Hello! It’s Fall!

I must say I’ve been enjoying the blogging break, but it feels great to check in here.  I’m writing so, so, so much and enjoying the spoils of fall cooking and baking!  Apple crisps, donuts, soups!  So many soups!

I’m working on the new blog, as well as so many fun projects I’m eager to share!  Until then, here’s what fall looks like around here.  I had a great time shooting with film again, and explaining to a three-year-old and four-year-old why they couldn’t see the picture on the camera every time I took a photo.  I’ve forgotten how amazing the quality of film is.  Here are some unedited photos I’m in love with.

AND!  The best part of film – the mystery roll that had been sitting in the camera for years.  I had no clue what I’d find once I printed them off.  TA-DA!  An entire roll of adorable Baby Jack!!!!


Where do I go from here?

As I’ve been wrapping things up over the past week, I get a lot of questions, and I welcome them all!  I wanted to share some of them with you!  (And, this congrats card from a friend’s sweet little lady is amazing.  I’m thinking that’s a croissant!)

Favorite Recipe: This is hard, because I’m head over heels in love with so many of them.  But, if it was Sophie’s Choice up in here and I had to pick one, like I had to kill the other recipes so this one lives (Is that what happens in Sophie’s Choice?  I’ve never actually seen it) I’d choose the Apple Crisp.  Paired with vanilla bean ice cream – now that’s heaven. (The apple nougatine tart and the caramel apples are close too!)

Least Favorite Recipe: Hmmm.  Not the biggest fan of the chocolate almond toffee or the panforte.  And I don’t think they don’t like me either, so I’m not breaking any hearts here.

Must Make: This is also really hard to choose, but I’m going with tea cakes!  Any of them!  They’re so quick and easy to make, and so incredibly versatile!  Breakfast! Afternoon snack! Dessert!  You can eat them like hobbits eat that Elvish bread.

Deceptively Difficult: A lot of the recipes involve making so many other recipes.  For example, the banana cream pie.  Seems simple enough, but it’s not!  You make the tart shell, and caramel, and the chocolate, then the pastry cream.  Then you’re putting it all together, slicing bananas, and whipping whipped cream.  SO COMPLETELY WORTH IT!

Crowd Favorite: (according to Dan) “Any of the tarts,” and I must agree.  People loved this one!  Those are always done the quickest!

What’s better at the bakery?:  It’s always a crazy realization to make things, then eat them and think, “This is it!  This tastes just like it did at Tartine!”  The devil’s food layer cake comes to mind.  The one I made was good, but not nearly as magical as the cake I’ve eaten straight from the source.

Time Consuming:  I’m not sure how much people think about the time and effort spent on croissants, but I want you to always think about the work involved the next time you enjoy one.  So good, and not particularly difficult I guess, but the time involved beats anything.

Biggest Flop: Surprisingly, nothing was a total disaster!  But, I think one of my biggest concerns was the brownies!  Isn’t that crazy?!  Out of all the fancy things I made it was the brownies that make me want a do-over.  They were just SO gooey and raw, and I put them in the oven once they were cooled and it was such a gooey mess that I handed over to a bunch of toddlers!  Can’t wait to make these again!

Most exotic ingredients: Rose geranium and fromage blanc – lots of phone calls hunting around for those gems, both with no luck!

The first thing I’m going to make again:  Apple crisp and caramel apples are right around the corner since it’s fall again, and they happen to be a couple of my favorites!  That brioche is amazing!!!  I will be making that pastry cream forever, never need another recipe!  Same goes for the caramel!  Oh!  And the almond rochers are magical!

What are you going to do next?

Oh, I’ve tossed around so many options in my mind.  Early on, I even entertained the idea of baking my way through another cookbook – for a brief moment even thought about tackling Tartine Bread!  While I am excited to make the Tartine bread and will most likely share about that adventure, I just can’t do another cookbook.  I am so looking forward to the freedom of baking whatever I want, experimenting with my own recipes, sharing some family favorites, and some amazing recipes from friends.  So that’s what I’m going to do.  I’m going to be sharing recipes (I often get asked “Where are the recipes?”) and focusing on the sharing of the food I make, posting some short stories, and other projects, art and collaborations that I’m working on.  (There may be a shop down the line too!)  I plan on including some guest posts too!  Exciting stuff!  All of this fun stuff is going to be on a new blog!

