19
Nov

The Tartine display case! So pretty and very exciting comparing the goods I’ve made so far!  A

The Tartine display case! So pretty and very exciting comparing the goods I’ve made so far! A

18
Nov

I am so very excited to share all about how amazing this trip is!  I keep reminding myself to take m

I am so very excited to share all about how amazing this trip is!  I keep reminding myself to take more pictures!  Happy weekend, everyone!

18
Nov

I am having some amazing fun times in San Francisco!  Including, but not limited to: dumping my Yamo

I am having some amazing fun times in San Francisco!  Including, but not limited to: dumping my Yamo leftovers on the bathroom floor of The Summit Cafe, plans for group tattoos, Bingo!, drinking too much coffee, and eating way too much food than should be humanly possible.

21
Oct

Recipe #8: Almond Rochers

These almond rochers are here because you voted for them!  They narrowly surpassed chocolate truffles, which was exciting because I was secretly rooting for the rochers.  To be honest, the voting can be likened to a race between a tortoise and a turtle, since it was slow going with no more than 6 votes on either side.  That’s great though because I love those shelled cuties.  Now, most of you who voted in favor of this week’s recipe said you were doing so because you have no idea what in the world a rocher is.  Now you can go try to work this into a conversation today: ‘Rocher’ is the French word for boulder.  Now I could go ahead and say that’s part of my French vocabulary, but I’m all about taking the high road and I’ll admit I’m dropping some knowledge on you via the Tartine cookbook.

This was the first time I had all the ingredients for the recipe on hand.  There’s not a whole lot that goes into these tiny boulders.  No running around finding almond paste, although I’m become adept at such seemingly difficult missions. 

Any recipe that calls for roasting almond slices is already a mark in the win column for me.

As per usual, I found something to raise my anxiety levels.  I only had three eggs on hand, which you’d think would be perfect because the recipe calls for two.  A kitchen skill I am terrible at, you ask?  Separating the whites and yolks of eggs.  I’ve seen it done smoothly, quickly and precisely.  It really seems easy enough.  I’m quite positive this is something you can do very well, so just stop rubbing it in my face already.  My confidence may have been boosted had I a dozen eggs in the reserves, but such luxuries weren’t part of the plan.  Pretty much this was one of those times where I worry and build something up to be The Potential Worst Thing in the World.  I blinked and the eggs were separated nicely, no yolks were broken, and all was right in my kitchen world.  Are you paying a therapist?  Don’t.  Just bake some stuff and all your issues shall be laid before you.  

Three of five ingredients.

Breaking up the roasted almonds.

The set up: the bowl of the stand mixer resting on a saucepan with simmering water.  Do you think I’m fancy now? If you look closely enough you can see a distorted image in the mixing bowl of my new and amazing apron…sort of. 

When whisking for five minutes means you are sore the next day you know a trip to the gym is in order.

Some high speed whisking action.

Chriss Angel weirdly hovering over some trees?  Not magic.  Egg whites and confectioner’s sugar turning into this crazy thick, glossy whipped treat?  Totally magic.

Filling the pastry bag with this stuff proved slightly difficult.  It was just so thick and tacky and when directions tell me to “quickly” do anything suddenly muscles stop working properly to impede the task.  I made them a little bigger than the suggested size, and instead of making them like kisses as was directed, mine sort of looked like albino piles of…I cannot think of a ladylike word for poop. 

My favorite part of this whole process?  Baking the rochers with a spoon propping the oven door slightly ajar so moisture can escape!  The recipe says to do that!  That’s just the most adorable recipe direction I’ve ever read.  Right?  It just doesn’t seem professional, I guess.  It’s 85% advice from Great Great Great Grandmother in France, 10% MacGyver, and 5% professional pastry chef.  I love it.

And the trick worked!  The rochers dried up a bit, got covered in cracks, and looked almost like the picture.  We know how important I consider the comparison of my results to the pictures when they’re available!

The taste?  Perfection.  They have such a unique texture, and I can only compare it to taking that white part out of a Snickers bar, turning it into a little dollop on a baking sheet, then baking it so the outside is sort of dry and crispy, and the inside remains sort of soft and sort of chewy.  So delicious.  I could eat them all.

