Pumpkin Pie Time!

Last year we made an amazing instructional video on how to make the perfect pumpkin pie. Check it out make the best pie at your celebrations!


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Rhubarb Honey Tart

This tart ended up having a very unique and amazing flavor. The combination of lemon, rhubarb and honey became it’s own new flavor. It reminded me of passion fruit. Very bright, fruity and slightly tart. The filling is adapted from a pecan pie filling. It has honey instead of corn syrup, white sugar instead of brown and has a little less butter. So it ends up having the same texture as a pecan pie filling, so there is nothing not to love about this tart!

First we are going to make the dough for the crust and form it into our tart pan and then freeze it before baking. The recipe for sucre dough is here. After you have mixed the dough and let it rest, form it into the pan you are using and freeze it. Once it has frozen through cut little slits in the bottom to help it from puffing up. Bake at three fifty for about fifteen minutes until the shell is no longer raw and looks something like this.

While that is cooling we will make the honey filling and chop up the rhubarb. I used about a half a pound of rhubarb or about three medium stalks. I cut it up into small pieces.

Evenly distribute the rhubarb in the tart shell. Then zest one lemon and spread that evenly on the rhubarb. Place one quarter cup of walnuts in the tart as well.

Next we will make the filling

Honey Filling

3/4 cup white sugar

3/4 cup honey

3 T butter

3 eggs

1/4 t salt

1/2 vanilla bean split

Melt the butter and mix it with the honey, sugar, salt and vanilla bean. After that is mixed add the eggs and mix until all the ingredients are evenly distributed.

Pour over the rhubarb lemon walnut mixture and bake at three hundred degrees for about 30 minutes, rotating after fifteen. It should be baked until the middle has slightly puffed up and when giggled the tart moves as one.

Let it cool completely and garnish with powdered sugar. Serve with whipped cream or a goat cheese crema!


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Return to Salinas

I recently came back from a trip to Salinas. However this trip was about celebrating my mom’s retirement and not about eating. But I have a few photos to share. Plus if you haven’t already read my original post about Mexican food in Salinas check it out.


Two tacos al pastor and one tripe


One chorizo taco and cow head taco!

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Strawberry Rhubarb Tart

Some things are just meant to go together. Shrimp and grits, fries and beer and strawberry and rhubarb. Where I grew up in California I had never heard of rhubarb. There were tons of strawberries, sure, but it wasn’t until later when I moved up to the state of Washington that I experienced the amazing strawberry and rhubarb combination. My former chef and pie mentor possibly made one of the best strawberry rhubarb pies I’ve ever tried. She cooked the rhubarb with sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon and added the strawberries at the end. She’d put it in a baked pie crust and put streusel on top and baked it till the streusel was golden brown.  It was absolutely delicious!  The coming of spring and return of fresh strawberries inspired me to create my own variation of the rhubarb and strawberry dessert.  So I created a tart with a nutty rich crust and creamy decadent mascarpone filling, I poached the rhubarb (which is a very delicate process but brings out the best rhubarb flavor and texture) and topped it off with fresh strawberries.  The result was a filling, yet light and wonderfully fresh spring dessert!

The first thing that needs to be done is to make the hazelnut dough for the crusts, form them, freeze them and then bake them.

Hazelnut Crust

1/2 cup A.P flour

1/2 cup hazelnuts

1/4 cup sugar

pinch of salt

1/2 tick butter plus 1 T

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor until it forms into a dough. You want to pulse it so that the nuts don’t turn into a paste. You want there to be some nice chunks of hazelnut left.

This recipe will make four 3 inch tarts. Divide the dough up evenly and press the dough into the tart shells.

Place in the freezer until frozen and then bake at 350 degrees until a light golden brown color.

Next we will poach the rhubarb.

Place the following ingredients in a pot that will also fit the rhubarb and bring to a boil.

6 cups water

1.5 cups sugar

1 bay leaf

2 cinnamon sticks

1 T whole juniper berries

1T whole cloves

While the poaching liquid is coming to a boil, cut up three medium length stalks of rhubarb into pieces about two inches in length.

