Sunday, October 28, 2012

Pumpkin Muffins from The Bouchon Bakery Cookbook

The long awaited Bouchon Bakery cookbook is out, and it does not disappoint. Written by Thomas Keller and his acclaimed executive pastry chef Sebastien Rouxel, this 400-page book is big and beautiful, with lots of color photos of luscious baked goods and the two chefs, in relaxed settings, working their magic. This image is in sharp contrast to the precise formality of Keller's kitchens. 

When I was lucky enough to take a tour of the $9,000,000 Per Se kitchen a few years ago, I almost felt like I was in a church or a library; you could hear a pin drop, the staff working efficiently and quietly without the banter that I was accustomed to during my days in professional kitchens. The place was also so spotless you could 

eat off the floor (though that would probably be frowned upon). But back to the book: Bouchon Bakery is full of Keller’s personal anecdotes and memories. He recalls, for example, “I first made cake at my mother’s side. It was a Duncan Hines cake mix, but the frosting was homemade. Just to be with my mother in the kitchen 

was special, since she worked long hours to support us. I loved licking the beaters to get every bit of frosting. Those moments were precious.” The book is divided into chapter on Cookies, Scones & Muffins, Cakes, Tarts, Pâte à Choux, Brioche & Donuts, Puff Pastry & Croissants, Breads, and Confections. There are lots of recipes I 

want to make, but I started with a seasonal one, jumbo Pumpkin Muffins. They were moist, tender and very flavorful, filled with an ultra-creamy and not-too-sweet cream cheese frosting. Just right for a grande snack, Bouchon-style. I heartily recommend the muffins, and this wonderful new book, which is already a best-seller.  

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Classic Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Not sure how it’s possible, but in the three years I’ve been doing this blog, I’ve only made chocolate chip cookies twice. Once I made Chocolate Marble Chunk Cookies, one of my favorite recipes, and another time I featured Monster Chocolate Chunk Macadamia Nut 

Cookies. But never have I made regular old chocolate chippers (or, in this case, chunkers). It’s interesting to me how different these cookies will turn out by employing only slight variations in technique or in the original Toll House recipe. In this version, for 

example, I chilled the dough overnight and then scooped it out using a 1 ½-ounce scoop. This made for thick, soft cookies as opposed to thin, crisp ones. Not chilling the dough and cutting down the flour by 1 to 2 tablespoons will make for a thinner, 

crisper cookie, if that’s your preference (I am not firmly in either camp; I love both, depending chiefly on what’s within easy reach). For a super-soft cookie, you can use melted instead of softened butter. I like these cookies because they have some bulk, but I also 

appreciate the merits of  a thinner, crisper cookie. I like to use Guittard chocolate pistoles in the dough, because they are the ideal sized chunks, and they produce a nice clean cookie because you don’t have those tiny shards of chocolate you get from chopping the chocolate. And, because I love pecans, I added some of those, too. To have freshly baked cookies at the ready, shape the dough into a log, wrap it well and freeze. Then simply slice off pieces of dough and bake cookies whenever you get that urge we all know so well…

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sour Cream Apple Crumble Bars

Apple season is in full swing, and farmers markets have a full array of beautiful apples  Northern Spy, Honeycrisp, Gala, Cortland, Macoun, Braeburn, Cortland and more. Each has a slightly different taste and texture, but all are crisp, juicy and delicious. Lured by 

their bright red color, I went for the Gala apples, which have a mellow flavor and juicy yellow flesh. I usually buy tart Granny Smith apples for pies, because their robust flavor really shines through and stands up to the pastry. I decided to make my 

favorite apple bars, a recipe that’s in my cookie book, The Good Cookie.  The bars are anchored by a pastry crust, and topped with an apple filling enriched with sour cream. The secret ingredient, though, is a little apple juice concentrate, which heightens the  

apple flavor. If you want, you can make your own concentrate by reducing apple juice until it has a syrupy consistency. Serve the bars warm, topped with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream or whipped crème fraiche.