été le croissant

It's Memorial Day weekend and while most are spending it celebrating in the most American of ways - BBQs, picnics,  summer gardening - I'm daydreaming of Paris and planning ete le croissant - the summer of the croissant! 

Since my younger sister gifted it to me during the holidays, my Tartine Bread cookbook has been a regular weekend companion. I pour through it's pages on a Saturday morning, french press alongside, and devour each and every gorgeous picture. The care that's been taken in presenting such a simple staple as bread is truly a labor of love - as are most of the recipes within.

I've dabbled a bit in their Savory Bread Pudding and Fresh Fava Panzanella (both delicious!) but the 10-page croissant recipe always seems to be where the book falls open as if taunting me, daring me to try it. So today, as my Saturday morning ritual has extended to a Memorial Day Monday - the mark of the summer season - I've decided that this will be the summer of the croissant, ete le croissant! Oui indeed!

So let it be known internets....I will tackle this "petit engineering marvel" if it takes me 'til Labor Day. (And given the labor that will go into these culinary icons, it's only appropriate.) Stay tuned!

"A well-made croissant will give one pause, a moment to reflect on the petit engineering marvel set before you." - Chad Robertson, Tartine Bread


Watch out Cupcake...the Pie is back!

I fancy myself a baker. (Amateur that is.) If I'm asked if I can cook I reply: "I bake." 

I love the methodical focus involved. The consistent gratification I get from mixing butter and sugar together to form a sandy heaven. The way the darkest vanilla extract seems to lighten the mood. The fact that when I bake, my mind goes still and all the day's chaos is sifted away. 

I bake cookies, cupcakes and cakes. Tarts, bread and muffins. But oddly, never a pie. Until now.

Good thing because there seems to be a pie uprising afoot. Seattle has recently been dotted with such shops as Capitol Hill's High Five Pies and Fremont's Pie.  Kate Winslet goes from housewife to business woman by selling her homemade pies in HBO's Mildred Pierce. And the domestic goddess of them all, Martha Stewart, has recently unveiled a collection of her favorite pie and tart recipes. All signs point to a trend. All signs point to pie. 

Flipping through my new copy of Martha Stewart's Pies & Tarts, I instantly landed on a Pear-Raspberry Heart Pie.   (Yes, it was quite possibly the heart cut-outs that gave me the security of my tried and true sugar cookies.) I repeated my baking mantra, "If you can read, you can bake," and I begin the dough. 

The dough was prepped, the pears were peeled, the pie was chilled and a few hours later emerged a golden brown pie, bubbly with sweetness and shiny with sugar. 

I have converted. 

While I'll never shun the cake, not leave behind my beloved cupcakes or neglect my cookie dough, I am excited by the fillings that lay ahead. The summer fruits that are just starting to grow and the crust designs I'll most likely be sketching out in my Moleskin. 

Yes, I love pie. 
(Images: Martha Stewart)


Sugar Sugar

Whatever the holiday - or if it's simply just a random Tuesday - I'm known for the shapes and sugar of my cut-out cookies!
Tiny feet and hands for a baby shower. Space Needles for a local non-profit auction. Seahorses or Anchors for a boating excursion. Lobsters for a weekend in Maine. Squirrels and acorns for a harvest wine tasting. Lips for a sassy Valentine's Day Party. Snowflakes during the winter months. Footballs for a Superbowl Party. Ice Cream Cones for a summer picnic. Ninjabread Men for the sneakiest of occasions. Whatever the case...I love to take some dough, make a shape and give the gift of sugar cookies! 
They've become so popular with my friends that they're now on a request/wait-list basis. But...no longer! Here's the special recipe that's tried and true and never fails with the fans. Now...the shape is up to you. What's your favorite shape??

4 cups sifted all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting.
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Royal Icing (optional; click here for recipe)

Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl.
Put butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Mix in eggs and vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Gradually mix in the flour mixture. Divide dough in half; flatter each half into a disk. Wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour or overnight.
Preheat over to 325F, with racks in the upper and lower thirds. Let one disk of dough stand at room temp just until soft enough to roll, about 10 minutes. Roll out dough on a lightly floured work surface to just under 1/4 inch think, adding more flour as needed to keep dough from sticking. (I tend to make mine a bit thicker. Keeps them softer, chewier!) Cut out cookies with the fabulous cookie cutter of your choice, transferring shapes to parchment/silicon-lined baking sheets as you work. Roll out the scraps, and repeat. Repeat with remaining dough. Chill cookies in freezer until very firm, about 15 minutes before their turn in the oven. 
Bake, switching positions of sheets and rotating halfway through, until edges turn golden, 15 to 18 minutes. (I don't wait until mine are too brown. They "continue baking" a bit as they cool. And this makes them less crisp/hard.) Let cool on sheets on wire racks. 
Decorate to your hearts desire...once their done cooling of course! I love the Royal Icing recipe and it can be tinted with food coloring. 
Cookies can be stored between layers of parchment in an airtight container at room temp for up to 1 week.