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.