Once the poaching liquid has come to a boil, bring it down to a very gentle simmer and place the rhubarb in the liquid. Cover it with parchment and add a weight to hold it down. I usually use a cake pan. Then turn the heat down to low, cook for 5 minutes and let it sit in the liquid with the heat off for 15 minutes.

When handling the rhubarb after it has poached be very gentle, because the rhubarb is very fragile. Place the rhubarb in a container and put enough of the poaching liquid to cover the rhubarb. Place the container in the fridge and let it chill completely before using.

Next we will make the mascarpone filling.

Mascarpone filling

8 oz mascarpone

2/3 cup sugar

1 egg

1 yolk

1 T lemon zest

1 T honey

1/2 vanilla bean

1 T cream

Blend all the ingredients except the egg and the yolk until smooth. When smooth add the yolk and the egg. Blend until the eggs are incorporated, then divide between the four tarts.

Bake the filled tarts at 300 degrees. The trick is not to over bake them. You don’t want to bake it as much as you would a cheesecake. The middle should not dome but should be more like a volcano where the edges are puffed up but the middle is still sunken in a little.

After they bake let them cool completely. Place them in fridge for at least an hour so that the filling can really set.

Each tart has three pieces of rhubarb and three strawberries cut in half. Glaze the fruit with an apricot glaze. Then enjoy the beautiful harmony of strawberry and rhubarb.

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Bread check in

After reading my post on bread, I hope that everyone has been making bread every weekend to get it just right. Doing it every week will help you get a feel for when to divide the dough and when to bake it. If you handle the dough on a regular basis it will become second nature. Here is my bake from yesterday. A little un even on the scoring, but oh so tasty!

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allrecipes.com video shoot

This gallery contains 8 photos.

Here are some stills from a series of video shoots that I am doing with allrecipes.com on novelty cake frosting. They were really fun to do and I hope that you enjoy the photos!

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I started working at Columbia City Bakery four years ago to make pastries and desserts.  To learn more about croissants, frosting cakes and baking.  While I learned a great deal about pastries and desserts, I also discovered and developed a real passion for bread.  More specifically, really good bread.  Before working at Columbia City, I had enjoyed baking bread at home but I always felt that I had only scratched the surface of what really good bread could be. The bread book I was using was good, but it was from the seventies.  Long before poolish or biga were widely used terms in American baking.  If I ever purchased bread at the store it was typically Ezekial bread or Daves Killer Bread; both healthy breads but neither particularly flavorful nor special.

Before working there I didn’t know what walnut levain was or pain de campagne or ficelle. I also didn’t know that a person could eat a whole loaf of bread in one sitting or that bread could have so much flavor. The crust, the crumb, the tanginess, the sweetness, the nutiness!  It turned out that very few people possessed that kind of intimate knowledge; one of those people being -Evan Andres – the founder of Columbia City Bakery. I would often get distracted from pastry work to watch bread makers shape baguettes or give the ciabatta its turns before it went into the refrigerator overnight.  At first, I had no idea what they were doing or why they were doing it. But I felt interested and so I asked questions, gathered book recommendations and most importantly observed. There was one book in particular, Artisan Baking Across America by Maggie Glezer, which really helped open my eyes to the world of artisan bakeries.  Not only does Maggie Glezer give an excellent overview of all different kinds of artisan bread making techniques, she gives recipes from different bakeries around the country and tells you a little history of each baker. I found it to be a very insightful introduction to the culture, bread and techniques of artisan bread baking.

The book also sheds light on some of the upsetting parts of the artisan bakery history, such as the transformation of the small artisan bakeries into enormous soulless bread factories.  This is upsetting, of course, because it is easier and cheaper to make a lot of bad bread than to make a small amount of amazing bread.  Not to mention the lack of freshness the bread has due to being baked the day before it is going to be eaten.  This is precisely why I have so much respect for Evan and Columbia City Bakery is because they are committed and have tremendous respect for the bread that they make.

