Tartine Baking Project: #54 Chocolate Truffles

Baking these little gems was the smartest thing I’ve done all day.  No, all week.  I’d go as far as saying it’s the smartest thing I’ve done in the last week and a half.  And, the most dangerous.  Have you made truffles?  It’s scary how easy they are to make!  Truffles bring to mind words like, ‘gold,’ ‘fancy,’ ‘rich’ and are something whoever owns Google or Instagram may eat for an afternoon snack every single day.

I really thought I messed up the easiest recipe possible.  It’s always the most simple recipes that I fumble around a bit with.  I didn’t wait for the hot cream to sit in the chopped chocolate.  I just started stirring, which instantly started cooling down the cream, leaving me with some lumpy chocolate.  I don’t think anyone is interested in lumpy truffles.  (Add that to a list of kitchen inspired band names.  Does that list even exist anywhere?)  So, I had to add a little step in the process that involved a double boiler so I could heat up the rest of the chocolate.  Crisis averted.  Oh, and I’m not the best at piping them out into perfect logs.

I decided to grab some candied ginger, roast some almonds, and include some sea salt to make sure these truffles had some variety.  Because when I was eating so many of them, variety was necessary.

Amazing.  So rich and full of flavor.  They’re not necessarily the most gorgeous truffles I’ve ever seen, but that’s definitely something I will improve upon the more I make them.  Yes, I will be making them more.  I cannot wait to play around with tiny additions to mix them up even more.  Jack asked for one, so I gave him one.  He said, “YUM!” then handed the rest back to me.  Just one bite was sufficient for his little toddler palate.  I, on the other hand, can handle these truffles.  So many of them, in fact, that I am so happy to share these with others.  Except for my mailman.  He’s specified he’s not a fan of chocolate.  What a weirdo.


Tartine Baking Project: #53 Frangipane Tart with Raspberries and Kumquat Glaze

There are some things in life that I would pay a lot of money for.  Good shoes.  Good jeans.  Good shampoo.  And, anything involving really good pastry cream.  I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to any dessert with that stuff.  Doughtnuts, éclairs, tarts, etc.  Once I even spit out an éclair because the filling was so off.  I mean that’s not the norm.  Usually, I’d just eat something like that begrudgingly and complain a lot to Dan.  If I’m around anyone else, I’d just have a very whiny inner monologue.  ALL THIS BEING SAID, THIS TART DOESN’T EVEN INCLUDE PASTRY CREAM!  But it could.  And that’s my point.  There is the frangipane cream that uses the pastry cream, and then there’s the frangipane variation.  Since I’m baking every single recipe in this cookbook, I found it necessary to use the variation (that doesn’t involve first making pastry cream) in order to check that off the list.  I kept thinking, “This is going to be good…but it probably could even be better if…”  Even as I served it up, I completely had that weird adolescent self-loathing attitude.  “Here’s the frangipane tart guys.  I mean, it’s probably going to be good.  I guess.  Like, maybe.  It could totally be better though.”

Winter fresh local raspberries!  What the what?!  How have I not stumbled on these earlier, like in the real winter?!  Yet another reason I love our local co-op.  Wow.  I was so excited to include these in this tart, it’s unreal.  I was also excited to include some of the kumquat marmalade my friend Lee had made for me as a thank you for some mini chocolate hazelnut tarts I shared.  How sweet!  This recipe called for apricot jam, but I couldn’t resist using what I had available.  Raspberries, kumquats and almonds seemed like a perfect trio.  Now I need to give Lee some of this tart and we’ll just have this amazing cycle of sharing food with each other!

I was so excited to see how it puffed up like it did.  I had no idea what to expect, and this was a perfect goldeny surprise.  You brush the glaze on when it’s still warm from the oven.  Our house was filled with such a brilliant aroma.  I need to find a way to bottle that up and make a candle.  But that’s probably a bad idea.  Those specific candles, like Apple Cinnamon Christmas Pie or Cherry Strudel Baking In The Oven,  are only good for one or two uses, and then you’re like, “I GET IT!”

The finished product was amazing.  Once I took a bite, I totally forgot about the lack of pastry cream.  It was so incredibly good!  As was my day in the kitchen.  My friend’s daughter is on Spring Break, so I convinced her that babysitting Jack  was the best way to spend a precious school-free afternoon.  It was actually so nice that I am in the process of convincing both her and her parents that skipping school one afternoon a week is a good idea.  Not really, but at least summer vacation is a few months away!


