Tartine’s Lemon Bars

December 28, 2012 § Leave a comment


There’s something about San Francisco and name recognition that when you put the name of a certain café or restaurant before an item of food, you instantaneously know it’s good. Tartine is one of those places, always with a line tailing out the door, always full of the smells of fresh baked croissants and scones, and bread, if you’re very, very lucky. So when an old friend suggested we make Tartine’s lemon bars together, I was definitely on board. We used the pine nuts suggested for the crust. We surprised the man down the street from whom we bought the pine nuts with a plate of still-warm bars. We mixed it up with his family’ breakfast of apple pancakes, a whole hidden apple slice enrobed in soft, fluffy batter; a run out for a pour-over Blue Bottle coffee; a break for Vietnamese sandwiches. It was good to catch up and remember times past. He even reminded me of a pear and almond cake which I made for our prom dinner — I had completely forgotten, but he still had the recipe, and remembered being impressed by the spring-form pan. I only remember the pan of black-and-white cheesecake brownies we devoured in the limo on the way to the after-party.

As I was sitting on the bed the other night, having another freak-out about my post-graduation future, my mother reminded me that sometimes I need to try harder to live in the present. So I’ve compiled another list of little things that make me happy, something I’ve found helpful when the big picture starts to seem overwhelming.

Watching the World Junior Hockey Championships, filling the void created by the NHL lockout.

Lemon sugar cookies, the same ones we’ve made every holiday season since I can remember, devoured this year before I could even photograph them. The stained pages of the Christmas Cookie Cookbook, one of the first cookbooks properly my own, now lacking a binding.

Taking pictures of snow on Boxing Day, with absolutely no one on the road and only a scattering of people on the sidewalks.

Everything bagels from the local bagel and coffee shop, actually covered in seeds instead of just lightly dusted.

The burn in my legs, the powder, the trees turned to icicles, and the pure whiteness that is the peaks of the Fernie Ski Resort in the fog.

Sending out my mother’s hand-printed holiday cards to friends far, far away.

Opening wrapped presents, that I um picked out and tried on a month ago. Gray cashmere sweaters and striped silk wraps from Thailand.

Being in the middle of nowhere, until I’m sick of being in the middle of nowhere. By the way, Hi! I’m in Fernie, British Columbia!

Oatcakes and the big 26.2

April 19, 2011 § 2 Comments

I sat down to do a race recap of my first marathon this weekend, and I can already barely remember parts. There was never a point in time where I didn’t think that I would finish it but there were many points when it just needed to be over damn it, and why did that last mile feel so, so long. Miles one through five were faster, faster than they should have been, and I was alive and peppy and trying to get away from the people that were chit-chatting behind me. And then we hit the long, straightaway along the marshes of the bay and the pace relaxed enough to take in the cow pastures. I ran past horses, along a muddled creek, a dirt gravel path framed by dried out weeds. The runners had separated out and I was on my own now, very on my own for miles at a time without a soul in sight. The out portion seemed to go on forever, one never-ending trail without an end in sight. Eight miles down, hit the 12-mile marker, turned around soon after. Did the whole trail back again. Boredom set in as I passed mile 15. I picked up the little brother on his bike around there. My whole family had been biking around the course, handing me energy gummies and water. They stayed pretty nearby for the rest of the race. Mile 19, the pain really sets in. Suddenly the slight uphill as you duck under the overpass feels like a real hill. I don’t really feel like I need to say that my legs hurt, but nothing really hurt, so I guess that’s a good thing. Another out-and-back for miles 21-24. I never really noticed a wall. I noticed I was tired yes, my legs felt tight and heavy; I knew if I stopped running, I wouldn’t be able to start again. Before mile 25, the out-and-back was over and we turned in to run the lake on the way home. Mile 25, the home stretch, you could see the finish line balloons, the tents, it all looked so far away. But you could see it. I’m not sure if that was better or worse. The last mile seemed to continue for longer than a final mile should — every time I thought I was nearly done, the path wound again to the side and then there emerged a whole other portion of the pond I hadn’t been able to see a few seconds before. And then one more turn. And then it was over. And I was sitting on the grass, eating a lackluster It’s It ice cream sandwich (why are these famous again?) and then a handful of peanut M&Ms and a Safeway white chocolate chunk cookie.

