October is going to be an exciting month for me as it is the month that I officially begin my 2-month long culinary adventure in San Francisco. I'm taking an 8-week bread and viennoiserie course at the San Francisco Baking Institute (which I'm surely going to blog about) and part of my itinerary during my stay in this wonderful city is to explore San Francisco's famous culinary establishments and numerous farmer's markets. One of the bakeries that I'm looking forward to visiting is the renowned Tartine Bakery which is fortunately, just a few blocks from where I am to live in San Francisco. I own both their books "Tartine" and "Tartine Bread," and all of the recipes that I've made from each were really delicious and most were very easy to make as well. During the past month, I've been on a baking frenzy and have made quite a few luscious desserts from "Tartine" namely the Banana Cream Pie with Caramel and Chocolate, Lemon Bars on Brown Butter Shortbread, Zucchini and Orange Marmalade Tea Cake and the Lemon Cream Tart which I topped generously with slices of strawberries.
I couldn't resist making Tartine's Banana Cream Pie simply because it's one of my favorite pies and seeing the full page picture of it in the book just made my mouth water. I was also eager to try out the author's version which has melted chocolate smeared on the bottom and sides of the crust which according to her, could help preserve the crispiness of the crust and of course, give it a very welcome chocolate flavor to the pie. This is a good dessert to make if you already have some leftover pastry cream and maybe even a fully baked crust sitting in the freezer but making all of the components all in one day was quite the production! I like the book's recipe for flaky pie crust as it was very buttery, easy to roll, and the instructions for making it were very easy to follow as well. I encountered some problems while pre-baking the crust though--it's the kind of crust that you have to weigh down with raw beans or pie weights during the bake--and I noticed that the edges were getting darker and darker while the bottom still remained very raw. I realize now that using raw beans as pie weights doesn't really do a great job at conducting heat all the way to the bottom of the pan. I'm definitely going to use ceramic or metal pie weights the next time I pre-bake a crust like this one. But overall, this was a spectacular keeper recipe for banana cream pie and one that I will be making again in the future.
I have quite a few cook books that have lemon bar recipes in them and what made me try out Tartine's Lemon Bars on Brown Butter Shortbread is the addition of pine nuts in the crust which I thought was such an interesting twist to the traditional lemon bars. The pine nuts definitely added a wonderful texture as well as a nutty and earthy flavor to the crust which to me, pushed these bars from the level of "delicious" to the plane of highly addictive! These were also the tartest, most lemony version of lemon bars I've ever eaten--definitely a far cry from the very floury, un-lemony store-bought lemon bars I've been eating all these years and now my standards have been raised! There's more lemon filling in these bars than the usual recipes I encounter and they make your lips pucker (in a very good way). One thing I noticed though is that these bars, after a few days in the fridge, would eventually leak into the pan perhaps due to the high juice content of the filling. I haven't made these again but I'll do a little experiment and add a little more flour to the filling as well as bake it for much longer in the oven. I'll make an update if these changes prevented the leaking issue.
This Zucchini and Orange Marmalade Tea Cake was super moist and had wonderful varying textures--you get a slight chewiness from the orange peel of the marmalade and a lovely crunch from the nuts and sugary crust. I think what made this tea cake exceptionally moist was, unlike other zucchini cake recipes, this one doesn't call for the zucchini's liquid to be squeezed out after grating. Everything is used and I believe the water content of the grated zucchini along with the oil, contributed to a very moist cake--even after a few days in the fridge-- that also held its shape very well upon slicing. The slices of orange peel in the marmalade also contributed a slightly bitter note to the cake which wasn't overpowering at all as it in fact, somewhat balanced the sweetness level of the cake. The recipe suggested that apricot jam could also be used in lieu of the orange marmalade but I think the results wouldn't be the same and it may turn out a little sweeter than the orange version. I also liked this recipe because it wasn't heavy-handed on the spices. It only made use of a teaspoon of cinnamon (and no other spices like cloves thankfully!) which to me was just the right amount.
The last dessert I made from this book was the Lemon Cream Tart and instead of topping it with a soft billow of whipped cream, I covered the entire surface with wedges of sweet strawberries and brushed them with apricot glaze for some shine. This was one of the desserts I served during my birthday get-together and everyone loved it and I did too--the strawberries and lemons, although both very tart fruits, paired really well together. I think this would look really cute as mini-tarts as well which I will try next time. This is also one of the easiest tarts you can make--the lemon cream only took a few minutes to whip up in the double boiler and the crust makes use of a sweet tart dough or pate sableé that calls for creaming the butter until light and fluffy instead of pulsing in a food processor until coarse crumbs form like you would a flaky pie dough. It was a little fragile to handle though but rolling became much easier when I placed it in between sheets of plastic wrap and it's really easy to patch holes or ripped areas with more crust while still achieving a flawless finish. My only gripe with this sweet tart dough recipe is that it makes more crust than you would ever need for a single tart recipe and halving it would still yield you two 9-inch crusts. So be prepared to have some extra dough in your freezer which is always good to have on hand anyway. Actually, I ended up pre-baking the remaining dough into mini-tarts which I plan to use for the book's Blackberry Tart with Rose Geranium Cream....it just sounds so delicious!
If this book is just a sampling of what Tartine Bakery offers the public on a daily basis then I'm definitely in for a delicious treat and might even take multiple trips just to cover most of their entire dessert menu. I'm surely going to try at least one variation of their fruit tarts as well as their lemon bars! It'll be a good way for me to see if the recipes in the book even come close to what they sell in their shop. ;-)