Tartine Baking Project: #52 Passion Fruit and Lime Bavarian

I’ve never had a passion fruit before.  The closest thing was my favorite LipSmackers lip gloss I had in middle school.  It made me feel exotic.  I thought passion fruit was going to be easier to track down this time of year – When I eventually found them I was thankful for the photo cards to help my identify these little guys.  I had no discerning eye when it came to picking which fruit would be best.  I avoided the shriveled up few, I’m no complete dummy.  I tried to get as many possible that rested in the middle between dark, wrinkly purple and hard, tough green.  I’m going to stand by that as proper advice to select perfect passion fruit.

I’ve been sticking to my two recipes a week goal pretty strictly.  I realized just a few days ago that I miscounted and I am actually beyond the half point.  I’d put this very specific goal on the table – finishing this cookbook in a year.  It’s been a rough go sometimes trying to muscle through two of these recipes in a week.  Especially when there’s something that requires more of my time.  Namely, cakes.  They’re a several day commitment.  (That’s probably why I have so many cakes left to bake!)  So, I’ve made an agreement with myself to chill out a bit.   No one is shaking their head in disapproval when I just post one recipe a week, instead of the two.  No one probably even notices when that’s the case!

Without further ado, here are the many steps of this most excellent cake.  (I realize I sound like either Bill or Ted right there, and I’m okay with that.)  I started off making the chiffon cake.

Then there was the lime syrup that gets brushed onto each layer of cake.

Then, the passion fruit bavarian cream filling.  I really didn’t know what to expect cutting into them. So strange!  They look like alien eggs.  SO many alien aggs are required for just 2/3 cup of juice.  (Sidenote:  I must hand it to the Bonnie Bell company – their lip gloss is quite authentic in fragrance.)

The cake is finished off with a light whipped cream layer, then sprinkled with large chunks of shaved unsweetened coconut.  I suggest having a helper for this hard work.  After a brief talk about our differing definitions of “helping” the cake was complete.  And so amazingly delicious.

There’s no occasion for this guy, so we have this huge cake that we will be sharing with anyone who’d like a slice.  I’ll probably be flagging people down to eat this cake.  Last week I had Dan run outside to catch the garbageman with a bag of friands in hand.  So we’ve got the mailman and the garbageman.  I think I’m going to go flush paper towel down the toilet so we can get a plumber over here to enjoy this amazing cake.


Tartine Baking Project: #51 White Chocolate and Lime Parfait

As I sat down to write this post, the Lindt commercial came on and asked, “Do you dream in chocolate?”  How perfectly coincidental.  Yes, I dream in chocolate, I’m not stupid.  And, not once have I been floating down a white chocolate river or eating my weight in white chocolate truffles.  I had that dream, and they were milk chocolate truffles filled with salted caramel.  I’m not going to sugar coat this.  I was optimistic, yet pretty skeptical as I started chopping up this chocolate for this recipe.  White.  Chocolate.

My last parfait I made set the bar really high.  Pretty sure that Roasted banana & maple pecan parfait is like the older kid who get’s straight A’s, was the captain of the football team, and had really good skin.  If that’s the case then I half expected this white chocolate concoction to be the youngest sibling who’s parents didn’t notice they forgot at the water park until they got home.  Poor thing.  No, my expectations weren’t that low.

I love parfait.  You get everything all set up so when the starting gun fires you don’t have to stop to tie your shoes.  The quickness of this preparation leaves little room for snapping photos.

I must say I am pretty proud that I whipped this up so quickly this afternoon.  Jack and I were leisurely enjoying our day and I sort of forget about all the plans we had for the afternoon and evening.  Well, I whipped it up quickly and we weren’t even able to enjoy it tonight!

Limes.  So many limes!  And then there was the granita.  Sticking with my previous race analogy, this granita was the pebble in my shoe.  The blister on the back of me heel.  The stick that a competitor threw in front of me.  I love lime.  (And not just because I like tequila.)  And I love this recipe.  I just slipped up when it was time to put it in the freezer.  Instead of putting it in a shallow dish as directed, I had it in a bowl.  We had friends over for our first outdoor dinner of the year.  (I know!  It’s March!  In Michigan!  I could write a book on how crazy and confusing it is to be wearing a skirt and sweating in March!)  Since it was in the bowl it didn’t freeze in time.  I couldn’t serve it without the granita!!!  I pacified them with the chocolate friands, so all was well.  No one went home hating me.  (I hope.)  Without further adieu, here’s what they missed out on.

It made for a delicious breakfast.  The creamy parfait with ribbons of white chocolate made for a lovely partner to the slushy lime granita.  I have a feeling I will be finding ways to include that granita in a great many desserts and drinks this summer!  After all that doubting, this white chocolate dessert turned out not to be that forgotten child, but more like a celebrity that flashes around the high school photo where they looked like a nerd and no one thought they’d be famous and beautiful.


