Is it possible to have a cookbook crush? I received Tartine in the mail three weeks ago, and I’ve hardly put it down since. I heard about the book when Mark recommended it, so I flipped through it one day in the bookstore. I flip through a lot of the books in the bookstore, but I can usually resist buying. I didn’t buy Tartine immediately, but after my initial look-through, I couldn’t put it out of my mind. The croissants! The shortbread! The banana cream pie!
There are a number of reasons to be excited about this book. The photography is beautiful. The desserts are garnished elegantly. The author, Elisabeth Pruett (with her husband Chad Robertson) sets a friendly tone and provides plenty of helpful tips.
But as with any cookbook, it all comes down to the recipes. What I love about Tartine’s recipes is that they’re classics – lemon bars, clafoutis, gingerbread cookies – but they’re taken up a notch. The banana cream pie has a thin layer of chocolate on the bottom crust to keep it crisp. The croissant dough is built from a sponge and then a slow rise. The lemon bars have a crust made from browned butter that’s topped with an extra thick layer of curd.
You do have to work for those extra steps, so this book won’t be for everyone. But for someone like me, who enjoys the process as much as the result, the book is a perfect fit. There isn’t one recipe in the book that I’m not eager to make.
The first recipe I made was the Banana Date Tea Cake, which isn’t something that would normally sound good to me, but that’s what’s special about this book – everything sounds good. And the tea cake was delicious, with a moist, cinnamon-scented crumb that was just a little crisp at the edges. This is definitely one of my favorite banana breads. I have two old bananas sitting around right now, and I’m kicking myself for not buying dates.
miniature banana date tea cake
And these cookies honestly might be my new favorite (well…maybe not), and they’re certainly the best oatmeal cookie I’ve eaten. The method is mostly traditional – the butter and sugar are creamed, eggs are beaten in, and the dry ingredients are stirred in just until they’re incorporated. It’s a freezer cookie, so you wrap the dough up and chill it, then when you’re ready to bake, just slice off cookies.
The cookies are perfectly balanced – slightly crisp on the edges, but mostly a soft chewy center, with tartness from the currants and a hint of orange and of spice. For a cookie, they feel almost light, with currants where chocolate often is and oatmeal adding plenty of healthy bulk. I’m looking for excuses to make them again, and I’m thinking particularly about Mother’s Day. It’s going to be impossible to make my way through Tartine if each recipe is so good that I have to make it twice to get enough.
One year ago: Red Beans and Rice
Orange-Oatmeal-Currant Cookies (from Tartine, by Elisabeth Pruett and Chad Robertson)
Makes 80 2-inch cookies
The recipe stressed the importance of being chilled overnight, but my dough was plenty chilled after a few hours in the freezer. Zante currants are the kind that you’ll find dried.
1½ cups (7 ounces) zante currants
2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
1 cup (8 ounces/16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1¼ cups (8¾ ounces) sugar
1 large whole egg
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 tablespoon blackstrap or other dark molasses
½ teaspoon salt
4 teaspoon orange zest, grated
1½ cups (5½ ounces) old-fashioned rolled oats
In a small bowl, combine the currants and warm water to cover and set aside for about 10 minutes until the currants are plumped. Drain well and set aside.
Sift together the flour, baking soda, and nutmeg into a mixing bowl and set aside. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until light and creamy. Slowly add the sugar and mix on medium speed until light in color and fluffy. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the whole eggs, egg yolk, vanilla, corn syrup, molasses, salt, and orange zest and beat until well mixed. Stir in the flour mixture, currants, and oats until well incorporated.
Divide the dough into 2 equal portions. Working on a large sheet of parchment paper, shape each portion into a log about 14 inches long and 2 inches in diameter. Gently Press each log to give it an oval shape. Wrap tightly in parchment paper or plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator or freezer overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick liner.
Unwrap the logs. Using a sharp knife, slice the logs into ovals about ¼ inch thick. Arrange the ovals on the prepared baking sheets. Bake until the edges of the cookies are lightly browned but the centers remain pale, 7-10 minutes. You may bake both pans at the same time, but rotate them 180 degrees at the midway point if they are not baking evenly. Transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool. The cookies will be soft when they cool. They will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.