It was a little much finishing this project up and wrapping my brain around the past year to properly give the appropriate attention to designing a new blog.  So, I’m going to take a break between now and then.  I’ll be off collecting fall leaves,  taking naps, and writing a lot.  Not sure how long this break will be, but I’m so excited for the break as a time to refresh and get super inspired and launch the new blog with some magic.  (*Literal magic!)

*Not really.  I don’t know any magic.

Until then, I’ll still be on Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter, if you’re not already my social networking pal.  I’ll probably post here on occasasion too! (I’ll be announcing the final winner of the Tartine cookbook giveaway on Friday, so go read how to enter to win!)  So, that’s it for now.  Thanks so much for loving this blog and cheering me along.  It’s meant so much!

So much love,



Tartine Baking Project: #72 Fromage Blanc Bavarian

I planned out this journey pretty meticulously – that seems a bit of an oxymoron, but it’s fitting.  Most things were planned out with a deliberate sense of seasons and occasions, but there were some recipes that just happened.  You’d think I would save the best for last, you know, something I was really looking forward to make – nope.  When I had five recipes left, and plotted them out, this fromage blanc just fell in line at the end.  I think since it was a cake, I figured a cake would be fun to end with, even though I didn’t clearly know what this cake was all about.

The biggest hurdle I had was finding fromage blanc.  I invited some friends over for a potluck to partake in the spoils of the last recipe with me, and to celebrate the finale.  After some preliminary hunting around, I knew it was going to be a challenge finding the stuff and I instantly regretted saving such an unfamiliar dessert for the last one!  I made the génoise cake base the day before the party, knowing I should have made the entire cake the night before because it needed to chill in the refrigerator for a long time.  But, I had a plan and would be whipping it all together early Friday morning, which would mean a whole day in the fridge!  Had a plan, is important to emphasize right there.

Conversation with a woman who works at the grocery store:

Me: Hi, I’m looking for fromage blanc.  (pointing to the expansive international cheese display) I didn’t find it over there, and I was wondering if you knew where I may find it.

Worker lady: Well, I don’t even know what it is you just said.  I don’t speak French.

Me:  Uh…

Worker Lady: What does that mean?

Me:  Well, technically it means white cheese, but –

Worker lady:  Oh!  Well then, we have a lot of white cheese.

Me: Oh…well, that’s the name of it.  It’s similar to ricotta.

Worker lady:  Now I know what that one is.  It’s over by the milk.  Maybe whatever-that-was-that-you-said is there too?  Good luck?

Me: Thanks.

As we were talking I Googled fromage blanc, and the first thing that comes up was a recipe from Emeril Lagasse.  I stood eying the ricotta I begrudgingly put in my cart because I didn’t want to use it!  The recipe was called FROMAGE BLANC bavarian, and I couldn’t just substitute ricotta when I knew there was a way to make the cheese I needed.  I didn’t have time to research other recipes, so I went with the one from Emeril (bam!) and started figuring out the timeline if I could have the cake ready by the party.  It was going to be a crunch, but it was possible if everything went according to schedule.

Making the fromage blanc was surprisingly easy, and makes me want to experiment with other kinds of cheeses!  My only understanding of how this stuff should turn out was from what I gleaned from the Internet.  I think it was was supposed to be similar to the consistency of sour cream, but maybe it should’ve been slightly thicker?  I don’t know, it tasted like a yogurty cheese, and I went with it.  I got it in the fridge by the last minute I needed to make sure it was in there for the minimum suggested time of four hours.  As soon as I shut the door a wave of relief and celebration rushed over me.  That’s it.  That’s the last recipe right there.  The concerns of the outcome were out the window.  Well, out the window, but lingering like some Eddie Haskell kind of annoying neighbor kid ready to pounce with some annoying exchange as the time came to serve the cake.

