Looking back on a few months of The Yellow House, I’m starting to realize that the life I portray here is one where I spend my days traipsing around farmers’ markets, puttering in my little garden, meditating on baking, throwing dinner parties where everyone drinks too much wine, and then documenting it all with excessive parentheticals, too much strikethrough, extra-long sentences, and mediocre photos.
I mean, I actually do all of those things.
It’s just that all the traipsings and putterings and meditations and dinner-partyings are only the tip of the iceberg. The majority of my time is spent at a Serious Job where I work 9 to 5 (or, more unofficially and far too often, 7 to 7). I guess that “traipsing” is just more poetic to write about than “sitting in my rolling chair in my office” (although it was really exciting when I got to switch from a stationary chair to a wheeled one—but I’ll save that story for another day, you lucky reader).
A Serious Job can very quickly become a Stressful Job though, and as laidback as I would like to be (Ha! everyone who knows me personally is thinking), it gets to me sometimes. I’m one of those rare souls who actually cooks and bakes more when I’m stressed out. I find myself rushing home to do something, anything more tactile than clacking away at a keyboard or sitting in climate-controlled conference rooms. Spending time in the kitchen slicing, feeling, and tasting is the complete opposite experience of the sterile, fluorescent buzz of our high-rise office building.
I bookmarked this ‘tartlet’ from Food & Wine about a year ago and found it again when looking for a use for some overripe strawberries staring at me wanly from the inside of the fridge. As usual, I sort of transformed the feel of the recipe, changing everything from its powdered-sugar and graham-crust original state to something more warm-lemon-honeyed and brown-sugared. A buttermilk ricotta doesn’t need much added to it to offset the strawberries. Then, you just pile it all on top of something that’s a bit of a faux pie crust: neither pastry nor cookie, without all the fuss of worrying if your butter is cold enough or if your tart crust will shrink in the oven.
I assembled the ingredients for these tartlets the morning before I put them together, slicing the strawberries and mixing the dough before heading out the door to my Serious Commute. When I sat down at my desk that morning, a soft scent wafted up from my hands and clothes: strawberries. For just a moment, that tangible, sensory kitchen energy won out over the ding of incoming email.
Adapted liberally from Food & Wine via Heather Tirrell
You will need
3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoons light brown or demerara sugar, divided
4 tablespoons honey, divided
4 tablespoons water
3/4 pound strawberries, thinly sliced
Juice and finely grated zest from one lemon
1 1/4 cups fresh ricotta (10 ounces)
Mint for garnish (optional)
In a mixing bowl, whisk both flours with salt. Using a wooden spoon, combine the butter, 2 tablespoons light brown sugar and 2 tablespoons of the honey with the flours. The mixture will be crumbly. Add the water, one or two tablespoons at a time, until everything just begins to stick together in a dough (you made need slightly more or less than 4 tablespoons of water). Pat the dough into a disk, cover with plastic and refrigerate about 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough between 1/8 inch and 1/4 inch thick. Use a round cookie cutter or a glass to stamp 3- to 3-inch rounds. Bake the rounds on the baking sheet for 10-12 minutes. They will be browned on the bottom and lightly golden on top. Let cool completely.
Toss the sliced strawberries with the remaining 1 tablepoons brown sugar and a bit of the lemon zest. Let stand while you assemble the rest of the tartlets. Mix the ricotta, honey, lemon juice and the rest of the zest. Spread the ricotta mixture on each cooled round. Just before serving, arrange the strawberries over the ricotta. Garnish with mint.