Michelle Wojtowicz and her husband, Philip Wojtowicz, with son, Henry, inside their restaurant and bakery, the Big Sur Bakery in Big Sur.
Michelle Wojtowicz and her husband, Philip Wojtowicz, with son, Henry, inside their restaurant and bakery, the Big Sur Bakery in Big Sur. (David Royal, The Herald )

THERE IS a there there in Big Sur, but it's difficult to pinpoint where. The Big Sur Bakery comes close. Now 10 years old, the bakery is the pipe dream created by several Los Angeles transplants who plopped down, turning what serves in Big Sur as a shopping mall into a culinary paradise.

Eight years later, Michelle and Philip Wojtowicz and Michael Gilson published an eyepopping cookbook about the restaurant that might also serve as a useful anthropological guide to Big Sur.

"The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook: A Year in the Life of a Restaurant," is a celebration of the Central Coast, a diary of a restaurant in the making, a repository for the bakery's expansive menu and a portrait of innovative food suppliers, colorful employees and random characters who frequent the restaurant.

The Big Sur Bakery without a bit of adventure would be like the Big Sur coastline without the sunsets.

Appropriately, adventures abound in the BSB cookbook, with recipes running from Pearl Barley with Kale and Butternut Squash to Quail Stuff with Chanterelles and Foie Gras, with Polenta and Jus.

Somehow we go back to the Grapefruit Pudding.

"This dessert could have been a disaster for Michelle," according to the authors. "when she was a student at the Culinary Institute of America, she had to prepare this pudding for a banquet where it would be evaluated by a team of chefs. She didn't have time to chill the dessert before showing if for review and was sweating as she waited to hear their verdict. Luckily, they loved the dessert, especially served warm."

GRAPEFRUIT PUDDING
(serves 6-8)

3 cups ruby red grapefruit juice
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup whole-milk yogurt
1/2 cup crème fraiche
Grated zest of 2 grapefruits
4 eggs, separated
Powdered sugar, for sprinkling
Nonstick cooking spray

Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Coat a 10-inch round baking dish lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Set it aside.

Pour the grapefruit juice into a stainless-steel pot and let it simmer over medium heat until it has reduced to 1/2 cup, 15 to 20 minutes. Set it aside until it has cooled completely.

Combine the sugar, flour and salt in a bowl and make a well in the center, In a separate bowl, whisk together the reduced grapefruit juice, yogurt, crème fraiche, grapefruit zest and the egg yolks. Pour the grapefruit mixture into the well and whisk to combine.

In an electric mixer fitted with the wire whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gently fold the whites into the grapefruit mixture.

Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the top is golden and the pudding is set but still jiggles in the center. Let it sit for 5 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, and serve while still warm.