Our house was filled with friends here to celebrate, including a gaggle of kiddos running around excited for the empty cake stand to be filled.  The time came to retrieve the cake from the fridge, and I warned the kids, following me around with forks and open mouths, that this may not be the kind of cake they really love.  I hurriedly sliced a medley of stone fruits for the top of the cake, and cut my finger off.  Just kidding.  But I did forget to lightly sauté them just a bit.  I am the worst at taking things slow when a crowd is around!  I rush and I take bad photos!  AND, I forget to really eat anything at a potluck filled with delicious food!!!  I grabbed a few bites, but as everyone left the hunger set it.

The moment I placed the fruit, one side started falling.  I snapped a few photos then put it back in the fridge for twenty minutes or so.  Surprisingly, I didn’t really freak out.  It was definitely not the most beautiful thing I’ve ever made, but that’s alright.  The cake was eaten, and people seemed to like it.  That’s all any baker can ask for, really.  So yes, that’s all!  C’est tout!

Last week was the weepy and sentimental part of completing this project, now this week is really all about the celebration!  I’m just so happy!  I meant to have a toast with everyone, thanking them all for their support and hungry bellies over the past year!  In my excitement of the party, I forgot!  So if anyone wants to come over and drink champagne while we watch the season premiere of Parks and Recreation, just let me know!

I’ve got one more Tartine cookbook to give away!  Head over to the gallery of the entire project, and then leave a comment what you think the most appetizing recipe is!  All comments need to be left by this Thursday September 20th, and the winner will be announced here on Friday September 21st.


UPDATE:  We have a winner!  I am so excited to share that the random number generator may not be so random!  The winner is #6 – Amy, with her comment:

“The fresh fruit tart with Bavarian filling has caught my eye more than once. They are all beautiful and appetizing. There’s not one that I wouldn’t enjoy.”

I just want to say I am so happy that Amy won, she has been such a kind and devoted reader throughout my entire journey – she baked along with me in the Holiday Bake-a-long that I had in December, she makes the DIY projects I share here, and is extremely supportive with “likes’ and blog comments galore!  When her number popped up, I just may have gasped.  What a fitting way to wrap things up here for a bit!


Friday Favorites

Summer is barely hanging on.  There’s only a fraction on my day where wearing pants seems strange.  We start and finish our days snuggled beneath blankets.  Being warm, too warm, in the afternoon is a novel thing once again because we know there’s an end in sight.  An end in sight that includes apple crisps and warm soups for dinner, my favorite sweaters, and socks back on my feet.  I adore socks.  We’re learning the routine of a a few morning of preschool every week, and I’m learning how to extremely productive with a few hours.  Learning, is the key word there.

I always have chocolate sauce on hand, and I always adore her writing.

So excited about this book.

I’m making my last recipe today, and this is my motto.

If you’ve been following along, you probably have noticed I’m kind of (understatement) a fan of Parks & Recreation.  Anything I ever talk about has something to do with food, my child, and/or Parks & Rec, and most often a combination of those things.  I could watch this video every single day for the rest of my life.

Someone find me this boat, I’d like to get on.

As always, I hope all is well and your weekend will be wonderful.  I’m taking a deep breath, baking the last recipe today, and celebrating with friends tonight.


Completely Pinteresting: Chocolate Cake with Salted Caramel Frosting

I friend was celebrating her birthday and I asked to bring a cake!  I have some serious go-to’s in the land of cakes – my favorite ones to make.  But, I’ve been wanting to make a new cake every time there’s been an occasion to make one lately.  Step in, Pinterest.  I started perusing pages upon pages of the gorgeous food that everyone loves to pin.  Thus far, with my Completely Pinteresting feature, I’ve shared projects I’ve made.  A great part of Pinterest for me is the food, and actually making the stuff I see and pin!  I thought I’d share this cake with you.

I went and grabbed the recipe here, and I stuck right to it.  While the caramel turned out alright, I am so in love with the caramel from the Tartine cookbook, so I’d use that in the future.  I am obsessed with cakes now!  I used 6″ rounds, stacked three high.  Even though it’s not the prettiest cake in the world, I sure do love this one!  I have another life goal to add to the pile – cake decorator extraordinaire.



