Her flaky, buttery croissant layers melt on your tongue. Her fluffy cake crumb will soften your heart. And that bread— oh, that bread! — is a masterpiece of bubbly-soft insides and crackly, crunchy outsides luring people to wait in lines wrapping out the door to get it. Author of Tartine All Day: Modern Recipes for the Home Cook released in April, acclaimed pastry chef Elisabeth Prueitt is cofounder of San Francisco-based Tartine Bakery and Tartine Manufactory and the owner of the ice cream shop Cookies & Cream. Prueitt tried to make her latest book the most accessible to everyday home cooks without sacrificing good taste and ingenuity.
Prueitt is also the author of the original and bestselling Tartine cookbook, a James Beard Best Pastry Chef Award repeat nominee and winner, and the founder of the Conductive Education Center of San Francisco. Her husband, Chad Robertson, is the master baker at Tartine. She took some time to answer some questions about her book, baking, and kitchen tips.
CHOWHOUND: In what ways would a recipe for a home cook differ from a recipe for a professional baker? Examples?
ELISABETH PRUEITT: Recipes for a home cook, generally speaking, have more instruction. There’s a wonderful series of baking books from the Richemont Baking School in Switzerland that have comically short instructions like, “Mix wet into dry ingredients and pin out dough.” No baking temperatures, no mention of rest time for the dough or what texture to expect. This would be a 12-step process for most home chefs.
C: Which recipe would you recommend starting out with in your book, and why?
EP: I think the Tartine Chocolate Almond Cake. It’s deceptively easy for the wonderful results, and it’s gluten free, which can be a tough way to bake if you’re not used to it.
C: What do you recommend doing when you can’t find one of the less-common ingredients in the book’s recipes? Any substitutions?
EP: Think of the flours this way: starch (tapioca, cornstarch, arrowroot flour, potato starch, rice flour), nut flour (Almond, hazelnut, pistachio, walnut), and higher protein, or “main” flours (oat, sorghum). Then there are other flours that I use in combination with the ones above due to either a strong flavor or that they can change the texture of a baked good if used in too high a proportion: amaranth, quinoa, teff, chestnut, and bean flours. Within a category you can mix or use any in replacement of the other.
C: What makes a recipe modern in your eyes?
EP: Modern is simply our current way of eating. What is modern today is avocado toast, although it won’t remain so (I personally will never stop eating it!).
Modern is healthful and using new-on-the-market grains such as teff and Job’s Tears.
C: What advice would you give someone who thinks of herself/himself more as a cook and less as a baker, partly because of the exact science of baking and the intimidation that comes with that for some people?
EP: It is simply understanding why recipes work — what the eggs, sugar, butter, oil, and flours each do and why, and then you are liberated to experiment within each category.
C: How did you decide on the other, non-bread/pastry items to include? Where did you pull those recipes from or what were you inspired by (Manufactory)?
EP: It was a combination of working on the menu for Manufactory and writing out how I like to cook at home. In some instances there were recipes that I’ve been wanting to experiment with, which led to some new discoveries.
C: What are some of the most common kitchen slip-ups that you wish you could warn people about?
One of the most common mistakes in meat and fish cookery is not having the pan hot enough or the oven hot enough if you are roasting. High-heat cooking can be intimidating (and smoky), but it’s the only way to get good flavor and color.
C: Any personal story/background/favorite recipe from the book, something that isn’t already published in there?
EP: One of the most rewarding aspects of writing a cookbook is getting feedback from everyone involved before it’s published. My recipe tester, Maria Zizka, telling me that a recipe had already become a favorite of hers, or people on the Ten Speed team making things for their family and that kids are asking for dishes to be made over again. That was a wonderful part of the writing and developing process.
C: How did you come up with the idea of placing the ingredients next to the part in the instructions where you use them?
EP: It came from a combination of two favorites: The Joy of Cooking and Mastering the Art of French Cooking (I’m not comparing my book to those classics, just the inspiration for the structure). I am dyslexic, and when cooking and baking as a very young person, I found very long lists of instructions difficult (and still do). I find it easier when instructions are broken up and grouped with the ingredients they pertain to.
C: What’s a dish or two that works great on a busy weeknight when you’re tired and short on time?
EP: Either soup or roast chicken. I like having a chimichurri or other kind of sauce already in the fridge, and some yogurt to layer into the dish. When cooking quickly and simply, it’s important to rely on flavors in the form of a rub or preserved lemon and herbs. Fried rice is a recent favorite because I love mixing rice with other grains and just chopping up leftover steak or chicken with herbs and throwing in an egg and a pinch of sugar and some of the condiments Chad brings back from Asia — wonderful soy sauces and fermented fish sauces and Mirin. A very underrated dish!
For more ideas to help you get through the daily grind with delicious yet stress-free meals, check out our weeknight dinner tips and recipes. Prueitt’s beautiful new book is full of 200 recipes that go far beyond the pastry counter. Expect 200 recipes (45 of them are gluten-free) such as that roast chicken, an easy salmon, creamy potato gratin, and dreamy desserts. These three recipes from the book especially caught our eye:
1. Champagne Geleé with Strawberries
Simple, yet impressive, this dessert looks like sparkling diamonds dotted with rubies. You can swap out strawberries for whatever fresh fruit is in season. The fresh whipped cream is up to you, but we’d vote for it. Get our Champagne Geleé with Strawberries recipe.
2. Fluffy Whole Grain Flour Pancakes
There are four different flours — oat, almond, tapioca, and brown rice — in these pancakes, yet somehow they’re still light and moist. Maybe the egg has something to do with it. Get our Fluffy Whole Grain Flour Pancakes recipe.
3. Pork Chops with Apples and Mustard Sauce
This is a meal that’s made 10 times better by the creamy sauce sprinkled with tarragon and parsley. You’ll want to lick your plate afterward. If you have a piece of bread around, go ahead and sop it up. Get our Pork Chops with Apples and Mustard Sauce recipe.
— Head photo: Paige Green.