Baking with Bouchon Bakery

My husband gave me a copy of Bouchon Bakery as a gift in December, bringing my total collection of Thomas Keller Restaurant Group cookbooks up to four. After opening it, I wasted no time in diving in. The book approaches baked goods, both pâtisserie and boulangerie (with a little confectionery thrown in for good measure) in typical no-holds-barred, no-corners-cut Keller fashion. Instead, the authors have done everything they can to help home cooks achieve professional-level results mostly without investing in pricey professional-level equipment. Some people have even questioned the safety of some of those techniques.

For the most part, the pastries are not recipes you can start working on because you have a craving for something sweet at 8 o’clock on a weeknight. Most of them require a resting period, whether in the fridge or in the freezer – a tool used extensively in the book. One exception is the chocolate chip-and-chunk cookies, which I’ve made twice: once using the basic recipe, which yielded six oversize cookies, and once with the chocolate dough variation, split into a dozen cookies. (No baker’s dozen here, though!) Similarly, many of the bread recipes require a sourdough starter.

The blueberry muffins stymied me a bit: I made up the batter the night before I wanted to bake them, but realized the next morning I didn’t have enough almond meal for the almond streusel. Naturally, the streusel has to rest in the fridge for two hours, so by the time I had bought the almond meal and made the muffins, breakfast time was long past. I also found it difficult to incorporate the blueberries and portion the batter evenly, and I had to bake the muffins far longer than the recommended time. The resulting muffins were delicious, though, so I’ll happily give them another try. (Besides, I’ve got leftover streusel.)

There are lots of things to recommend this book, not least that brands of most of the ingredients are specified; even if you don’t want to spring for, say, the specific types of chocolate Bouchon Bakery uses, at least you know where you’re deviating from their execution. Moreover, most of the recipes are scaled appropriately for home batches (six muffins, for instance, or a dozen cookies), with instructions on how to enjoy them at peak quality. One of my friends has fallen deeply in love with the scone recipe, because the finished scones can be baked from frozen, allowing you to enjoy freshly baked scones any day of the week.

But the absolute best feature of this book is that everything is provided in metric weights, making it as accurate as you could hope for and easy to scale up or down. This is something I sincerely wish more baking books would do.

I’m definitely looking forward to trying out some of the other recipes in this book. The cinnamon honey scones will be my next project, but I’m especially looking forward to trying the recipe for macarons, which are a treat I’ve often picked up from Bouchon Bakery itself on past trips to NYC.

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4 Responses to “Baking with Bouchon Bakery”

  1. Did you make the cookie recipe at full scale, and really only get one dozen cookies out of it? I don’t know that I’d bother with a cookie dough recipe that only makes one dozen cookies, when for about the same effort I could make a dough in larger quantity, portion it, and stash it in the freezer for later baking in whatever quantity I want or need.

  2. Fair enough, Melissa, but that’s the beauty of having the measurements in metric weights: you can scale the recipe up or down as needed. No reason you couldn’t double or triple this one and do exactly as you described.

  3. When I made the chocolate chip cookies recipe as is I portioned out 2 dozen cookies. The cookies the way that the book wants you to portion them are obscenely big.

    The blueberry muffins are awkward to deal with and extraordinary to eat. And I admit I have become fanatical about the scones. I will have to mix up another batch in a day or two.

    I did the caramel nut tart at Christmas and it was devoured! But my very favorite recipe so far is the almond rum cake. I’ve never had anything like it in my life. And it is well worth the expense and effort for a special meal.

    My one complaint of the book as that so many of the recipes take special cookware that I just don’t have and don’t have the room to store in my NYC kitchen. All the special muffin pans, the little ramekins, the little pie plates, the bouchon form, the mini-tart pans, etc. I will try some of those recipes but I will adjust to cook them in the bakeware I have.

  4. Skip, I find your willingness to re-portion the recipes to be inspiring. I agree that it can be frustrating to look at one of these recipes and realize you’re missing an “essential” piece of equipment or ingredient. I really should learn to be more flexible!

    I’ve got that almond rum cake in the back of my mind as a future project, on your recommendation.