I had read about it only a couple times, and heard about it once from an acquaintance. So no way could I have prepared myself for the near perfection I was indeed going to experience that day. The little bakery stood on an industrial street with no spectacular surroundings, and only stood out because of the line filing out the door that very morning. The bakery had a certain lived-in feel to it that you rarely feel in such a public and popular place. It still felt whole and earthy even though the majority of seated customers wore suits and typed nonchalantly on Mac computers. After inching slowly closer and closer to the counter I finally put in my order of Morning Buns, but then something caught my eye. Tres Leches Cake is my favorite when done right, but only one time has it been mastered, I decided to give Tartine Bakery a chance to prove themselves.
I must admit Tres Leches is a complicated cake. Literally it is a Three Milks cake and is different from all other cakes in texture. When done correctly the cake is extremely flavorful, light, cold and satisfies every want in the world. It could be called the hispanic cousin of rum cake or italian tiramisu. At Tartine, it was made with coconut milk and layered with cajeta and crema. I thought their play on the traditional was clever and one can never go wrong adding cajeta to a recipe. However they added a flakey element to the crust and in every layer of the cake I found was not enjoyable. Although I admired their interpretation of Tres Leches it was not truly one. The cake did not tasted soaked, but quite dry and the layers of flakey crust between layers made it more French than hispanic.
The croissants at Tartine have a following that is well deserved for anyone who has never left the United States. It was a beautiful creation, but too crusty for my liking. The very outside layer is suppose to be a bit like cracking the top of a creme brûlée. The croissant at Tartine was just a bit overcooked, and not as moist as it could have been inside the delicate layers.
And next, to the bit of pure pleasure in your mouth. A pastry that Tartine has perfected beyond any abilities of the French is the Morning Bun. It is a cross between a croissant and a Kouign Aman the buttery Brenton pastry – with a modern twist. It has a hint of cinnamon and orange essence which counters the sweet butteriness perfectly.
You must must must visit if you need a bit of perfection.
600 Guerrero St San Francisco, CA 94110