When Blue Bottle's new book, Craft of Coffee, hits shelves on October 9, be prepared for an enlightening and in-depth education on growing, roasting and drinking coffee. As you flip toward the latter third, however, you may be surprised to find there is barely a bean in sight.
Caitlin Freeman, wife of Blue Bottle founder James Freeman, crafts the roastery's renowned baked goods, and now readers will be able to recreate her many of her innovative recipes at home.
With selections ranging from saffron-vanilla snickerdoodles and chocolate Parisian macarons to strawberry buckles with lemon-pistachio streusel, coffee drinkers are not the only ones who will appreciate these tasty treats.
Freeman spent six years in what she refers to as a "Wonderland of pastel and perfection" -- as the co-owner of Miette Patisserie -- before selling her share and going into business with her husband. An artist by education, she initially had trouble breaking free from the creative confines of her former pastry shop. "My whole world was candy and making things gorgeous. It was wholly the expression of me: what it would look like if you opened up my chest, and that was everything," she says. "I didn't know what else was left."
So, she took a three-month sabbatical, during which she acquired family recipes from friends, toyed with flavors, and mixed in a pinch of her own ingenuity, culminating in confections both comforting and surprising. The result was a bevy of sweets, each of which speaks a story -- one she illuminates before each recipe in the book.
Two shortbreads grace the menus at the retail stores (and are also included in the book) though each tells a drastically different tale. The Parmesan-fennel variety started as merely an excuse to rid the kitchen of excess cheese from a labor-intensive brioche of the same vein; the olive oil rosemary serves as a tribute to her best friend's mother.
"Deborah made piles of her legendary shortbread cookies every Christmas. Their house was like a factory! Just before Christmas, she unexpectedly and tragically passed away. Her daughters consoled themselves by making piles and piles of their mother's shortbread, this time for the hundreds of guests attending their mom's memorial service."
The Mint Plaza location opened shortly thereafter, and Freeman couldn't think of a better addition to the menu.
Stories like these impart a piece of Freeman in every item she produces, giving each pastry a personality all it's own. And as imaginative and complex as her creations are, her approach to her entire process is plain and simple.
"I just want delicious things."
Sections of the book include, "With Your Morning Coffee," "Perfect for Dunking" and "In The Afternoon," each of which offers both sweet and savory options to make at home, though none of the recipes include coffee in the food itself.
"I figure people come here to drink coffee, they don't want to eat it, too," she says.
Freeman may be most well-known for her gorgeous Mondrian cakes and other art-inspired confections featured in the SFMOMA Blue Bottle café, but she has saved the majority of those recipes for a separate book (set to debut in Spring 2013) in which she will feature the art-inspired pastry and recipe next to a photo of the work itself - almost too pretty to eat.