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336 pages, Hardcover
First published March 3, 2009
I write about food and cooking, and in that sense, I aim to be informative, but I write about my life some, too, since it intersects with food roughly three times a day. I don’t think many of us are terribly interested in recipes that have no stories or real-life context. For me, the two are inseparable. One is pale and boring without the other.
A classic among classic French desserts, tarte Tatin is essentially a sexed-up apple pie—a housewife in stilettos, you could say. It starts with wedges of apple caramelized to a deep amber, their juices mingling with butter and sugar to yield a complex flavour that verges on hard cider. Covered with a sheet of puff pastry, baked to golden, and then inverted, the apples sit coyly atop their many-layered blanket like Ingres’s Grande Odalisque on her chaise. Dolloped with crème fraîche, tarte Tatin doesn’t dally with small talk. It reaches for your leg under the table.
Like my mother before me, I’m a baker by nature: precise, obedient, and fiercely devoted to my digital scale. My mother taught me early on that a recipe should always be followed strictly the first time through, with no tweaking or second guessing. You give it an honest try, see how it goes, and then you can tinker to your heart’s content. … I find a deep, abiding satisfaction in following instructions.
(all the more ironic, then, that she married a kitchen innovator who makes things up as he goes along – and is strangely obsessed with pickling things)