The Tartine Cookbook, Bite By Bite

Baking our way through the Tartine cookbook!

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Posted by bakingtartine on January 15, 2010

I fell out of the habit of blogging. I hope to get back into it soon.

I am still baking and I am here to tell you to make this gingerbread.

You won’t be sorry.

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Blogging Fail.

Posted by bakingtartine on October 23, 2009

We are still baking from the book! More posts soon.

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Posted by bakingtartine on September 2, 2009

I love caramel. It’s almost like a comfort food to me. It reminds me of autumn, of being a kid at home after school or on the weekend, feeling safe and warm in my house with my family around. I don’t eat it very often because it’s usually too waxy or flavorless or the consistency is weird. With caramel standards set as high as mine, I wonder why I have waited this long to make it at home.

This recipe gave me a chance to use a real live whole vanilla bean for the first time in my life. I ordered some from Amazon and was very happy with the product I received. They are plump and moist with a wonderful aroma.

Happy vanilla beans

Just look at the vanilla seed paste inside! This was my first time seeing it in person.  It made me feel like a grown up. I don’t know why. I’m 33.

Nature is brilliant for inventing these

We heated the cream with the scraped out paste from part of a vanilla bean.

The base of many good things

In another pan, we combined sugar, water, salt and corn syrup. This mixture cooks until it is the color of amber. The book notes that the caramel will continue to cook and darken even after it is removed from heat, and the Tartine cookbook does not lie. As it cooked, the mixture looked like this:

Caramel cooking. Pay attention!

And then I blinked and suddenly it looked like this:

Got real dark real quick

And I yanked the pan off of the stove so fast but I could tell it was already a little too dark. I decided to continue, hoping the flavor would mellow out with the addition of cream and a nice long chill in the refrigerator. I added the cream and the whole thing bubbled furiously for a few seconds.


Then it mellowed and I whisked it until is was nice and smooth. This recipe calls for a tiny bit of lemon juice, about which I was skeptical at first, but it is such a small amount that I threw it in.

After it cooled for a few minutes, we added the butter in chunks, whisking after each one, until it was smooth and glossy.

This is caramel, I promise, even though it looks like chocolate.

We whisked some more periodically as it cooled and finally it was ready to pour into a glass jar and hang out in the refrigerator. We took some out to make the Mixed Berry Shortcakes and the rest can be poured over ice cream or, more realistically, spooned out to eat plain, as I have done a few times. It does have a very very faint burned taste since I let it get too dark but it’s still delicious. Don’t forget: take it off the heat when it still looks a little pale! Do not be like me!

Next time I’ll get it right. This stuff is too good to not keep a jar in the refrigerator at all times.

Posted in Basic Bakery Recipes | Leave a Comment »

Chocolate Pots de Crème

Posted by bakingtartine on August 16, 2009

So, I whipped these little guys up at 4:30 AM on Friday. No big deal.

Wait, what?!? See, we get up pretty early around here. Alex starts work at 5 AM. I get up when he does because I like being productive in the mornings before I go to work and sit around at my desk all day. Which meant that on Friday, as soon as I closed the door behind him, I was tearing the wrapper from a chocolate bar and getting to work. This recipe is a total cinch to make. It was less than an hour from unwrapping chocolate to cooling the little pots de crème.

The Tartine cookbook gives a recipe for 8 servings, which is too much for the two of us but it is easily cut in half. I scored some ramekins for a dollar each last week so I was ready to go. First I poured water in a baking dish and set it in the oven while it preheated. Next I melted the chocolate in a makeshift double boiler while heating cream, sugar and salt in another pot until almost boiling.

Hazy early morning chocolate

I poured the cream mixture into the chocolate, stirring to make a liquid that reminded me of poor Augustus Gloop from Willy Wonka. I kind of wanted to dive in. But it wasn’t enough to swim around in, plus it was really hot from being on the stove, so I just continued with the recipe. I’ll pretend to be Augustus another time. Four egg yolks (Yes, that’s a yolk per dish and yes, I still am creeped out by eggs. I pretended this step didn’t exist.) were whisked as I slowly poured the hot creamy chocolate into them. The book notes that, when cooking eggs and cream, you don’t have to worry about curdling as you would with milk. It’s due to the high amount of butterfat. I had no idea that was the case but I was happy to have no curdles. After all, it wasn’t even 5AM yet! Too early to be dealing with the hassle of curdles.

One yolk for each dish

After everything was mixed, I poured it through a strainer to make it extra smooth. The strained mixture was then poured into the four ramekins, and the ramekins were placed carefully into the hot baking dish with the hot water and everything was really hot and liquidy and it was so early in the morning and my eyes were still a little bleary and I’m proud to say that there were no spills, sloshes or burns. They baked for 20 minutes, which was exactly enough time to wash dishes and get the kitchen back to order. I took them out of the oven and, using tongs, removed the ramekins from the waterbath. They cooled while I got ready for work and by the time I had to leave, they were ready to cover and store in the refrigerator.