Another great book on bread making techniques is Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes by Jeffery Hamelman. In the book Hamelman shares his years of experience in bread making, a number of great recipes and in depth explanations of the baking process for each recipe. He also has a great introduction where he speaks to the soul of bread making emphasizing how making small batches of bread by hand is better for the baker, the bread and the consumer. A very inspiring book!

Back to the story.

One of the first breads I started to make on a pretty regular basis was the baguette.  Probably because it was one of the first really good breads that I’ve ever tried and fell in love with.   Also because initially I’ve decided that the naturally leavened breads (breads that have “sourdough starter” in them rather than commercial yeast, though they don’t necessarily taste sour) were too difficult and not worth the time.  I used a recipe based on the one used by Acme bakery in the bay area and it turned out quite good.  For awhile I was sure that the baguette would be destined to be my love forever.  But very soon I was getting charmed and lured by breads that were baked darker and tasted “sour”.  And very quickly Pan de Campagne, a naturally leavened country bread, became my new favorite.

I remember the CCB head baker, Jaime, talking about how she would go through these phases of obsessing or falling in love with a particular loaf. Sometimes she would only eat Pan de Campagne for two weeks and then it would only be Walnut Levain for the next two.  Each bread is comprised of such different flavors and textures it is hard to abstain from exploring all the different kinds and learning to appreciate their individuality.

To learn more about the different breads and how to make them, I would often finish my pastry work early and go and hang out with the bread bakers and watch them work. Eventually they allowed me to become involved by letting me pre-shape the baguette dough, which I loved. There is just something so enjoyable about handling “live” dough.  Then it was followed by shaping of the baguette sandwich rolls and then the baguette itself.  It was incredibly fulfilling and fun and gave me professional experience that really helped with my baking at home.  Soon it became a priority to get my work done just a little faster just so I could shape a little bread before I went home.

The more that I made and ate bread the more clearly I envisioned what my perfect loaf would be and I felt certain that I wanted it to be naturally leavened.  At this point in my life, traveling revolved around bakeries. If we went somewhere outside of Seattle I would investigate local bakeries and their pedigree. If it seemed like they had what I wanted, we would have to go and I would buy multiple loaves. I just wanted to eat and experience as much great bread as I possibly could.

Then after two years of working at Columbia City Bakery I left, because it was time. Now I had no regular access to good bread but I began to make more naturally leavened bread at home and was now more experienced at it. However, I still felt dissatisfied with the recipes that I was working with and I didn’t love the way the bread would bake in the oven. It just wouldn’t get that crust that I dreamed about. One of the things I particularly disliked about the recipes was that they all seemed to use white flour in the levain. Not only does it make sense instinctually to put in a little bit of rye or whole wheat for flavor but whole wheat would also balance the sour of the levain making it a more balanced flavor all around.  I saw bakers at CCB do this and strongly gravitated towards this approach but needed someone to help guide me to the other side.

That person was Chad Robertson and his book Tartine Bread.  In it he created an idea of making bread in the exact way that I was craving for. For one, his idea to do a levain with a fifty fifty mix of white and whole wheat made a lot of sense and made my bread turn out incredible.  Secondly, his suggestion to start with a recipe where the total flour is 1000 grams made it a lot easier to do bakers percentages and adjust the recipe to my own liking.  And his idea of using a cast iron dutch oven to bake the bread changed my life. The hardest thing about baking at home is creating and keeping steam in the oven. The steam helps the loaf to expand more and form that great crust, thus allowing the crumb to be much more open. These insights combined allowed me to create my dream loaf at home!

This recipe does not claim to be original.  This is simply the proportion of ingredients that allows me to create my dream bread.  If you want to learn how to make the best naturally leavened bread in your home then I would highly recommend buying Tartine Bread. It is truly a beautiful and insightful book.  Most importantly, as Chad Robertson describes it, this loaf is a vehicle that anything can be added to. Grain soaker, nuts, herbs, olives, raisins, you name it!  So don’t hesitate to play around with the ingredients and the percentages to create your own perfect loaf of bread.

800 grams organic ap flour

150 grams organic whole wheat flour

50 grams organic whole rye flour

200 grams levain

20 grams sea salt

750 to 800 grams of 82 degree water

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