Tartine

The spot has been open only since 2002, yet this baking bible seems long awaited

By Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson

Chronicle (August) ($35)

Every so often an eatery opens that becomes not only a touchstone for its neighborhood, but also a symbol of its city. San Francisco's Tartine Bakery is just such a place. This modest Mission District cafe is something of a church for its faithful, who line up for the sacraments: breakfast pastries baked fresh throughout the day, superb tarts freighted with seasonal fruit, delicate cakes topped with fresh flowers. The spot has been open only since 2002, yet this baking bible seems long awaited: A cult needs its creed. Alice Waters, high priestess of her own culinary chapel, contributes a graceful foreword; France Ruffenach offers lush photographs (often featuring tattooed bakers). The oversized tome contains recipes for tarts, pies, cakes, fruit desserts, cookies, pastries, confections, cream desserts, and savories meant to be enjoyed, as the authors have it, "with a glass of wine." (The dead-simple instructions for gougeres — irresistible cheesy puffs that are a relatively pricey specialty at Tartine's sister restaurant — will reimburse you for the cost of the book if you follow them twice.) The carefully plotted book (each recipe includes three types of measurement: American volume, imperial ounces, and metric millimeters) starts out with something of a dare, however, on croissants, which require two days' work. But persevere: Many recipes will move you right into the kitchen, such as those for double chocolate cookies and the infinitely adaptable clafoutis. I was happy to see my favorite banana coconut cream chocolate-lined tart, but where is Tartine's famous orange zest-scented morning bun? Perhaps I'll find it in Volume 2. Meredith Brody

 
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