The first time I set foot in Tartine, the San Francisco bakery-café owned and operated by husband-and-wife duo Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson, I panicked. Should I get the frangipane croissant or the pain au chocolat? A velvety quiche or a Croque Monsieur? A morning bun or a flaky scone? Few places are more ill-suited to the indecisive, and by the time I took my rightful spot at the head of the line, I was tempted to slink round back to the end.
(For the record: I got a frangipane croissant and a morning bun.)
Soon after this visit, Prueitt’s and Robertson’s first cookbook, Tartine, was released to great acclaim, and within days, I’d swapped out my trusty culinary school croissant recipe for their four page version. That recipe's now wildly stained and pencil-hashed (how else to track the puff pastry turns?), and I haven’t used another croissant recipe since. (Robertson has since released two more books: Tartine Bread and Tartine Book No. 3.)
A few weeks ago, I stumbled on Prueitt’s Instagram feed (@lizprueitt_tartine). The pastries, the pannettone, the heirloom grains didn’t surprise me, but when I saw what she was doing with yogurt, I stood up from my chair. How can Prueitt harbor so much talent not just in the pastry kitchen but in the yogurt sphere as well?
Only one way to find out.
I gave her a call.
NEW PROJECTS, MORE YOGURT
Prueitt’s yogurt-based endeavors reflect not just the creative dabblings of an already busy chef and business owner, but one who is also working on a new business venture and new cookbook. The venture, called Tartine Manufactory, will open in San Francisco’s Heath Ceramics building (595 Alabama Street) in the spring of 2016. An extension of Tartine bakery, the Manufactory will encourage broader exploration within the culinary arts. Yes, it will house a bakery selling Tartine’s signature loaves and pastries, but the all-day eatery will also showcase Prueitt’s line of artisanal preserves and her soft serve ice creams in an outpost called Tartine Cookies & Cream.
The new cookbook, another collaboration with her business partner / husband Robertson, is due out in 2017.
“All the things I’ve been putting on Instagram will be in the restaurant and/or in the cookbook,” Prueitt says. “We’re big fermentation lovers in general, and we love, love, love yogurt. We try it everywhere we travel, and it’s a major part of our home food group.”
Here are a few of the yogurt combinations Prueitt has been playing with:
• Bruléed Greek yogurt with persimmons, pumpkin seeds, and Peruvian groundcherries
• A breakfast bowl with yogurt, glazed delicata squash, cinnamon, nutmeg, hemp seeds, and sesame seeds
• An ice cream cake with vanilla yogurt ice cream, raspberries, apricots, figs, cherries, and ladyfingers
• And yogurt with apples, Concord grapes, sorghum crumble, walnuts, blackberries, and fraises de bois
If you’re still sprinkling your yogurt with a few handfuls of dry cereal, you may want to pay attention.
HOW IT ALL STARTED
Much of Prueitt's recent inspiration, she says, comes from Yotam Ottolenghi. “We had Yotam and Sami (Tamimi) come to Bar Tartine to do a pop-up dinner for their book. I just love their use of yogurt both savory and sweet.”
But her relationship to yogurt dates much further back.
Prueitt grew up in Brooklyn -- not far from Atlantic Avenue. “At the time,” she recalls, “there were wonderful Middle Eastern bakeries and food stores, like Sahadi’s (http://www.sahadis.com/). Down the street was a little bakery in a basement. All they made were triangular meat or savory spinach pies. Oh, God, it was so incredible. We’d always stop there on the way to or from visiting family in New Jersey. My dad would get a big box of them warm from the oven and a tub of their yogurt. We’d dip the pastries right into the yogurt.”
She continues. “My mom always made yogurt, too. We went through every iteration of yogurt makers, and then we realized we didn’t need the maker at all.”
Yogurt is still the first thing Prueitt stocks when her father comes to visit.
HOW INSPIRATION STRIKES
“Yogurt takes so well to strong flavors because of the way it coats your mouth,” she says. “The acid is so strong. My process is to look at what else I have around… I have a lot around! It’s fun because I have all these pickles and jams. Jam goes so well with yogurt.”
Prueitt is also partial to seeds and nuts with her yogurt, not just for texture, but to keep her going until lunch.
And then there are those groundcherries, sweet-tart Peruvian fruits she encountered in Marin. “They’re like gooseberries,” she muses. “I bought a couple of pints and took them home. The contrast with the yogurt is so pretty. I just love their shape, their size, their color. I think they’d be amazing tossed in a little butter and honey and roasted slightly, too…” She quiets for a moment, planning her next move.
On the dessert end of things (she is a pastry chef, after all), Prueitt also incorporates yogurt into panna cotta. Delfina, a neighboring San Francisco restaurant, used to make a buttermilk panna cotta that she loved, and she’s since created her own version using both yogurt and cream. “To me, it’s the way to make panna cotta. The creaminess and tartness is what makes that dessert.”
A MENU CLASSIC
I’m already planning a return visit to Tartine. If I make it there before spring, before the new place -- with its varied sweet and savory yogurt bowls – opens, I need to know what to order at the flagship bakery, the one that’s been there since 2002.
One option: Since its opening, Tartine has served muesli.
Prueitt picked up the recipe at a bakery she and Robertson worked at in the Savoie area of France. “This one has chestnut flour in it,” she says. “It’s subtle. It also has toasted oats, buckwheat, grated apple, toasted almonds, and raisins or currants. We make the dry mix ahead of time and then each day we make a fresh batch of muesli with seasonal fruit or berries, yogurt, and milk. We serve it to order from a big bowl and let each customer customize it.”
This time I’ll be ready when I reach the front of the line.
|| Top three photographs courtesy Tartine Bakery & Postcard Communications. ||
|| First two photographs in the bottom row courtesy Elisabeth Prueitt. Third photograph (the ice cream cake) courtesy Aya Brackett Photography. All photographs used with permission. ||
|| Visit Tartine Bakery online or in San Francisco at 600 Guerrero Street ||