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!

Apricot-Cherry Upside-down Cake

July 3, 2011 § Leave a comment



The other day I was sitting on our rooftop balcony, overlooking the grassy area between the houses on our block, wearing Ray-Bans, book in hand, wanting for a friend to arrive. This cake was sitting on a heavy wood cutting board on the table and places were set for two people. The plates may have been a bit chipped, but this cake came out of the pan perfectly intact; so perfectly in fact, that I still like looking at the pictures of it in awe at how pretty it was.

Upside-down cakes make me really nervous. Actually, cakes made me nervous in general. I always, always manage to skip a step in the recipe and never wait long enough for them to cool and end up with a cake that needs significant patching up. Add to that the stress of having to flip something upside down, and I’m left with that brief but sickening moment wondering if I’m going to end up with a picture perfect slab of cake or a gooey, broken lump of cake and cooked fruit. But that queasiness was gone in a flash when this cake overturned beautifully.

We ate some for lunch that day, some for breakfast the next day, some with a glass of Slivovitz the next night. Basically everyone I know if this city ate some of this cake, which is a very good thing because there was quite a bit of it. The other point of triumph is that I finally found some produce that was more than just edible here. In the states, I would never pick up a basket of cherries at a corner store, from a table right next to the liquor shelves. But I will say that the apricots I purchased here were the first fresh apricots I have ever enjoyed eating in my entire life.

How’s that for eating in the Czech Republic?

Apricot-Cherry Upside Down Cake
Adapted from David Lebovitz

Makes one 13 x 10 inch slab cake

For the fruit layer:
6 tablespoons butter (90g)
1 1/2 cups packed (270g) brown sugar
About 20 apricots, quartered
2 cups of cherries, halved and pitted

For the cake layer:
8 tablespoons (115g) unsalted butter

3/4 cup (150g) sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups (210g) flour

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (125ml) plain yogurt

In a saucepan, melt the 6 tablespoons of butter. Add the brown sugar and stir constantly until the sugar is melted and begins to bubble. Remove from heat and pour into the baking dish. When the caramel mixture is cooled, top with rows of cut fruit. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350F (190C).

Cream the 8 tablespoons of butter and sugar until fluffly. Add the vanilla, then the eggs, and beat until smooth.

Stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Fold in half of the flour mixture, then the yogurt, then the remaining dry ingredients. Mix until the flour is just incorporated.

Spread the batter over the fruit layer and bake for about 40 minutes. The center of the cake will be set and the fruit may bubble around the edges when it is done. Remove the cake from the oven, let cool for about 20 minutes and flip the cake out onto the plate.

Whole Lemon Tart

May 5, 2011 § Leave a comment


Between cancelled flights, an onslaught of interviews for a new article, finishing up at work last week and houseparties this past week, the downtime conducive to actually putting a coherent sentence together has been pretty much non-existent. While I haven’t been writing, I have had mouth surgery, made a trip to the emergency room with excruciating chest pain related to an antibiotic I have been taking, barely recovered from that and jet-setted across the country. But I am now back home with very little to discuss that does not have to do with beer — be it the drinking it, the after effects of it, or the new article I’m writing that is all about beer. That said, I left campus again feeling like I finally had a clean slate to start next year on, summer funding secured, a new major that I am actually excited about, and a lineup of junior paper topics that I can’t wait to start thinking about (someone studying for finals right now, feel free to punch me in the face here).

It’s disconcerting going back to campus. The lawns are still pristine, the grass cut, the walk to the Street still feels like second nature. It’s like it has stopped in time. Sure, someone may have a new boyfriend and someone else may be about to graduate, but otherwise not much has changed. It brings a new definition to the “Orange Bubble.” I took a trip in New York City one evening to meet a friend I had met in Paris of all places. As I stepped out off the escalator of Penn Station and the world screamed and pushed around me, I was reminded of how much comfort I found on my trips to the city during school (though they were not many), because the city actually feels like life. It makes even a city girl, born and raised, feel like she just left the farm for the first time.