In closing, if you’re in therapy you should probably keep going, but try to bake something this weekend.

20
Oct

My kitchen rant

The thing about this baking project means more time spent in the kitchen.  While I don’t like the surplus of dirty dishes these days, I do love the solitary world of baking.  It’s pretty therapeutic in there, oscillating between my own thoughts and focusing on the recipe at hand.  I mean, it is fun to bake with people sometimes, but then you have to divvy up responsibilities.  I was always the kid who wanted to do it all, and when friends came over to bake cookies they probably left feeling a bit bummed that I hogged the majority of the fun responsibilities.  “I’ll use the hand mixer and you can rinse out the bowl when I’m done, Amanda.  Yay!  We’re making cookies!”  I was that kid; not so much that adult.  Well, maybe a little bit. 

All of this time I’m spending in my kitchen would be one hundred percent amazing if I loved my kitchen.  Since we’ve moved back to Michigan we are slowly chipping away at home renovations, which as anyone knows, is such an ongoing process.  The house was built in 1884 and, literally, a billion projects have moved their way up the list of priorities.  So here I am, stuck in a dilapidated kitchen.  Don’t get me wrong, I love what we’re doing around here.  I love that the exterior of our house is no longer four different colors, that we can walk up our front steps without endangering our lives, and that we have a fence now which serves two purposes.  That fence keeps our child and dog in our yard, as well as keeping the throngs of neighbors seeking iPod chargers and attempting to just walk into our house at bay.  Yeah, I like all those things very much. 

Let’s just lay it all out on the table (the dining room table of course, because there’s no room in the kitchen).  Major gripes:  Floor, counters, cupboards, choice of tile back splash, and the severe lack of counter space.  I like the refrigerator and the oven just fine.  The circus act of balancing bowls and pans and kitchen gadgets is the pits.

I’ve gone ahead and blurred things out like they do in tabloids when someone is wearing white after labor day or socks with sandals.  This kitchen of mine is one terrible fashion faux pas.    

It’s not like the state of my kitchen is impacting the food that’s coming out of it.  Cosmetic issues of old cupboards, less-than-perfect laminated floor tiles, and ugly back splash tiles behind the sink do not make a quiche taste differently, nor meringue peaks form in any different way.  It’s just boils down to the fact that I don’t think Ina, Martha or Elisabeth Prueitt herself would bake in such shabby conditions.  Straight up.     

19
Oct

Frequently Asked Questions

As soon as I started sharing the concept of this blog, the questions started rolling in.  And they keep coming!  I love it, and wanted to just fill you lovely people in on some answers to questions that I get quite often. 

So you’re like Julie & Julia then, right?
I guess?  When I decided to do this, the thought of those ladies didn’t even cross my mind, which is weird, I think.  It probably should have, because apparently this is the first thing that comes out of anyone’s mouth when I tell them about my blog.  I’d never seen the movie, or read the bookI did recently purchase the book though.  So that’s something.

Who do you want to play you in your movie?

Good question, glad you asked.  This is a very important question we all need to ask ourselves, and have our answers prepared so we can momentarily pretend we’re not sure and have never thought about it.   Ever since Zooey Deschanel’s new TV show hit the airwaves I’ve been getting texts, FB messages, etc. that there’s a TV show about me.  I think it’s the glasses/brunette with bangs thing, but I’ll take that comparison any day.  So yeah, either her or Amy Poehler with a wig. 

Why are you doing this?

Basically I love to write and tell stories, and I think I’m best at just sharing non-fictional accounts of my life.  I set out to make a blog where I documented going through the entire Tartine cookbook, and it just organically turned into a blog where I share the funny side of baking, successes and failures, so it really felt like a good fit for me. 

How long will this take you?

If my calculations are accurate, it should take about a year, baking two items per week.

You made this?

Yes I did, and why do you sound surprised?

What does Jack think of all of this?

C’mon, seriously?  He’s two.  This blog involves no trains or cars or soccer balls, so he could care less.  He does light up when he eats something delicious though, so I guess he’s totally into it.  I’m sure if he was beyond two-word sentences and could read the blog he would say something like, “Mother, you are such a wonderful baker, making such delectable treats all the time.  I thank you from the bottom of my heart.” 