I had originally been planning on making a post-race snack the night before. But between making a 3.5-hour playlist (which I didn’t even get to finish in the race!) and cutting bite sized Power Bars, I never got around to it. So instead, the next morning, I hobbled around the house and made these hearty oatcakes. I pre-ordered Heidi Swanson’s new book Super Natural Every Day and it was like Christmas when it finally arrived. Every page is gorgeous and I want to stand in the middle of the kitchen hugging it and cooking from it all day. She calls these oatcakes an improved version of the oatcakes — little oat patties, often with dried apricots or nuts — that you find (and are consequently disappointed by) in many San Francisco coffee shops. These are the ideal version, dense, slightly moist, packed with nuts and whole grains. I used all spelt flour and half rolled oats, half steel cut oats. And I’ve been eating them ever since.

Inside my window

October 9, 2010 § 1 Comment

I made something today (smiles). I don’t really know what to call it. I think that is the reason I am having such a hard time starting the paragraph. You see, I took the kilo of apples à cuire, which I purchased at the market for 1 euro, peeled them, loving how the skin came off easily in long curls, and tossed them in the stove pot. I took a couple spoonfuls of my leftover dulce de leche and a couple more of butter and added them to the pot. And hovered over it, smelling the air above it anxiously, as the mixture simmered and bubbled and boiled. I ate a cup of stewed apples then, just plain and simple, and set aside the pot while I prepared the shortbread.

I stood by the open window, looking out at the courtyard through the lacey curtains, my hands in the metal bowl, gently crumbling the cold butter into ground hazelnuts. When I felt the need for sweetness, I added an arbitrary cupful of sugar and a light drizzle of maple syrup. And then I padded the dough into a fluted tart shell, setting aside a quarter of it for the topping, brushed the top with the stewed apples and crumbled the remaining dough on top of it all. I had no idea, putting my creation in the oven, what it would result in. Would the apples soak through the shortbread? Would it cook through? Did I add enough flour? I had no idea beyond the feel of the dough in my hands.

It browned, to a crispy, golden hue. The apples turned to jam — a thick, tart layer with a hint of cream from the dulce de leche — between two layers of nutty, buttery shortbread. Except it’s less like shortbread and more like those little nutty cookies you make at Christmas-time, covered in powdered sugar. The crumble top crunches when you bite into a slice and then the soft texture of the apples takes over. The bottom holds up, but just barely, as you lift a slice from the pan. And for a moment, I feel like I have achieved something today.

And then I am taking a slice back to bed, where I am working on a million projects at once, trying to straighten out applications, travel plans and my life after Paris.

Graham crackers

September 2, 2010 § 1 Comment

It’s hard to think about anything but the fact that I’m moving to Paris. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it: I’m moving to Paris. It is at once terrifying and terribly exciting. Every time I start to think, my mind drifts to what I imagine my life to be like there and then I have to catch myself before the daydreaming goes too far and I start planning out the future too much. But really, it’s hard to flip that switch in my brain for long enough to write about my last few days in San Francisco.

But they were definitely good ones. On Friday night, I headed up to the Sonoma Wine Valley with my family for a night of camping. The vineyards stretched out before us on the ride up in pretty green rows, red fruit hanging off the vines almost ready for picking. Everywhere we looked, wooden signs offered daily wine and olive oil tastings, and we stopped by a local bakery, which sells its crusty bread to several stores in San Francisco, for a cinnamon twist and a latté. We got to the campsite pretty late in the evening, in time to set up our tents as it got dark and roast marshmallows by the campfire. We only have one camping chair, so the roasting required a bit of coordination but in the end there were some toasty golden brown marshmallows with chocolate and my homemade graham crackers.

