Last holiday season, Tartine co-owner and James Beard Award–winning pastry chef Liz Prueitt and her daughter, Archer, held down the fort alone in their Dogpatch home. This year, they're hitting the highway.
"We're going to do a road trip to Oregon," Prueitt says. "We're going to rent a camper. I've always wanted to do that. It's the perfect opportunity to get away and have some time with my daughter." At the end of the road, they'll join the rest of the family in a rented home on the coast.
Prueitt's parents are born entertainers, a quality the self-described extroverted introvert wishes she'd inherited a little more of. At gatherings, there was always something on the table to wow their guests. One year, Prueitt's artist father wrapped a whole fish in dough and carved the outside into a stunning illustration of the aquatic creature within. Another year, they dug a pit in the yard and roasted a whole suckling pig.
But even if this year's edible centerpiece doesn't go quite so far requiring a hand-built rotating spit, Prueitt won't mind. "I am just looking forward to seeing everybody so much and cooking together," she says.
At the holidays, the Prueitts always prepare at least two Scandinavian dishes in recognition of their Swedish heritage: fruktsoppa, a fruit soup made with dried and fresh fruit, and plättar, silver dollar sized pancakes with a similar consistency to crepes. "We just make stacks and stacks of plättar," Prueitt laughs.
They've got traditions outside the kitchen, too. "We're a family who loves game playing, so I'm really looking forward to that, too," she says. "We love word games. Scrabble is a huge family game, we'll do charades. We love some of the board games. I even once delayed a flight because I had just learned how to play Apples to Apples and we were having so much fun."
While the Prueitt family takes on the Oregon Coast, the Tartine team will keep the morning buns rising. The famed bakery now has 13 locations in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, and Seoul, Korea. In the latter, their slow-fermented and crusty breads have become especially popular.
Not typically found on any of Tartine's menus (but found in the cookbook Tartine: A Classic Revisited) is Prueitt's shortbread, a holiday-ready butter cookie presented in a pretty tin. Between and on top of the confections, the chef sprinkles a variety of warm spices including whole cloves, star anise pods, cinnamon sticks, and allspice. "So what happens is the cookies just take on this wonderful flavor, it really infuses them beautifully," she explains. "The subtlety depends on how long you leave the whole spices in the tin."
When the cookies have reached their peak spiciness, the cinnamon, allspice, cloves and anise can go on to do double-duty in a hot spiced cider or mulled wine, suggests Prueitt. "The presentation is so pretty," she says. "I like that it's both beautiful and has a delicious scent and flavor on the table [and in the glass]."
// Experience Prueitt's confections IRL at various Tartine locations, tartinebakery.com.
Recipe: Liz Prueitt's Spiced Shortbread
Stash the shortbreads in a pretty tin or jar for a few days or even a week to capture the full flavor and scent of whole cinnamon sticks, star anise, allspice, and cloves.
Makes approx 48 2 x 1/2 inch bars
1 cup + 2 tbsp unsalted butter, very soft
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup superfine or granulated sugar for topping
Star anise, whole
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 6x10-inch glass baking dish.
Place the butter in a mixing bowl. It must be very soft—the consistency of mayonnaise or whipped cream (it can be softened in a microwave or by mixing on low speed in a metal bowl and using a kitchen torch to gently warm the sides of the bowl). Add the salt to the butter and mix well. Sift the flour and cornstarch together into another bowl. Add the granulated sugar to the butter and mix just until combined. Add the flour mixture and mix just until a smooth dough forms.
Pat the dough evenly into the prepared baking dish. The dough should be no more than 2/3 inches deep. Bake until the top and bottom are lightly browned, about 30 minutes. The middle of the shortbread should remain light. Let cool on a wire rack until warm to the touch.
Sprinkle the shortbread with the superfine sugar. Tilt the dish so that it fully and evenly coats the surface and then tip out the excess sugar. With a very thin, sharp knife cut the shortbread into rectangular fingers about 1/2 inch wide and 2 inches long. If the cookies have become cold they will not slice well. Chill thoroughly before removing from the baking dish.
The first cookie is difficult to remove, but the rest should come out easily with the aid of a small, thin, offset spatula. Pack the cookies into a tin with the whole spices. Leave them for a few days to a week or more, depending on how subtle or strong you like the spice flavor. Save the spices in a jar to make mulled wine or spiced cider.