Tartine Baking Project: Tar-Tryin’ Totals

I thought it would be fun to tally up some of the totals for things I knew I used a a lot throughout this journey.  107 sticks of butter?! WHOA!  Oh, and if you’re wondering – there are 72 main recipes in the book, and then 15 recipes for things you make over and over – like pastry cream, tart shells, etc.  Part of me wished I could tally up costs for supplies and outfitting my kitchen with the proper tools and bakeware, to share some kind of Mastercard-esque final quip where I could then say something like, “Falling in love with baking: Priceless.”  But then the thought of the sheer impossibility of adding all of that up blew my mind, as well as the crazy amount of money it would total up to be.  So yeah, I’d rather not know.  I fed so many friends, had such an amazing year, and learned the ropes of baking through the “Emily Kastner method”: baking everything in a cookbook!

In case you missed it yesterday, I wrote a reflection on the past year.

Congratulations are in order for the winner of the latest Tartine cookbook giveaway!


Reflecting on my Tartine Baking Project

There’s just one recipe left, and this week is all about reflecting for me.  I gave myself a year to complete the task of baking every single thing in the Tartine cookbook.  It’s strange to think it’s going to be done, that there is finish line, of sorts, that is just a handful of days away.  Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been working through such a wide spectrum of emotions.  It’s exhilarating to see the end clearly in sight.  This project and this cookbook have become so much of who I am, it’s strange and sad to see it come to an end.  I don’t remember days when the Tartine cookbook wasn’t a part of my thoughts – a portion of just about every single day of the past year was spent either writing lists as I was planning to make something, baking something, or writing about the process and/or editing photos of something I’ve baked from the cookbook.

Honestly, it also feels a little unfitting and uncomfortable to be celebrating my first year blogging and closing this project, when what really drove me to the cookbook and the kitchen was incredibly sad.  I’m not sure how long you’ve been following here, but a few months into the project I did share about it.  You can read that post here, and I’ll share about it again because it’s a large part of reflecting on this project for me.  I was three months pregnant when I found out I’d miscarried late September a year ago.  I thought I was in the clear, on my way out of the instability that the first trimester of pregnancy provides.  I went to a routine appointment only to be blindsided by the sad news, and then to be promptly treated remarkably bad by the staff of our former doctor’s office, which only magnified the shock and devastation any woman feels navigating a miscarriage.  Then I had to come home and break the news to Dan, and then plan on how I was going to tell everyone else we’d announced it to just days before.  (Damn you, Facebook!)  After a passing comment to my husband, saying something to him about needing something to get my mind off of things for a bit and suggesting I should grab the untouched Tartine cookbook and get to work, I did just that.  I had been greatly missing living in San Francisco, including my favorite bakery.  I’d always been intimidated by their cookbook – my most impressive baking experience then was baking cookies “from scratch”.  Sitting there on the couch, flipping through the cookbook, I joked that I should bake every single thing because I felt like it was going to take that long to grieve through the sadness that overcame me.  I decided to get to work, make a Tumblr, and use the nice camera Dan uses for photographing moped parts for his business.  I honestly thought it would just be my family reading along with me, and the name of my blog was a spur of the moment decision.  I’ll admit I disliked it, even hated it, after I got going.  Oof!  So many people have asked why and how this blog got started throughout the past year, it always felt awkward laying it all out there and going in depth about it, so I’ve always been partially honest just saying that I really missed San Francisco.

I began the project with croissants.  Although there was a fire, the resulting pastries were delicious and exactly what I needed to solidify my plans for the year ahead.  Delicious actually doesn’t do them justice – they were the most magical things I’d ever created in my kitchen.  Yes, magical.  Like, unicorns and Harry Potter spells type of stuff.  Dan and I sat down at our dining room table, and we each ate a couple of them.  Making the croissants took a couple of days, requiring my love, time and focus.  Jack had recently turned two, and I took advantage of the long afternoon naps he was still taking in order to bake.  I mapped out a rough draft of all the recipes, then assigned certain ones for birthdays and holidays.  Choosing to maneuver through the cookbook seasonally, I then plotted things out accordingly – apples and pumpkins in the fall, a winter filled with citrus and chocolate, a spring and summer with berries and stone fruits!  I started out baking two recipes a week, and followed that path for the first six months or so.

