Tartine Baking Project: #55 Mixed Berry Shortcakes with Caramel Berry Sauce

I’m learning a great deal at the School of Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson.  Actually, baking my way through this cookbook is not really like a school, more of an online satellite course.  I like it because I can wear my pajamas some mornings to class without feeling like a scrub.  (Do people still use the term “scrub,” or am I just channeling some T.L.C. lyrics this morning?)  It’s funny though, because I do feel like I am taking a class sometimes, because this cookbook is filled with so much knowledge, so many little tips, skills and ways of the pastry chef.  Now, the thing is I am just doing things in the way I’ve interpreted them.  For instance, cutting the butter into the flour.  I think I’m doing it correctly, because it’s working.  Really, that’s all that matters.  But, if someone who’s classically trained ever watched me in the kitchen, I think it may be humorous.  To them.  Maybe to me?

The recipe said at this point the dough should look “a bit shaggy.”  I had no idea what that meant until I got to that point and was wowed.  Yes, “shaggy” is the perfect adjective.

Usually I can distract my little guy with something long enough so he’s not “helping” as much as he’d like to be, and I can work efficiently to get things done in a timely manner.  My plans go out the window when my baking involves rolling out dough in any form.  His little hands get in there and start grabbing dough and shoving it into his mouth as quickly as can be.  I have to physically serve as a barrier between him and the dough, or else there would be nothing for me to bake.  His adorable little hands sneak into every shot.  It’s cute, until he’s grabbing entire raw rounds of dough and I’m wrestling them out of his strong, toddler hands like he’s some kind of miniature Hercules.  (Their hands are so strong!  You may think I am exaggerating, but have you ever tried to get something one of those tiny people are grasping onto?  It’s tough.)

When I went to put the shortcakes in the oven, I looked up to see him tiptoeing away with the entire bowl of berries.  In order to save the bowl from an imminent spill if I were to move to loudly or quickly, I had to silently sneak up to grab the bowl.  Meanwhile, I was cooking the caramel on the stove.  This is the third time I’ve made caramel.  The first time I made it was for the caramel apples.  It was perfect.  Granted, I had nothing else baking and those were the days when my kitchen helper was still taking naps, not thieving berries.  So that caramel had all of my attention.  The second time I made it, it didn’t cook long enough or something.  The taste was off and the color not quite right.  This time, I cooked the caramel a little too long.  It was on the verge of being burnt.  It was still edible, but it just wasn’t perfect.  I debated making it again, but I didn’t.  It was good, just having made it once so perfectly I knew it could be better.

There are things that I cannot eat all of.  A cake, for instance.  Or, an extremely rich and dark chocolate where I’m satisfied with a bite or two.  Then there are things like banana cream pies, and this mixed berry shortcake.  My call out to friends to come and help me eat this was not because I physically cannot eat it all.  Trust me, I could.  I was crying out for help in a whisper, meanwhile splitting one with Jack, having one for dessert, and even contemplating a very decadent breakfast.