These graham crackers are rich and buttery, with a fairly strong taste of honey. Slightly thicker and more crunchy than your standard store-bought graham cracker, these are also great on their own as a snack. In fact, my family was of the opinion that they were better on their own than in s’mores. I made them with half wheat flour and half white.

Graham Cracker Recipe
Adapted from Nancy Silverton’s Pastries from the La Brea Bakery (Villard, 2000), via 101 Cookbooks

1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons unbleached pastry flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups whole wheat four
1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen
1/3 cup mild-flavored honey, such as clover
5 tablespoons whole milk
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract

Ina bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt until the mixture is uniform and crumbly.

In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, milk, and vanilla extract. Add the wet mixture to the flour mixture and mix with your hands until the dough barely comes together. It will be very soft and sticky.

Lightly flour a work surface and shape the dough into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.

After two hours has elapsed, remove the dough from the refrigerator. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the rectangle about 1/8 inch thick. Cut crackers into squares, using a square cookie cutter (or I found the edges of a tupperware container worked nicely). Place cut crackers on baking sheets lined with parchment paper and chill until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 25 minutes, until browned and slightly firm to the touch.

Stars’ Black and White Brownies

August 4, 2010 § Leave a comment

Finally, after a summer of working of 9-5, I understand the concept of the late afternoon crash and the need for a sweet pick-me-up. There are times when you want food that pushes you out of your comfort zone, food that tantalizes and shocks in a perfect interplay of contrasting textures and flavors. And then there are those times when all you want to do is sink your teeth into the dense chew of a brownie. When you crave that moist slice of coffeecake or the soft center of an oatmeal cookie or the whipped cream on top of some sinfully sweet coffee concoction. That time is 2 p.m.

These cheesecake brownies are here for you then; “these black and white are very popular at StarMart, where office workers often stop by for a mid-afternoon snack,” former Stars pastry chef Emily Luchetti writes as an introduction to the recipe. These are perfect when you need a sugar rush: a high that gives you a sense of calm and satisfaction for the last few hours of work without the highs and lows of the usual sugar rush (though I must say, I think I’m immune because I have never been affected by too much sugar). Once you eat one of these, you’ll never go the candy and caffeine route again.

Black and White Brownies
From Stars Desserts by Emily Luchetti

5 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
7 ounces (1 ¾ sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
5 large eggs
¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon flour
Pinch salt
20 ounces cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 9 by 13-inch pan. Melt the chocolates over the stove and allow to cool slightly. Combine the butter and 1 ¼ cups of the sugar in a bowl and cream until light and fluffy. Continuing to mix, add 3 of the eggs and beat well. Stir in the melted chocolate and mix until smooth. Now add the flour and the salt.

Spread the chocolate batter in the pan, setting aside about 1 cup for later use.

Combine the cream cheese and the remaining ¾ cup of sugar in a clean bowl. Beat until smooth. Add the remaining 2 eggs and the vanilla extract and beat until smooth.

Spread the cream cheese mixture in an even layer over the chocolate batter. Scatter spoonfuls of the reserved chocolate batter over the cream cheese mixture. With a knife, swirl the chocolate batter into the cream cheese mixture, creating a marble pattern.

Bake the brownies for 50 to 55 minutes until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out with a moist crumb. Let cool for at least ½ hour before cutting.

Sun and scones at the end of the tunnel

May 6, 2010 § Leave a comment

I had all these grand plans for this week. A margarita cake for Cinco de Mayo, strawberry shortcake cookies because I’ve been dying to make an all-inclusive handheld strawberry shortcake and lavender shortbread to send off to my best friend, who is leaving for India in four days. I bought a basket of strawberries at the local farmer’s market on Tuesday for this purpose and searched for lavender without success. Unfortunately, Princeton doesn’t quite have the same obsession with all things lavender — fresh stalks in a vase, dried stalks hanging from an open window, embroidered sachets imported from Provence — that most cities (or, towns) have come summer.