I began as an anxious, nervous baker – fearful when things took longer than suggested, unsure of my every move and every skill asked of me (how does one fold properly?!), and compulsively read every step countless times.  I relied on Google to show me photographs of the way unfamiliar things should turn out, and I remember sitting on the floor in tears the first time I made a génoise, completely sure I had botched the recipe.  I relied on a motto in the kitchen, “It’s OK,” reminding me to remember no flop, no success even, is Earth shattering.  Basically, I needed a reminder to chill out, and to remember I was doing this for me.  Especially at the beginning, looking at other food blogs was often inspiring, and intensely intimidating quite frequently.  I had to just do things on my own, and be patient in the process as I honed my skills as a baker and photographer.  The only thing I was sure of was my writing.  I wanted to share some laughs and stories of my life as I made my way through the cookbook.

For all the nerves and (mostly mild) freakouts I had, the failures were so few.  I’ve fallen in love with baking, and have slowly been able to admit it’s something I think I’m pretty good at!  Tools feel right in my hands – I’ve gradually amassed quite a complete kitchen of bakeware and proper gadgets!  Wearing an apron is now second nature.  I’m confident in the skills I’ve acquired, and so eager to experiment and try new things.  I’m okay with messing things up in order to learn from the experience.  My photos have improved throughout the process, too, as I’ve learned the greatest secret: natural light is my best friend!

I started off with, well, not even low expectations, I had no expectations at all.  I only set out on this journey to get me through a tough time.  I’ve learned I love to blog, I love to bake and feed people, I love the people I’ve met and those I feel like I’ve met in real life, I still hate getting my picture taken,  I love the opportunities and collaborations that I’ve pursued, I love the focus and clarity it provided through a very difficult time in my life, I love all the gatherings of friends and family that were arranged to eat all the food I made.  While my time in the kitchen has been therapeutic, there is so much to be said about the power of food, and surrounding yourself with people to share it with.

It’s been an amazing year – I began feeling hopeless, and now am filled with nothing short of hope and possibility of what’s to come.  I just wanted to thank you, the people who’ve followed along this journey.  Thanks for your support, your words of encouragement, the stories you share about baking and/or your shared love of Tartine, sharing laughs with me, and pushing me to continue on…with something…once I’m done.  The support of fellow bloggers, the people who regularly read and comment, or those who read along and tell me in real life how much you love reading my blog – I can’t even tell you how much that has meant to me.  While this project is coming to an end, I will most certainly keep blogging, baking, and writing.  (I’ll share the details later.)  I just want to keep thanking you!  THANK YOU!  SO MUCH!

Now I can go watch that Julie & Julia movie everyone mentions when I tell them about this project!  I’ll let you know what I think once I see it.


Weekend Recap: Mackinac Island

We spent the weekend up on Mackinac Island.  We’ve been going there every fall for so many years, always planning the trip around the annual 8-mile race around the island.  You travel to the island via ferry, no motorized vehicles are allowed.  Getting around the island means you travel by foot, on bicycles, or get carted around by horse taxis or tours.  There’s a tiny downtown village that centers around what the island is known for – fudge!  You really can’t walk far without passing a fudge shop.

The weekend was a bit rainy, but we still enjoyed the race, bicycling around the island, hiking around, flying kites, and eating some good meals together.  I had grand plans of some great photos of the weekend, but I grabbed a full memory card and had no computer to dump them onto!  So, I snapped away with my phone instead.

The sun came out and was shining on our last morning there.  We hiked up to the top of a bluff where my sister’s boyfriend proposed!  SO EXCITING!  (Welcome to the family officially, Joe!)  It means so much to see my sister so very happy!  Now, to start helping plan a wedding!!!

Our trip is always capped off with a trip to grab some fudge before we head off the island on the ferry.  Getting away for the weekend was a welcome recharge.  It was a gorgeous four-hour drive back home – the leaves are changing in northern Michigan, and it feels like fall!  Things feel especially autumn-like as I sip my coffee on the cold porch and get ready for the week.  Hope your weekend was wonderful.