Is it hard to find ingredients?

Yes, and no.  So many of the recipes I’ve encountered so far involve things I always have on hand.  Lots of flour, butter, eggs and sugar.  Then you have some things thrown into the mix, like almond paste or crème fraîche, and grocery store employees have a look on their faces as if I asked, “Could you help me cut off your foot?” when I ask them to help me find products.  One fellow who I see frequently stacking shelves now ducks away when he sees me.  I refuse to think he’s running from me, I think it’s coincidentally “break time” when he sees me walking down the aisle with a confused/lost look on my face.

Have you always been a baker?

Not really.  I love to cook, and am often making dinner when we’re not hitting up our favorite eateries.  I occasionally find a recipe for some sort of baked good that looks delicious that I just have to make, and I have a go-to recipe for molasses cookies that are pretty darned amazing.  Oh, and banana bread!

What else do you do besides bake?

Nothing.  No, that’s a lie.  I’m often all over this little town, playing with my adorable son.  I do love me some crafting.  I started The Kalamazoo Craft Corps, where we have these monthly “Saturday Crafternoon” events.  Often times it’s just me and my friend Colleen, but some other people show up on occasion and that’s always fun.  I also have a writing workshop/group comprised of some talented friends, and we meet and workshop stuff we’re working on.  We use it as a time to drink wine, laugh and eat snacks.  I like to watch TV – super into Parks and Recreation, The Office, Game of Thrones, and now my husband and I are catching up on Breaking Bad.  Don’t ruin it with spoilers, Jerky McJerkerson!

What did you do before Tar-Tryin’?

I’m assuming you mean professionally?  My main gig: stay at home mama.  I was a high school teacher for five years before that. 

What kind of camera do you use?

A Canon 60D. 

Do you eat everything you bake?

I am all about sharing things I make!  The calorie intake would be insane if I ate every single thing I made.  I do certainly taste everything I make.  I can’t be giving people gross food.

Why Tartine?

I’ve spoken about this when I first started the blog, but there is something really magical about the Tartine Bakery in San Francisco.  You know, magic enough to lure people in regularly to wait in line for an hour or longer, and who in their right mind wants to wait in line ever?  Then you throw in the fact that some of that magic is magically converted to book format, and it’s like wielding She-Ra’s sword.  On the flip-side there is something so very intimidating about baking anything out of that cookbook.  Éclairs?  Chocolate truffles?  I mean, I’ve had it on a shelf for four years without ever making anything from it.  I did buy ingredients once in order to make éclairs, but my dog ate all of the ingredients, then promptly threw it all up before I could make them.  Seriously.  This is probably just crazy ol’ me, but that intimidation factor causes anxiety – I just don’t want to mess things up because they are such magical pastries.  Summary: Love of Tartine + Intimidation of baking their stuff = a fun l’il project.  Did I mention the word magical enough?

Where did you live in San Francisco?

We lived in a tiny ground-level apartment in Lower Haight, specifically the corner of Page and Webster.  Stepping foot down into our apartment gave everyone the déjà vu moment of sailing on a tiny ship.

What’s the worst part about what you’re doing?

Washing dishes.  That’s the worst.  We need a dishwasher!  That, and the lack of counter space in my kitchen can be infuriating.  I have Hulk-like rages when I have no where to put a mixing bowl!

Where in the world is Kalamazoo?

Kalamazoo is in the southwest corner of Michigan, snuggled right in between the neck and shoulder of the Midwest.   Such a cozy spot here.

Where did you get your glasses/are they real?

Yes, I use them to see the world.  I got these gems from the only angry person in Milan, Italy.  I think she was having a bad day.  Anyhow, they’re Marc by Marc Jacobs and I would sleep in them if it wasn’t so crazy uncomfortable to do so.

So, you’re really going to do this?

Y es.  Yes, I am.

18
Oct

Recipe #7: Quiche

Seemingly every person in the world has tried his or her hand at making a quiche.  That is, everyone but me.  It was ‘bout time for a savory turn in the kitchen.  Also, I had the second round of tart dough in the freezer from making the apple nougatine tart last week, and that needed to be used. After perusing my options within these guidelines, I landed here at Club Quiche.