Carefully removing hot dishes from hot water with tongs

We tried them Friday night with a little bit of lightly sweetened whipped cream on top. WOW. They are fancy. FYI: I’m very bad at hosting dinner parties. Not that I host bad dinner parties, but I never quite get it together enough to actually plan and execute a dinner party. So it’s always “If we have a dinner party, we should…” and never, “Remember at our last dinner party, when…” BUT, the point is, whenever I get around to hosting a dinner party, I’m serving these. They are very chocolately, despite the addition of cream. They are smooth as velvet. I need the additional whipped cream on top, as chocolate is usually too rich for me, but the flavor is awesome. I am a person who prefers fruit desserts to chocolate desserts, but there are three more of these in the refrigerator and I haven’t had lunch yet today…

Next: Mixed-Berry Shortcakes With Berry-Caramel Sauce!

Posted in Cream Desserts | Leave a Comment »

Walnut Cinnamon Slices

Posted by bakingtartine on August 10, 2009

Saturday was an exciting day. We added another motorcycle to the family. Alex bought a 2001 Ducati Monster 750 with only 600 miles on it. That is crazy. That bike should not even exist with so few miles on it. But it does, and practically fell right into his lap. It was serendipity. He’s always liked Monsters but did not decide to start riding until about a month ago. It just so happened that his friends were trying to sell this bike that had been sitting around for years, and was Alex interested? Indeed he was. I rode it home and it was wonderful. I hope he loves riding it too!

Guess what else happened on Saturday? I made cookies. I know, I said it would be something with peaches but we missed the farmer’s market this week, so peaches will come later. Now you’re wondering, how can cookies even be worth mentioning when there’s a new Ducati in the house? You see, the cookies are significant. They contain nuts. Alex is not really a fan of nuts in sweets. Whenever we go to Santa Barbara I get this almond pastry from the bakery and I swear it’s one of the best tasting things I have eaten in my many years of eating. The first time I tasted it, my eyes popped out and I shoved it at Alex. “You HAVE to taste this!” Then I berated him for not chewing it slowly enough. “You have to SAVOR it!” Turns out Alex was just being polite, that he really doesn’t like nuts in pastries, and he was trying to gulp it down as fast as possible. Oh. The point is that I made these cookies and he ate them and liked them. And it wasn’t just to be polite, because this morning he asked for some to eat at work. He asked for cookies containing nuts.

Page, nuts

They are really simple to make. You beat butter and sugar together, add cinnamon and flour, stir in chopped walnuts, roll the dough into a log and stick it in the refrigerator for a few hours until it’s firm. Coat the dough in egg yolk and cream (I skipped the yolk and just used cream, just like I did with the galette) and roll in sugar.

Sugared, chilled dough

Slice the dough thinly and bake, and here’s where I think the book is wacky. Or my oven is wacky. The book tells you to bake for  7 minutes. At 7 minutes the cookies still looked doughy and shiny. 7 minutes later and they were finally dry looking so I removed them. The taste was good but I thought they’d be better toastier. The second batch stayed in for a full 20 minutes and they were my favorites. They had so much more flavor than the pale 14 minute cookies.Sliced and baked

We took some to Alex’s mom’s house to share with his family. The little kids loved them and asked for more. Kids! When I was a kid and a cookie had nuts, it was a sad thing because that cookie was ruined. Brownies, too. The only acceptable nut was the peanut, and the only acceptable form was peanut butter. These are simple little cookies, but if they can get a bunch of kids and a nut-phobic man to ask for more, they must be something special.mmmm, toasty!

Up next: Chocolate Pots de Crème!

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Buttermilk Scones

Posted by bakingtartine on August 4, 2009

What is the deal with buttermilk? Does it have a shorter life than regular dairy milk? I rarely buy regular dairy milk but it seems that as soon as I buy buttermilk, a few days go by and then it’s a mad dash to figure out how to use it before the time is up. Right now in our freezer there is a large baggie stuffed full of biscuits, ready to bake whenever the urge strikes, from another time we had to use buttermilk in an emergency. Once I realized the buttermilk was about to go bad, it was decided we’d make the Buttermilk Scones for the next recipe.

Scone dough

We decided to use dried cranberries instead of Zante currants, for no other reason than they were already in our house and the Zante currants were not. They soaked in warm water to plump while the flour was sifted with baking powder, soda, sugar and salt. Chunks of cold butter were cut in with a pastry blender until the butter was in small lumps. The cranberries were drained and added along with buttermilk. I stirred with a wooden spoon until a dough formed, then dumped it out onto a floured board to shape. This is a really quick dough to make.

Scones ready to cut

I patted the dough into a rectangle and brushed the top with melted butter. Since I lack a pastry brush, I used the back of a spoon to apply the butter. It worked just fine. Alex and I have some kitchen supplies that I consider “extras”, such as a scale, a mortar and pestle, tongs and a popcorn popper, but a pastry brush is not one of them. Neither are ramekins, which I see I will need in a little while for chocolatey things. We’ll see what happens with that. Anyway, the slab of dough got a sprinkling of sugar after the melted butter went on. Then they were ready to cut! That’s my favorite part. There’s something so satisfying about cutting into a thick slab of dough. I’m sure it would be even more satisfying to cut dough with a bench scraper but, you guessed it, we don’t have one.