And sadly, this week, school got in the way. I’ve been in the library since lunchtime and it doesn’t look like I’m going to make that US Postal deadline to send off that package. Nor does it look like I’m going to get into the kitchen at all anytime soon. So, I searched through my photo archives, thinking I could at least leave the students here with a little finals period procrastination. These are some of my favorite food moments from last summer, in anticipation of this summer, which is quickly approaching.

18 Reasons, run by BiRite Grocery and Creamery in San Francisco, runs weekly local food events. This night last summer it was Chocolate: From Bean to Bar, featuring a presentation by Taza chocolate, cocoa bean and nip tasting as well as a variety of chocolate goodness and fresh milk from Bi-Rite. Taza is a small, direct trade chocolate company that uses cocoa beans grown in the Dominican Republic and process them using the traditional Mexican stone-grinding method. It was love at first sip with the chili chocolate milk. It’s deliciously sweet with a spicy burn and tingle that sets in a couple seconds after the sweetness.

Tea and scones might be my favorite combination ever. This lovely scone is part of a high tea service at the Point Ellice House in Victoria. My grandpa was adamant that it wasn’t real clotted cream because it wasn’t thick enough to be cut with a butter knife but I happen to enjoy my scones with a simple pat of blackberry jam anyway. Double props if it’s Granny’s blackberry jelly.

I’ve never had a lemon bar as good as my dad’s lemon bars. They are tarter than any other bar I’ve ever tasted. I love all things lemon — lemon loaf with that delicious lemon glaze, lemonade, lemon curd, lemon tarts…I could go on and on, but I won’t.

To you, with love: Lemon blueberry cheesecake bars

April 30, 2010 § 3 Comments

If there is one thing I’ve learned this semester, it’s that there are people who come and go and there are people who will be there forever. There are people who are worth your time and there are people who are just…not. This semester, I’ve relied quite a bit on my two best friends scattered about the East Coast, the ones who drop everything and invite me up to visit when I call them crying. And there are my friends here, who are willing to sit around on a Thursday night while I, mid social life freakout, bake up a batch of cheesecake squares.

With the end of classes, I have twelve days left at school for the year. Visions of next year are still dancing around in my head; I’m becoming overwhelmed by all the options that are open to me. Being typically indecisive, I’m not sure what direction to go in but I know that a whole year to figure that out can only be good for me. And I know now what I have at this school — some of the best friends in the entire world — which maybe makes it an itsy-bitsy bit harder to leave.

So this one is for you all, because there is no better way to say thank you than with lemon and blueberries and cheesecake. I first stumbled upon this recipe a couple months ago and thought these squares were positively adorable. Somehow, I never made them back then. But somehow, I keep clicking on links that lead back to them — so here they are, finally. The lemon cuts the richness of the cheesecake, making them a perfect lighter dessert for summer. I love blueberries in anything, and here they are perfect little bursts of juice. I used whipped cream cheese, which I was worried about but it worked just fine. The one thing I would change next time is to increase the amount of graham crust as I found it wasn’t sturdy enough to hold up the filling. That said, there’s really no need for sturdiness, as one of my hallmates proved when she took a fork to the entire pan.

The recipe comes from Kesha at Shared Sugar. Her pictures are beautiful, check them out here.

Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Bars
Adapted from Tyler Florence
Makes 9 bars

To make the crust:
2 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
9 graham crackers
1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted

To make the filling:
16 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 eggs
2 lemons, zested and juiced
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup blueberries
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Butter the bottom and sides of an 8 by 8 inch baking pan. Cut two pieces of parchment paper in rectangles long enough to extend up the sides of the pan (so later you can use them as tabs to pull out the finished cheesecake bars). Place the parchment paper in the buttered pan cross-wise and press it into the corners.

