When Blue Bottle's new book, Craft of Coffee, hits shelves Oct. 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 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 re-create many of her innovative recipes at home, including saffron-vanilla snickerdoodles and strawberry buckles with lemon-pistachio streusel.
Freeman spent six years 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," she says. "It was wholly the expression of me. ... 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 with a story behind it.
Take the two shortbreads in the book: The Parmesan-fennel variety started as an excuse to rid the kitchen of excess cheese from a labor-intensive brioche in 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," she writes in the book.
Stories like these impart a piece of Freeman in every item she produces, giving each pastry a personality all its own. And as imaginative and complex as her creations are, her approach to her entire process is plain and simple.
As she puts it, "I just want delicious things."