Tartine Cookbook: Baking Book Love

To get a few things out of the way: if I could find underwear in adult sizes with days of the week on them, I would buy them. And if I could only visit one bakery for the rest of my life, I would pick Tartine. Now not only do you know too much about me, you know where my dessert alliances lie. I figure that the best time to let you know that I would die for an opportunity to be locked in Tartine overnight is right before I review the Tartine cookbook.

So, I’m a big fan. I’m also a bad baker and things like yeast and pie dough frighten me, so if Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson can teach me how to make croissants or tarts, they should have anyone’s blessings. Not that I would test the croissant recipe. I tried making them once in my life and quickly thereafter decided if that much butter was meant to be in one of my favorite breakfast treats, it was none of my business.

Tartine Cookbook Appearances

I don’t think that I have ever seen a prettier baking book. The cover looks like summer, and in addition to having been dusted with a fair amount of powdered sugar, the chocolate tart, gingerbread and friands are kissed with a light that reminds me of childhood spent in blossoming gardens. Bringing back the feeling of carefree days is an excellent way to start out a butter-based book. There aren’t a plethora of color photos inside, but where you need them, there are photos. I.e., when they explain how to make the perfect galette dough.

Three recipes

Although I have cooked at least twenty of the recipes in this book, I focused on three recent recipes I made for this review.

  • Caramel, p.212: Basic but delicious. If a bakery can’t give you a perfect recipe for a pastry building-block, I figure they don’t deserve to have their book on my shelf. This was a good one. It was simple, smooth, buttery and quite simply, a winner.
  • Lemon Bars on Brown Butter Shortbread, p. 149: I have never tasted these before at Tartine, and was pleasantly surprised. They were almost better than my grandmother’s recipe, who reads this website, but of course they weren’t quite there. The curd was perfect, soft-set and zesty. The crust, however, took about twenty minutes longer than the recipe suggested to reach golden brown. I had the time, however, and the results were worth the extra twenty minutes. I would make this again. And again.
  • Chocolate Chiffon Cake, p 206: I’ve always steered away from cakes that can’t just be mixed in one bowl (love that flourless chocolate cake), but because Prueitt’s recipes are so clear, I decided to take the plunge. It was a great experience. The chiffon cake was fluffy, had just the right amount of chocolate and impressed my cousin who was visiting. Success.

The good:

  • Descriptions are fantastic. The included “Kitchen Notes” help to explain why the recipes tell you to do what they do, such as why one puts salt in egg whites when whisking (to relax the proteins). If you cooked through this book you’d come out of it with a richer understanding of how to bake, and while clear and helpful pedagogy is not what all cookbook writers aim for, I believe it should be.
  • The results are fantastic. Sure, I’ve experienced a mishap here and there while making the twenty or so recipes I’ve baked from this book, but misunderstandings happen in every intense relationship, and each one was cleared up by the time I took a bite of the final product. That’s good bakery therapy for you.
  • The recipes taste like the desserts you buy in Tartine. I’ve purchased restaurant cookbooks before only to take it home, make a dish and wonder what it had to do with the original item I tasted from their kitchen. That’s not the case with this book.

The bad:

  • Tartine uses awesome ingredients: butter, flour, cream, chocolates. I wish they spent more time talking about how and why they chose what they did.
  • I don’t like the banana-date tea cake in the book. But then I don’t like bananas with dates. So….
  • Trite, I know, but I wish they included the very basic recipes for the hot press sandwiches they serve at the store and talked about the panini presses they use. It’s a baking book though, so I forgive them.

The final verdict:

I love this cookbook. Buy it.

And, you can pre-order Prueitt’s forthcoming title, Tartine Bread, which ships in September 2010. Yes, please!

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Comments from other ninjas:

  1. Bill Marum says

    this cookbook has wonderful recipes but the cooking times are very oftern wildy wrong. At first I thought it was just the chiffon cake recipe which would be bad enough. Many of the ckes in the book are based on this recipo and its variations. It takes almost twice as long as the recipe says to get this cake fully baked. The same is true fro the berry crumble coffeecake. It is a pudding if you bake it for only the 40 minutes specified. These are very serious flaws that ruin the credibility of the otherwise good recipes. Part of the charm of the bakery is that they are not afraid to fully bake things. The cookbook would have you underbake just about everything. It’ indicates to me that the recipes were not tested for home kitchens very well, if at all.

  2. Dave says

    The chocolate chiffon cake ingredient list calls for lemon juice and zest, and the instructions don’t make mention of incorporating the lemon juice. What do you think, typo or bakers signature?

    • Stephanie Stiavetti says

      Hi Dave,

      I don’t remember at this point. :( You might try calling the bakery directly, or perhaps ask them a question through their facebook page:

      Good luck!


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