The dough ended up rolling out nicely.  I had been worried since it had been in the freezer and I wasn’t sure if, or how long, such things could handle life in the cold abyss next to the dregs of some ice cream and frozen peas.  

I took a crazy amount of pictures of the dough in this dish.  It just looked so perfect, covered the sides wonderfully, and was such an even thickness – much better than my first attempt.  I mean that was good, but this one, THIS ONE!, was amazing. 

Having just baked the same tart shell a few days prior, and scrambling for pie weights (to ensure the crust didn’t rise while it was baking), then having to use some lightweight rice that lead to less than desired results, you think I’d learn my lesson.  Nope.  I got to this point and there was more scrambling, but this time I had brown rice on hand, which worked out very well.

The last time this flaky tart shell was seen in tact.

A pile of thyme.

Just five eggs.  I figured it would take a dozen, at least.

Anyone who’s ever watched some Top Chef knows if you’re a real deal chef, you put crème fraîche in stuff.  Tom Colicchio and Padma Lakshmi are always impressed when that’s in the mix.  I was on the hunt and even had to go to a couple places to get it.  The woman who helped me find it was so impressed and patted me on the back.  (No joke!)  And, the woman in the checkout line was enamored as well,“Oooh, cream fraish.  That’s fancy.  What are you making?”  Her awesome mispronunciation and the fact that she acknowledged the fanciness of the product had me walking proud.  You want me to like something?  Tell me it’s fancy.  You want to compliment me?  The word fancy will get you far.

We had friends coming over for brunch, and I was so happy that I’d be making them such an impeccable dish.  I was also ready to wow everyone with some brunch chatter – you know, how this recipe incorporates a little flour, which is the way they do things at the Boulangerie Artisanal des Maures, which is in the Var region of France.  That’s where the authors of the cookbook apprenticed.  Who knows if my guests would care, but I was eager to share all of this.  I was in the kitchen, whisking things away, just thinking about how excited I was about this tart shell, and to see improvement from the previous time I’d baked it.  The fact that I got pummeled in the face by a knife sharpener that fell from high above as I tried to get the kitchen scissors didn’t really have me down.  How could I be sad or feel pain with such a wonderful flaky tart shell cooling on the dining room table?  Perhaps I am emphasizing this step of the process, stressing the perfection, exaggerating it a bit really, because we all know what the fate of this here flaky tart shell was.  May she rest in peace.  She will always be the standard of flaky tart shells all others will be compared to.  I should write that on a tiny tombstone.

A sieve!  Incorporating gadgets in of all kinds in the kitchen is always a plus.  It was at this point in the road, completing the sieve process, when I needed to fill that tart shell…

 

*Note: We ended up having fancy pancakes with Nutella, strawberries and bananas at our brunch.  I was pretty bummed, and Nutella is always a real pick-me-up. 

And on to round two, the next morning…

As far as round two goes, it’s nice how it’s becoming second-nature to whip up some flaky tart shell dough!

Ready to be filled.

Ta-da!  Quiche!  It really doesn’t look at good as it tastes.  So far I’ve had to add a lot of time to each baking time in the cookbook.  I think I need a thermometer in my oven.  I also need to level the oven because things aren’t baking evenly.  All that being said, the quiche turned out really delicious.  Turns out, adding crème fraîche makes you sound like a professional and have a very light, fluffy, and slightly tart quiche.  So good.  My vision of a fanciful quiche brunch didn’t work out, and I ended up having a little quiche lunch with Jack.  He wouldn’t eat it and was unimpressed with my talk of boulangeries in the Var region of France.  Figures.

17
Oct

Quiche Culprit! from Tar-Tryin' on Vimeo. I’d planned a little quiche Sunday brunch yeste

Quiche Culprit! from Tar-Tryin' on Vimeo.

I’d planned a little quiche Sunday brunch yesterday, and was busily prepping the filling when a sneaky little dude found his way to a cooling rack.  There was a fit of terror and panic, but we embraced it after all with a tiny little interview where he totally rubs it in my face as he stuffs his face.  Should I be concerned that interrogation doesn’t phase him?