Friday Favorites

I recently wrote a feature for the Kinfolk journal about Salt of the Earth, an amazing restaurant here in Michigan.  I thought I’d share a few extra photos here today.  Everyone needs to eat there.  So amazing!

I adore Wayfare!  Have you seen it?

I could watch this blooper reel all day every day.  So excited for the new season!

Off to Mackinac Island to eat fudge and ride bikes this weekend!  Can’t wait for the chilly weather that’s been forecasted!  GIMME SWEATERS!  GIMME PANTS!

Have a wonderful weekend!  And, don’t forget to go leave a comment for a chance to win the Tartine cookbook!


Tartine Baking Project: #71 Panforte

Everything cannot be magical.  That’s a fact of life and I’m okay with that, really.  That was my mantra as I navigated the unknown waters of panforte.  It all began when it was destined to be a flop when I couldn’t find quince.  It’s a fall fruit, and even though we are now a few days into September, quince is nowhere to be found around here. Moving onward, sans quince, really didn’t ruffle my feathers.  It’s unfortunate, but not the end of the word.  Wait.  What?!  Is that a sign that I am growing and maturing as an adult human being because I wasn’t upset about not finding quince?  No.  Not really.  I was too busy being weepy about my baby being off in preschool to really care about the quince.  Some day I will catch that elusive quince.  It feels right to compare it to Moby Dick, but I’ve actually never read it (gasp! I have a degree in English literature!), so I’ll forgo the metaphor.

A huge part of this panforte is the candied zest.  This stuff is pretty delicious.  In the recipe for candying zest it suggests to enjoy it after a meal dipped in chocolate.  THAT IS WHAT DREAMS ARE MADE OF!  (See those caps?  I mean business!)  Now I know some people (my husband!) who would eat a plain ol’ uncandied slice of orange zest happily, but for me it needs to be blanched and simmered in sugar water in order to partake.

This confection was created in Italy and includes a huge range of spices and toasted nuts, which reflects the spice trade at the time.  Honey is melted with sugar – I used orange blossom honey, which was perfect for this dessert!  The word panforte means “strong bread” and after reading that, the word bread was stuck in my mind for a bit.  Just a bit, long enough to mildly freak out when I pulled it from the oven and thought, “I’ve ruined it!”  Then I realized that it’s a confection, and I was probably on the right track.  I let it cool a it before I released it from the pan…or tried to release it.  It came apart.  I smushed it back together and threw it back in the oven.  I had nothing to lose.

Confectioner’s sugar is sweetly covering nearly everything in the dining room at the moment, including the panforte.  Honestly, it’s pretty ugly before it’s dusted.  I desperately wanted to save it, thinking if it tasted terrible at least I could make it pretty to look at.  I covered it with a lace placemat before I dusted it with the sugar, thinking the pattern would be the prettiest thing ever.  When that flopped, I aggressively dusted the whole thing.  Have you ever witnessed someone aggressively dusting something with confectioner’s sugar?  I’m sure it was entertaining and hilarious.

Turns out, I lucked out.  It’s delicious.  I gave Dan a slice to enjoy with his coffee.  He said it tasted like Italy before I even told him that’s where the recipe originated.  How sweet.  The panforte is pretty strong, so a whole slice can be compared to that 82 oz. steak John Candy tackled in “The Great Outdoors”.  I heeded the warning and opted for a tiny square.  At this rate, we’ll make our way through it by Christmas.

ANOTHER TARTINE COOKBOOK GIVEAWAY!  To enter for a chance to win, leave a comment here letting me know the most interesting/weird/strange/foreign dessert or confection you’ve ever eaten, or something you’ve always wanted to try.  All comments need to be Tuesday September 18, and the winner will be announced on Wednesday.  Good luck!

UPDATE: Congratulations are in order to the winner of the Tartine cookbook!  Hooray for Melinda!

Her comment:

“This looks like the perfect thing to go with a coffee- YUM!

I think the weirdest confection I’ve had is sweet, salty dried plums from Japan. I can’t decide whether I love or loathe them!”

Email me your address so I can send this your way!!!  So excited for you!