 Robertson published Tartine Bread (Chronicle Books), and in fall of 2013 Robertson published his third book, Tartine Book No. 3 (Chronicle Books). He is the recipient, with his wife, of the 2008 James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef and has been featured in a variety of premier media outlets, including Bon Appetit, Elle, Vogue, Food Arts, Food & Wine, Saveur, and The New York Times.
Chad Robertson is considered one of the leaders in naturally leavened bread baking.