Tartine’s Lemon Bars

December 28, 2012 § Leave a comment

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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.

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