Tartine Baking Project: #50 Chocolate Friands

I cannot believe I am on the fiftieth recipe of this cookbook!  I’m not going to pop open the bubbly quite yet, but I’m just about half way through this little adventure!  It’s exciting!  And I don’t think I could have celebrated #50 any better.  Friands are amazing!  I had no idea what a friand was before I dove into the recipe.  I was sold with the word CHOCOLATE.  I’ve been in quite the chocolate…I don’t want to say rut, because I like using Ghirardelli chocolate.  It’s just that I’ve been wanting to mix it up as far as what kind of chocolate I’m using!  Awhile back I saw this beautiful video of The Mast Brothers.  They’re in Brooklyn, and I’ve always wanted to go to their chocolate shop.  I made mention of my adoration of Mast Brothers on Twitter, and the ever so lovely Jen from Local Appetite was eager to send me a package!  In days I was eating an almond + sea salt dark chocolate bar.  Perfection!  Thanks so much, Jen!  You are amazing & I owe you something equally as exciting!  I am so in love with all the amazing people I’ve met through this blog and the Internet!

This chocolate met the hype.  Opening the package was a magical experience.  I was definitely smiling.  A lot.  And at this point I still didn’t really know what exactly a friand even was.  Turns out, they’re remarkably easy to put together.  This is a real win-win.  People will think you spent hours and hours preparing them, and you know that is not the case.

Since I baked them in cupcake wrappers and friands don’t rise very much, I decided to cut the extra wrapper to make dipping them into the ganache that much easier.  Yes.  Ganache.  The best ganache I’ve ever made, if I do say so myself.  I tried to make mine look like the friands pictured in the cookbook by including a thin stripe on top, but mine look a little…homemade.  I’m being nice to myself there.  They look slightly wonky, but they still taste amazing.  So there’s that.  I just love how small they are – they’re so rich and perfectly chocolatey that just a few bites is all you need.

I am loving these extended hours of good sunlight!  Although we did have one of the sunniest Michigan winters I can remember, it still was winter, which meant it gets dark so early!  Not anymore!  Happy Spring!  As I walked outside, platter of friands  and camera in hand, the neighbor girls were right there.  They were immediately at the table, nearly grabbing them off the platter.  Little Sister screamed, “Chocolate!” then ran off when she realized I was taking pictures, not passing them out.  After watching me for a couple minutes, Middle Sister stood there, rolled her eyes, and said, “Uh, Emily.  They all look the same….Youuuu reallllly don’t have to take so many pictures, I think.”  Seconds later, Big Sister came up and snapped, “So are you going to be some kind of photographer when you grow up?”  Yes – “when you grow up.”  Not sure if that was meant to be a compliment or a dig.  I know I must seem like a monster not giving this little girls any of the goods!  It was right before dinner though, and who am I to ruin their appetites for dinner?


Tartine Baking Project: #48 Zucchini and Orange Marmalade Tea Cake

Yesterday we walked around our neighborhood, SANS COATS!, and soaked up some serious Vitamin D.  As always, the warm weather brought out the kiddos, the runners, the walkers…and the crazies of our lovely neighborhood.  My day was equally parts outside, and in the kitchen.  I must say that I cannot wait for the bounty of food that spring and summer promise.  I try hard to shop in season as best as I can, so I am just yearning for fresh fruit and veggies!!!  There aren’t enough exclamation marks in the world to punctuate that sentiment.  I cannot wait to bite into a peach from my favorite local farm, to go blueberry picking, and to bring baskets of veggies home from the farmers’ market.  I had a dream where I was hoarding raspberries under my bed in the summertime.  That says a lot about me on so many levels.

Zucchini!  I cannot wait to get this from our community garden!  Well, I have to wait, but I really don’t want to.

Orange marmalade!   Wasn’t it Paddington Bear that would unstuff his plush family members to get at that stuff? 

I’ve made many of the tea cakes in this cookbook, and it’s honestly one of my favorite things to make.  (Don’t ask me to pick a favorite.  Like children, they’re all special to me in different  ways.)  Tea cake is  just so simple and delivers an amazing, moist and delicious cake.  It’s the perfect thing to slip away into the kitchen, whip up, then get back outside and enjoy the pleasant shift in the weather.  The sugary crust is at the top of my list of favorite things, and I always save it for last when I’m eating a slice.  I am definitely trying to pawn off share as much of these goods as I can these days.  No one needs to eat an entire tea cake, but if I didn’t have friends to share with it with, I totally could.  And with sunny weather and days spent at the beach right around the corner, that’s just not something I want to be doing.

