Except for a few minor quibbles, I think Bouchon Bakery is one of the most perfect books on home baking available today. Even before taking it into the kitchen, I was excited and inspired just to look through its almost 400 pages of recipes, tips, photographs, and profiles. It was clear from the start that this book has achieved a difficult but critical balance: being accessible for a beginner while still providing depth and complexity so that a beginner can take on more as she grows confident and adventuresome. I strongly suspect this book will be found on the shelves of professional bakers, as well. Bravo, Mr Keller!
Quick Facts• Who wrote it: Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel with Susie Heller, Matthew McDonald, Michael Ruhlman, and Amy Vogler
• Who published it: Artisan
• Number of recipes: About 150 when you include all the variations
• Recipes for right now: Olive Oil Cake, Cinnamon Honey Scones, Hot Cross Buns, Croissants (before it gets too hot in your kitchen!), English Muffins, Pretzels, Lemon Caramels
• Other highlights:
I appreciate this book for its blend of precision and thorough instructions, and for its beautiful and (mostly) helpful photographs. I'm happy that it offers everything from chocolate chip cookies to elaborate macarons, from croissants to a basic loaf of bread. But what really makes it right up my alley, what I really love it for, is its humor and intimacy. From the opening essay from Thomas Keller about his mother's Pecan Sandies (with accompanying recipe), it's clear that this is a personal book.
While Mr. Keller is the front man and the name that defines the brand, the book is an homage to the people who actually do most of the work. Mr. Keller admits to being no pastry chef and he wisely steps aside to let his staff shine. You will get to know Sebastien Rouxel, Bouchon's Excective Pastry Chef, and bread baker Matthew McDonald, as well as proveyers like the people who make the butter for Bouchon (and who named their best performing dairy cow Keller.)
The book opens with childhood cookies, such as Mr. Keller's take on Oreos (TKO) and Nutter Butters (Better Nutters). You will also discover little cakes such as Financiers and Madeleines, as well as a Devil's Food Cake made with mayonnaise. In the Tarts section, there are basics such as Pâte Sucrée and Pâte Brisée, the sweetened and unsweetened doughs that make up tart shells. Another basic chapter on pâte à choux takes you through cream puffs, éclairs and gougers. Moving on, there are chapters on brioche and doughnuts, beautiful fancy pastries, puff pastry and croissants, a very extensive bread chapter, and a confections chapter that includes Peppermint Patties and marshmallows. The book ends with Basics such as pastry cream, buttercream, lemon curd, and jam.
The book and the recipes emphasize weighing ingredients over measuring. This is a good thing. If you buy this book and don't have a kitchen scale yet, go ahead and pick one up as well. You will not regret it. Also noted is that many of the recipes can be made with gluten-free flour and that they were tested with Mr. Keller's own C4C, which means that his GF flour can be substituted cup for cup for regular flour.
There are lots of great tips scattered throughout the book, such as how to test your oven to see if it runs hot or cold and how to discover where the hot spots are. There are also Notes to Professionals scattered throughout and a wonderful chapter on the Importance of Working Clean, Mr. Keller's answer to the question of how to be a great chef.
My quibbles? The book has a big footprint which makes it difficult to read in bed (grin). But seriously, people with smaller kitchens will have a rough time with how much counter space it will take up — you may have to copy out the recipe or pull up a chair just for the book. The other quibble is that I occasionally encountered instructions that could have used photographs to illustrate them, such as how to create a specific kind of shape on the top of a lemon merengue tart using an offset spatula.
But quibbles aside, this is a fantastic book and one that will be getting a lot of use in my already cookbook-stuffed kitchen.
• Who would enjoy this book? As I said, this book has something for beginner home bakers and professionals alike. Anyone who has a curious, dive-deep approach to baking will appreciate this book, especially if you want to be walked though complicated recipes such as making croissants or macarons.
Find the book at your local library, independent bookstore, or Amazon: Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel
Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. However, the manufacturer did give us the product for testing and review purposes.
(Images: Dana Velden)