But today is not for beer drinking, rather it is for margarita drinking and taco eating and and and it’s Cinco de Mayo!!! Okay, so this isn’t actually a margarita and it’s actually lemon, though I’m sure it would work with lime as well, but it still fits the theme because — and really listen to this — all you have to do is throw a lemon in the blender with some sugar and there you have a tart. Genius.

Whole Lemon Tart
This is a bit different than your standard lemon tart as it actually tastes like the whole lemon, rind and all. It’s a bit scary to throw the whites of the rind into a tart filling and I admit I wasn’t completely sold on first bite, but once the tart cooled and chilled, I really changed my opinion on it. I’m not sure I’m willing to leave my dearest lemon curd behind, but make this version at least once as a novelty.

1 average-sized lemon (about 4 1/2 ounces; 130 grams), rinsed and dried
1 1/2 cups (300 grams) sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 tablespoons (12 grams) cornstarch
1 stick (4 ounces; 115 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 9-inch tart shell (or use your favorite rectangular tart pan) made with Smitten Kitchen’s Sweet Tart Dough, partially baked and cooled

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Slice whole lemon in half and pull out seeds from it and the half. Then cut lemons into small pieces.

Throw lemons and sugar in blender or processor and pulse, blend and scrape down sides until you have smooth consistency. Add the eggs, egg yolk, butter and cornstarch, and pulse and blend until filling is thoroughly mixed. Pour the filling into partially baked crust.

Carefully transfer baking sheet to oven. Bake for 20 minutes, then increase oven temperature to 350 degrees F and bake tart for an additional 25 to 30 minutes. Don’t be alarmed when filling starts to bubble up. Tart is baked when the filling is set, but still shaky in the center and top has a sugary crust. Don’t worry if it bubbles some, mine overflowed and the fire alarm went off.

Transfer tart pan to cooling rack and let cool to room temperature. Serve with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar.

I love a good market day

April 11, 2011 § Leave a comment



This weekend I went down the hill to the Alemany Farmers’ market for the first time — ever. It’s odd that, even though we live in such close proximity to it, we always chose the market at the Ferry Building. Perhaps that market has a soft place in my heart after many mornings when I was younger spent at the old Embarcadero parking lot location eating watermelon and root beer flavored honey straws. But these days that location is madly overrun with people, so we went for a quick stop at the Hayes Valley Grill stand for the mandatory crab cake sandwich — char-grilled crusty roll, creamy, toasty fresh crab, with a hearty swipe of herb aioli, mixed lettuce and sliced cabbage, and a couple of tomato slices — and a leisurely stroll through the Alemany market. We found fresh corn tortillas, spicy smoked scallops, vibrant chard in every color of the rainbow and even long stalks of sugar cane, which I had to be convinced out of purchasing before I even knew what to do with sugar cane besides eat it raw. I think I’ll be back just for the smell of corn over the fire.

Following the eating extravaganza, in which I demolished a carton of organic strawberries in a couple of minutes right there in the parking lot, I went for an afternoon run along the Sawyer Camp Trial. The trail starts as a crowded mess of weekend walkers and children biking during the first mile and then the crowds thin out, and you’re practically on your own, winding along the twists and turns of the reservoir, until you finally cross to the other side and start climbing. The trail is marked every half-mile, which makes pacing very easy but also pushes you faster than you should be going. I topped off the last mile really pushing it only to come to the realization as I sat down on the hot pavement to stretch, that the marathon is in less than a week. Cue terrified freak-out.