Scones ready to bake

At this point they went into the oven for 30 minutes. After about 10 minutes the room was filled with the nice scent of a buttery baked good. I let the edges get nice and toasty. One of my favorite things about Tartine is that they let their treats bake a little longer for more flavor.

Scone with eggs

This is Alex’s breakfast. He can’t have just bread for breakfast. Growing up, his father never let him have just pancakes or any type of bread for breakfast. There always had to be eggs or meat. Now Alex is all grown up and he’s just like his dad in that respect, so some scrambled eggs with tomatoes joined the scone on his plate. He kept saying, “These are really good!” It’s almost like he was prepared for them not to be!

Scone, plated

I have no problem eating just bread. Growing up, I ate pancakes, waffles, French toast and cinnamon rolls. I intensely disliked eggs and meat. When I was a new driver and hanging out at the beach by myself a lot, I used to go to the Great Highway Safeway in San Francisco and buy a huge loaf of sourdough bread for 99 cents. Bread makes me happy. Therefore, all my plate needed was one scone and it was delicious! The sprinkling of sugar made a nice crispy top while the inside was soft and fluffy. The only thing I would do differently is to double the amount of fruit next time. The cranberries were too few and far between for my liking, which could just be because cranberries are larger than Zante currants. Chopping them would have helped, but I’ll still add more fruit next time.

We put the rest of the scones in the freezer and have been taking one to work with us each day this week. They taste just as great after thawing in my bag for a few hours.

Next up…something with peaches. They are insanely good at our local farmer’s market right now.

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Fruit Galette

Posted by bakingtartine on July 27, 2009

Here we go! Today is the first day we baked from the book. Originally we planned on making the Trifle of Summer Fruit but we were invited to dinner with friends who live about 45 minutes away and I didn’t want to keep the dish out of the refrigerator for that long. We had perfect peaches and strawberries from the farmer’s market so we decided to make the galette with them. The recipe yields 2 large or 12 small galettes so we made half a recipe for one large galette. It’s in the oven right now and smells really summertime-y and fruity.

fruit! butter chunks! unbaked! yummy slice!

I’ve never made a pastry dough the way the book indicates. You are supposed to use part pastry flour and part all-purpose flour, so Alex went to the store to pick up some pastry flour. He returned with cake flour because that’s what the lady at the store told him to get. According to the book, the dough is “still excellent using only all-purpose flour.” so that’s what we did. I think cake flour is totally different from pastry flour, no? (Further research has led me to believe I would have been just fine to use the cake flour. Next time. The box is still unopened in the pantry.) I dumped all of the flour onto my work surface, which felt illegal or something because I am used to making everything in a bowl. Frozen butter chunks were scattered over the flour and smooshed into long strips with the rolling pin. This is a hot day, being summer in southern California, and the butter softened about as fast as I was able to work. I added salty water from the freezer and, using a large knife since I lack a bench scraper, chopped and scraped the whole thing into a shaggy mass, which was dusted with flour, rolled, folded, repeat, until a smooth dough forms. This really did make a nice, smooth, easy to handle dough. I was surprised that it actually worked. I can’t wait to make it again in cooler weather.

After a rest in the refrigerator it was ready for fruit. The book suggests some re-rolling after the dough chills but we are a little pressed for time today so I rolled it in preparation for the fruit before it chilled. I arranged the sliced strawberries and peaches and sprinkled some sugar over the fruit. The edges of the dough were folded over, brushed with cream and sprinkled with a little more sugar. The book suggests that the cream be combined with egg yolk for an egg wash but I have a strange aversion to eggs so I skipped that part. Eggs in a cake? No problem. Egg just to make it glossy and give the sugar something to adhere to? Maybe next time.

The galette will come out of the oven in 15 minutes. In the meantime, we are watching the MotoGP race. I somehow became addicted to motorcycles around 10 years ago and now Alex is well on his way to becoming addicted as well. It’s the last time they’ll race at Donington Park in England today. Colin Edwards went from 15th to 2nd! I wish his ride received more camera time because that’s a really exciting thing to watch. And now we’re off. More later!

Hello, it’s tomorrow and there is only one piece of galette left! It survived the car ride and tasted great. Everyone liked it, including our littlest host, age 4, who told Alex that those were not peaches, in fact, but lemons. I heard that comment before I tasted it so I was initially worried that I hadn’t used enough sugar but I think she said it because the peaches looked yellow. It tasted sweet enough to me! We will definitely make this again. Alex might not even want to make the rest of the recipes anymore after having this galette. It helped to have really nice fruit to use. That meant the entire dessert only had 2 tablespoons of sugar! The only changes I’ll make for next time will be to roll the crust thinner and pile the fruit higher. It was a bit thin and pizza-like and I think I’d have preferred it with a higher fruit to crust ratio. Nevertheless, it was truly delicious and simple to make. A nice choice for the first recipe! Make this soon!

Next: Buttermilk Scones!

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