Round two of quicheland adventures is happening now.  I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow.   

16
Oct

Someone couldn’t resist the flaky tart shell cooling on the dining room table. Definite panick

Someone couldn’t resist the flaky tart shell cooling on the dining room table. Definite panick

14
Oct

Recipe #6: Apple nougatine tart

So I’m a total jerk and have to fess up.  In my last post, I mentioned a few things that I need to clear up. (I’m not really a jerk)

#1:  I DID wake up before the sun (for the first time in I don’t know how long!) in order to bake my first flaky tart shell and give it sufficient time to cool before I filled it up with delicious goodness.  Having a quiet house to myself for awhile was nice – I think I’m going to do more of that, but only if there’s coffee in the house.

#2:  I DID Google “What is nougatine?” because who in the world knows what that is?!  Clearly, some people do know what it is because Wikipedia tells me that it’s “a term used to describe a variety of similar traditional confectioneries made with sugar or honey, roasted nuts (almonds, walnuts, pistachios, or hazelnuts are common), and sometimes chopped candied fruit.”  Makes sense.  This recipe is of the nutty variety, specifically almonds. 

#3:  And finally, and thankfully, there was NO close-call involving my fingers, apples and knives.   I briefly entertained the idea that some intense drama would spice things up around here.  That ended when well-meaning friends started sending me messages and tips for safely coring, peeling and slicing apples.  But!  You’re here, so my climatic cliffhanger brought you back!!!  So I win.  You’re here and reading, and I have all of my fingers. 

Okay, now the details.  The tart.  That tart has this one worried.  You know, panicky and sweaty palms and a racing heart; all of that would set in these last few days as I was thinking about that tart.  It just sounds so fancy.  There’s no picture in the book to show me what it’s supposed to look like.  It’s a multi-step process.  Yeah, yeah, yeah…the blame game, pointing the finger.  It took a brief self pep talk involving profound phrases like, “Just do it,” “I think I can,” and “Go for the gold.”  Actually, I didn’t think any of those things.  I just realized that I was going to have to suck it up because this there were a crazy load of tarts to make in this cookbook, so I’d better figure it out now.  That, and I had a crazy amount of apples sitting on my counter.

The secret to a perfect tart shell?  Cold water and cold butter.  You can see how cold that water is!  I was off to a good start – inevitable success, right?

The recipe makes two flaky tart shells, so I stuck one in the freezer.  Hopefully that’s okay.  See?  I’m a worrier.

Transferring the shell into the tart pan was simple and worked out well.  I even could see chunks of butter in the dough, which I was promised was important for a flaky dough.  Yes!  At this point, gliding around the kitchen on fueled on the high of feeling like I was on a roll, and doing things right, and getting up early to bake, and feeling like a real deal adult, and not even caring that I didn’t have a coffee in my hand.  I read the direction, “something something something pie weights…” PIE WEIGHTS!  I missed that!  I scrambled and all I could find was a bag of sushi rice.  In the world if rice, I’d venture to say sushi rice is the waif-ish 90’s supermodel lacking the girth needed to keep my tart crust from rising.  But I rolled with the baking punches.

Chopping, coring, and slicing the apples went quickly and smoothly.  My dramatic cliffhanger was in the back of my mind, so I was subconsciously hoping I didn’t have a moment of clairvoyance.  All my fingers are in tact!

Melting the butter and incorporating the sugar lead to caramelizing the sugar, then adding batches of apples lead to one of my favorite smells in a sauté pan.

More lemon zest and lemon juice!

I totally eyeballed what three and a half pounds of apples looks/feels like.  I was so excited it fit into the shell, especially since the shell kind of shrunk a bit when it baked. 

The mixture of egg whites, sugar and almonds looks remarkably like snot when you spread it out.  That’s right, I said it!  It looks like snot.

I’m already learning lessons from my baking adventures.  I put the tart on a rimmed baking sheet as to avoid fires in the oven!  Hooray!

I must say, this is one of my favorite things I’ve made yet.  The crust turned out well, the filling was sweet and tart, and the crisp almond crust lends itself for all sorts of fingers picking away at it when passing through the kitchen.  That’s a good sign, right?