While we were down on the Peninsula, my mother picked up a bag of lemons from a friend’s backyard tree. A couple of extras were thrown in the paper bag upon the news that I was on a citrus curd-making spree. Following my blood orange tart, which I made a couple of weeks ago (and you can find it at Eat the Love, alongside the other fabulous citrus desserts at 18 Reasons — my skirt matches, don’t you think?), I have started branching out from my favorite lemon and discovering the ups and downs of curd making. I’ve struggled to get a firm consistency from my blood orange curd while maintaining its bright, sing-song color and zesty flavor, and I’ve found that while lime works interchangeably with lemon in my favorite recipe, it’s flavor doesn’t sing “lime.” Rather, the lime curd pops with citrus flavor, but does not meld into a distinct lime burst until after it has sat on the tongue for awhile. Which is okay I guess, when you’re eating it straight off the spoon.

Lime-black pepper cookies

February 19, 2011 § 4 Comments

I think I was pretty close to crying yesterday walking home from the metro station with the rain pouring down, my hood soaked through and my iPod carefully hidden in a waterproof pocket, because I’ve lost one or two already to sudden rainstorms. Also, I seem to have gotten in the habit of disembarking streetcars in relative franticness after a few too many uncomfortable encounters with creepy people sitting too close to me. I mean, whatever happened to polite people, and spring…spring weather please?

I made these cookies that were perfect for spring and now spring has gone into hiding. I know, I know, I’m not going to get very much sympathy from most people. By the way, have you seen this yet? Sure, we’re probably not making any friends talking like that but you admit we’re cute right? Right?

But so anyway, my point was that it’s pouring and I’m about to head out to the gym, kicking and screaming, and I think I’ll bike on the top floor, so that I can look out over the rooftop, outdoor swimming pool and remember all those late nights I spent at swim practice in the morning rain, wishing the lightning would just come out already so that I could get out of the water, but it never coming and practice finally ending and having to start my homework on the long drive back into the city. Well I guess that makes my current situation sound a little better anyway.

Okay seriously, the new journal starts now, I literally cannot manage to stay on one topic for more than a couple of sentences. Let’s get to the point:

I’ve been experimenting with black pepper as part of an article that I was writing, which you can find here. This was my favorite recipe of the ones I tried — lime-black pepper cookies. I know it sounds a bit strange, but give it a shot. You barely taste the black pepper itself at all but what it does is enhance the lime flavor so that what you get is a zingy, zesty pop. All in a little sugar cookie. If spring had a taste, this would be it.

You can find the recipe for black pepper lime cookies on the Chicago Tribune Website here. I did add a brush of a simple glaze made of freshly-squeezed lime juice and confectioner’s sugar on top, along with a couple of twists of the pepper grinder.

Also, I have recently revamped my Twitter account and to follow all my inane thoughts, all you have to do is click here.

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.

De-tartified lemon curd (except amazingly tart)

June 4, 2010 § 3 Comments

Hello from New York City. I am surrounded by highrises and about to give you a little piece of sunshine. Just look at this picture and try to pretend it doesn’t make you happy. I accidentally got one of my feet in the first picture I took of this series and decided to take the rest with both feet in.

It helps that this is positively my favorite thing to eat. I have made this recipe quite a few times, each time with the intention of making a lemon tart. Somehow, the process never really gets that far along and I end up eating this lemon curd by the spoonful. Sometimes, I manage to save some to have on top of my toast for breakfast. But that’s as far as it ever gets. Maybe next time, I should think about making the tart shell first. But you and I both know that is never going to happen.

Lemon Curd
Recipe from David Lebovitz
Makes 1 cup (240 g)

1/2 cup (125 ml) freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
2 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
pinch of salt
6 tablespoons (85 g) unsalted butter, cubed

Place a mesh strainer over a bowl, and set aside.
In a medium saucepan, whisk together the lemon juice, sugar, egg yolks, eggs, and salt.
Add the butter cubes and set the pan over low heat, whisking constantly until the butter is melted.
Increase the heat and cook over moderate heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens and just begins to become jelly-like. It’s done when you lift the whisk and the mixture holds its shape when it falls back into the saucepan from the whisk.
Immediately press the curd through the strainer. Once strained, store the lemon curd in the refrigerator. It will keep for up to one week.

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