Oh!  I’m just about half way through this cookbook now.  I am looking forward to writing a mid-journey assessment, and I’ve been jotting down little notes to make sure I touch on.  If you have a question that you’d like me to address, please ask away!


Tartine Baking Project: #47 Chocolate Hazelnut Tart

It’s one thing to bake something knowing I am going to share it with people, and quite another thing to bake something for an event.  My good friend Bill requested this chocolate hazelnut tart for his birthday when I started this project in September.  I love birthdays, and everyone knows how dessert plays a pivotal role in any birthday celebration.  I didn’t want to mess it up for him, and all signs in the kitchen today pointed towards a real flop.

I got up early to bake the tart shell, only to find I didn’t have any of the ingredients.  (Didn’t think to check that yesterday?)  There are two types of tart shells in this cookbook.  I’ve only made the flaky tart shell thus far in my Tartine endeavors, and today was my first venture into the world of the sweet tart dough.  I thought it was strange that you were to put the flour in immediately, and I was wondering why it was not getting a creamy consistency, as it was supposed to do.  Oops.  I messed up the order of operations in this one.  It’s like subtracting before you’ve even divided or multiplied!  Who does that?!  PEMDAS!  A minor hiccup, I just crossed my fingers that it wouldn’t be too detrimental to the end product.

I thought the shells recovered after my minor misstep, until I started rolling them out.  The consistency was strange, dry, and continuously falling apart.  I may have screamed and made up some new swears.  Then I took a deep breath and retrieved another round of chilled dough from the fridge.  It worked out.

Well, that is until I baked the shell and it shrunk like mad.  Cue the sad trombone.  I debated on trying another one, but I just didn’t have the time and figured I could make this work.

One of the greatest annoyances was taking the skin off the hazelnuts!  I struggled with this dilemma when I made the biscotti months ago.  I followed the instructions and roasted the nuts and rubbed them in a towel, but it didn’t really work well.  I came across a tip that suggested you boil them in baking soda then shock them in cold water.  I imagined the skin would just basically disappear or something.  Boiling them got more skin off than the roasting method I’d tried before, but there was a lot of frustrating time spent taking the skin off of each and every hazelnut.  I knew I was doing something wrong.

Since the tart shell must have had an unfortunate encounter with the electromagnetic shrink ray from “Honey I Shrunk the Kids,” I had some extra filling, so I filled up two tiny ramekins.  Extra dessert!  Here’s to looking on the bright side of things!

At this point, I realized this cooling chocolate hazelnut tart was rather sad looking.  I FORGOT TO ROAST THE HAZELNUTS AFTER I BOILED THEM TO GET THE SKIN OFF!  They looked like naked, raw hazelnuts – and not too appetizing.  I then resorted back to the roasting method found in this cookbook.  Turns out, I just didn’t roast them long enough the first time.  Finally, success.  So I topped it off with those little gems and a little dusting of confectioner’s sugar.

There was a serious kitchen hex today.  I asked Dan to put the eggs into the ceramic farmer’s egg crate as I was telling him about the list of things gone wrong.  He then dropped the eggs on the ground.  As I was rolling out the tart shell, Jack was making Bill a birthday card and decided to make himself the birthday card.  I really thought there was no hope of this actually being a tasty, successful dessert.  But it was.  There were so many layers of flavor, without it being too rich.  I didn’t ruin Bill’s birthday.

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Tartine Baking Project: #46 Almond Breakfast Cake with fresh fruit and crumble topping

Brunch is my favorite meal.  Breakfast is nearly as wonderful.  I get excited looking at a menu and deciding between fancy French toast or huevos rancheros.  I get giddy planning out the perfect balance of savory and sweet for my own Sunday brunches.  Even though I taught high school science and I understand this is physically impossible, I’m pretty sure fresh squeezed orange juice runs through my blood.  Either that, or Bloody Marys.

So, when my sister let me know she was coming over this weekend, my first thought went to what I was going to make for Sunday brunch.  One of the last things (maybe the last?!) in the breakfast section of the cookbook was this almond breakfast cake.  I have been so excited to make this!!!  Yes!  You can substitute any seasonal fruit in this breakfast treat.  I opted for sautéing some pears.  I was tempted to grab a pineapple, but the pears literally fell as I walked past them at the grocery store.  I took it as a sign from the lords of fruit, and I followed their call.

I used my mortar and pestle to make almond meal, and varied the types of pears I used for a subtle impact on the flavor. 

Covered in sautéed pears, ready for the crumble topping.  (And, I used a 9″ pie dish because I didn’t have an 8″ glass cake dish.)

