While I started this blog to work through my grief and share my experiences and my daughter with family and friends, I’ve found that blogging is very much community-related. And it’s a wonderful thing. The babyloss blogging community has been such an amazing support system, in many ways simply by sharing their stories and the memories of their children. It truly is one of those communities you never want to find yourself in, but once you’re there, the strength and comfort found is what keeps you going. The bonds formed through loss are amazingly durable. Perhaps, in the future, there will come a time when I will be able to survive without them, but for now, they keep me standing. They keep me going.

But with Lauren’s first birthday past, I feel it’s time to stretch my internet presence beyond grief. I’ve mentioned before how I feel that I shouldn’t – can’t – center my world on grief. I turned to something that already fills a large part of my life: food. Specifically, cooking/baking it.

Long story short, I stumbled across French Fridays with Dorie.

Dorie Greenspan is best described as a “culinary guru.” (Not my words, but the words of the New York Times.) She’s written a passel of cookbooks, several of them baking-related. But the one that this group has chosen to cook out of is Around My French Table, which is 500+ pages of French culinary genius.

I love French food. I had an inkling of it for some time, but I never fully realized it until I went to Japan – of all places. But epic French cuisine can be found in even the most unlikely of corners in Japan, and I explored a few, first by myself and then with Geordie. Never, though, did I consider making French food on my own. Because, let’s face it, French food can be terrifying, both in its execution and in its presentation. What Dorie Greenspan did was what Julia Child did before her: attempt to bring French food into the everyday American home.

I’m taking up that challenge. I’ve joined the group, settled in with Around My French Table, and prepared myself for culinary challenges and delights.

Honestly, this book does intimidate me a little. It is full of scrumptious dishes that I would love to eat but would be very reluctant to try. Normally. One of the things I like about this group is that there’s a sense of “no fear.” Even for the most trepidatious of home cooks, it can be done. Eclairs? Done. Butterflied cornish hens? Done. Whole roasted chicken? Done. Puff pastry gnocchi? Done. Crème brûlée? Done! Reading through this book is actually quite encouraging, because Dorie makes everything sound so simple! So . . . doable!

Take this week’s recipe for example: a crispy, crackle apple-almond tart. Sounds simple enough, right? The hitch is that it calls for filo (or phyllo, if your prefer) dough, which I’ve certainly heard of but have never worked with. Before last week, I barely knew the difference between filo and puff pastry. I’ve made regular tarts, but this wasn’t exactly a regular tart.  So, while this seemed innocent-enough, it had an aura of the unknown about it. I admit, I approached it with gleeful abandon. Challenges, I have discovered, can be fun. Especially when they take place in the kitchen.

For the record, this apple-almond tart came out marvelously.

Yeah, I know. My cutting skills could use some work.

You can’t go wrong with apples in September. The grocery store had huge tart-and-pie-friendly Jonagolds on sale, so I went with those, and because they were so big, I only used one for the tart. Add to that an almond pastry cream, and my tastebuds couldn’t be happier. I ground my own almond flour, so the pastry cream came out a bit on the rough side, but the flavor was terrific. And the added crunch was a nice touch. It was reminiscent of homemade marzipan, which may well be one of my most favorite foods on the planet. This thing tasted heavenly.

And the filo dough? No longer as intimidating as before. Treat it nicely, and it cooperates just fine. It is delicate stuff, so I was worried I wouldn’t have a soft enough touch. But I made it through without any heartbreak (although I did have a backache – next time, I’ll take the time to clean off the counter and not work at the table). It baked up nice and crispy and crackly, just as advertised! It tastes like a lot of work went into it, but it was pretty easy to put together.

It could use a bit more color to it. If I made it again (and I’d certainly consider it!), I’d give the apples an egg wash and sprinkle over some sugar to darken things up a bit. But overall, I’d call this a success! I can’t wait to do more!

Because this recipe comes from a published cookbook, it won’t be reproduced here. But you can go and read about how well the tart turned out for all the other Doristas!

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