Crush up the graham crackers in to dime size pieces or smaller crumbs. In a bowl, mix the sugar, cinnamon and graham crackers. Add the melted butter and mix until the butter is incorporated. Pour the mixture into the baking pan and evenly press it into the bottom of the pan and about a 1/4 inch on the sides. Use a glass or another smooth surface to disperse the graham cracker mixture. Bake in the oven for 12 minutes.

In a bowl with an electric mixer, add the cream cheese, eggs, lemon zest, lemon juice and sugar. Mix until the ingredients are creamy and the cream cheese is fully incorporated. Pour into the pan with the cooled crust. Then evenly distribute the blueberries.

Bake in the oven for 35 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the cheesecake comes out mostly clean. Only allow the top to get a hint of brown. Remove from the oven and cool completely. Then refrigerate for at least 3 hours. Remove the cheesecake from the pan using the parchment paper.

Decadence and excess: Salted Caramel Bacon Brownies

April 28, 2010 § 1 Comment

Decadence and excess is the name of the day. After one of my teammates enlisted my help — or surveillance — in making fudge for her French class, I decided today was a good day to try out one of the recipes that has been in the back of my mind for awhile: Salted Caramel Bacon Brownies. There are no words to describe these…rich, gooey, the base brownie tastes like pure melted chocolate and the caramelized bacon adds a smoky, salty note. That said, more than a couple bites of this is enough to make you feel quite guilty, and more than a little sick. I did cut a couple corners on this recipe; I stole the bacon from Cloister breakfast, neither wanting to fry the bacon myself or make the caramel using the leftover bacon fat. And we invited a couple of the swimmer girls over to eat them. Who, unfortunately, seem to exercise more restraint than lightweight rowers. Come on, don’t tell me you’re on a lawnparties diet too!

Some poor, depressed, heartbroken soul needs to come take these off my hands because these are the brownies hell is made of.

The brownie base is adapted from my favorite, David Lebovitz. The rest of the recipe is the creation of Kate from Savour Fare. See the recipe here or go to her site here.

Bacon Salted Caramel Brownies

Adapted from David Lebovitz

For the Bacon Caramel:
2 slices bacon
1/2 c. heavy cream
1 c. sugar
6 T. salted butter

In a small saucepan, fry two slices of bacon until crisp (I find it’s easiest to do this when the bacon is cut in half). Remove bacon, set aside, reserving bacon grease in the pan. Add cream to hot pan and let cool. When bacon is cool, crumble or chop finely.

In a larger pan, heat the sugar over high heat until the mixture is liquid and a deep amber color. Add the butter and the cooled bacon cream all at once, and stir until the butter is melted. Add the chopped bacon and let the mixture cool thoroughly.

For the brownies:
8 T salted butter, cut into pieces
6 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
3 large eggs
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. flour

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Line an 8 inch square pan with two sheets of aluminum foil that covers the bottom and sides of the pan. Grease the foil with butter or a little Baker’s Joy.
In a large microwaveable bowl, melt the butter and the chocolate together in the microwave (start with 30 seconds, and stir thoroughly, then microwave for 10 seconds at a time, stirring between each bout of nuking, until the chocolate is melted and incorporated into the butter) (You can also melt them together over the stove). Add the cocoa and whisk until smooth, then add in the eggs, one at a time, and the sugar, vanilla and finally the flour. Stir only until combined.

Scrape half of the batter into the prepared pan. Then drop about a third of the bacon caramel, evenly spaced, over the brownie batter in the pan. It doesn’t have to cover the whole batter, but should be in splotches. Spread the remaining brownie batter over the top, then drop spoonfuls of the remaining caramel sauce over the top of the brownies and swirl.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, but err on the side of underbaking. Remove from the oven and cool completely.

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