If you’ve been following along, I am always paranoid about under baking things.  It gets me so very anxious.  So, with the addition of fresh fruit, it was hard to gauge the doneness of this cake!  There was even a warning about this in the recipe, which increased the anxiety level exponentially.  Worst case scenario: I imagined I’d have a table of friends all watching me slice into a sloppy, wet breakfast cake.

You can see all of the wounds where I was poking around to see if it was done!

Brunch! Scrambled eggs with spinach and aged Vermont cheddar, turkey sausage, blueberries + strawberries, coffee, mimosas, and the almond breakfast cake with sautéed pears.

Not my favorite picture, but it does include my pear mug, which seemed fitting for today.

A cake made for breakfast just may be my favorite brunch treat.  I cannot speak enough wonderful things about this recipe, and I have a high standard for breakfast and brunch staples.  I woke up this morning debating what I am more excited about: baking this breakfast cake with freshly picked raspberries, or the Hunger Games movie.  Don’t make me choose.


Tartine Baking Project: #45 Pecan-Bourbon Pralines

I know I’ve mentioned this recently, but there are definitely recipes that I’m not drawn to.  It’s that way with any cookbook, for any cook and/or baker.  Maybe that’s a bold statement.  Maybe there’s someone who is excited about every single recipe in a particular cookbook.  But, I don’t think so.  Whoever you are, I think you’re lying.  That’s right, I just called you a liar.  I just don’t think a person can have a genuine equal excitement about every recipe in a cookbook.  Actually, that’s more what I’m getting at.  There’s not an equal excitement for every recipe.  For me, the only connection I’ve had with pralines was with the freezer-burnt ice cream in my Grandma’s freezer.  So I think it makes sense that I wasn’t bursting at the seams to whip up these nutty confections.

I was easily won over at the beginning, when you put all the ingredients (save the pecans) into the sauce pan at once.  So simple!

Yes, that’s a spoon.  Stirring sugar means it crystallizes, which is something you really want to avoid when cooking sugar in things like caramel.  But, you occasionally use that spoon when making pralines because you want it to crystallize.  It just felt wrong using that spoon.

In the time it took to take one photo, it was already close to completely solidified!  When the directions say work quickly, I need to follow said directions.  No time for quick snap shots!

So, I was left with a thick pile of pralines. 

Is it strange that the only thing to relieve my anxiety about these pralines was to Google pralines?  Instant gratification and a confidence boost.  Yes, these visually pass as pralines even though I didn’t go with the classic three inch rounds method.  Mine lean towards looking dry, rather than the more appealing glossy look that most pralines have.  It’s definitely because I wasn’t working as quickly as I should’ve been.

And, never shy to cast blame somewhere else (that’s a joke!), the greatest fault lies with my thermometer (not a joke!).  It was acting strangely the whole time!  There was condensation inside the thermometer (that doesn’t seem right!), and it was dropping and rising suddenly the whole time.  Weird, right?  I don’t know, they seem to taste just fine – they’re perfectly bourbony and buttery.  And, very sweet, of course.  I need to go find a grandparent of some sort on the street for some true and honest taste testing!


Tartine Baking Project: #44 Lemon Meringue Cake

My love for lemons helped calm my fear of tackling such a huge cake project.  As terrible as this is, I went in with really low expectations, because the thought of successfully recreating this Tartine gem just seemed too lofty a goal.  Spoiler alert: The cake turned out to be so crazy delicious.

So many lemons. 

Folding egg whites into the batter.

I think I’m getting better at cutting cake into layers?  I’m afraid to make it a statement, because maybe I will jinx it and never cut an even cake layer again.

Of all the components of this cake, the caramel is most certainly the weakest one.  I don’t think I let it bubble on the stove long enough.  Rather than having a rich caramely color, my caramel was a pale, faint tan.  I’ve made this caramel before, and it’s one of my favorite things in the cookbook.  I debated dumping it and starting over again, but it did taste like something that would pass for caramel.  And, re-doing it in the midst of making all the other parts of the cake just seemed daunting.

I don’t have an immersion blender, but the food processor worked just fine.  Don’t misunderstand me though, I still want an immersion blender.

The cake layers are brushed with lemon sauce, my weird caramel, and lemon cream.

I got this torch for my birthday a few years ago because my favorite dessert in the world is crème brûlée.  I’ve never made it though, so this is the first time I used the torch. 

This is not Photoshopped at all.  This cake is just amazing.

I am so in love with this cake.  There’s a lot going on in there, and all the effort along the way pays off in the end.  It’s one of those “Once it hits your lips it’s just so good” moments.  As I predicted, it was a perfectly decadent way to watch the Oscars.