343 of 350 people found the following review helpful
A Brilliant Guide to Sweet and Savory Baking,
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This review is from: Bouchon Bakery (Hardcover)
As with all of Thomas Keller's previous books, this one combines beautiful layout and photography, delicious recipes, invaluable instructions, and entertaining storytelling. I think this is probably the most accessible of Keller's books, but that does not mean it's dumbed down at all. It's perfect for an absolute beginner baker or an advanced baker. Most of the recipes are simple enough for a beginner to follow along and make successfully, but the instructions and notes are thorough enough for even the most skilled bakers to learn something new.
My favorite thing about Bouchon Bakery is that all recipes list ingredients by both weight (in grams) and volume. If you've been resisting buying a kitchen scale, just do it already. As Keller explains in the book, compared to measuring ingredients by volume using measuring cups and spoons, weighing your ingredients is 1) more accurate 2) faster [just tare your scale and measure in the same bowl] 3) cleaner [just the one bowl to clean; no cups or spoons to dirty], and 4) easier to scale recipes up or down [which is easier: halving 200 grams or halving 1 1/3 cups + 2 tablespoons + 1/2 teaspoon?]. So make your life a lot easier and your baking a lot better and just order a scale on Amazon when you get this book; you can get one for less than $20, which is less than it costs for a good set of measuring cups and spoons. You'll need a scale that measures in 0.1 gram increments.
As for the content, the book is divided into sections on cookies, scones and muffins, cakes, tarts, pate a choux, brioche and doughnuts, puff pastry and croissants, breads, and confections. It covers the whole range of sweet and savory baking, and so far every recipe has been excellent.
Many of the recipes are inspired by or are improvements on cookies and treats that were some of your favorites as a kid, like Nutter Butters, Oreos, Ho Hos, etc. And honestly, to say they are improvements is a massive understatement--they're more like complete reworkings, complete with Keller's unique brand of sophistication. Take the TKO cookie, Keller's take on the Oreo. Instead of the Oreo's bland, chalky cookie and white mystery filling, the Bouchon Bakery version uses chocolate shortbread filled with a white chocolate ganache.
I've made nearly all of the cookies in the book, and they're about as close as possible in taste and appearance to the ones you buy at Bouchon Bakery, and a whole lot cheaper! The brioche is outstanding, and is a lifesaver if you live in an area where store-bought brioche is unavailable (and if it is, this one is probably better!). The muffins are also winners, much more moist and flavorful than any other recipe I've used (one of the tricks is letting the batter sit overnight so that the flour fully hydrates).
So far my favorite section has been the scones. If you think you don't like scones or that they're nothing special, just try the ones in this book. Ever other scone I've either made or bought has been either fairly bland or pretty dry; these scones are full of flavor and incredibly moist and buttery. Particularly the cherry chocolate chip scones and the bacon cheddar chives scones. Especially the latter--there are no words that can do justice to how extraordinary they are. They're also incredibly convenient, since one of the required steps is to freeze the scones before baking, and you can store them for at least a month in the freezer before baking. Since they bake directly from the freezer, if you want an easy, fresh, and delicious breakfast, just stick a frozen scone in the oven and you'll be greatly rewarded 30 minutes later.
I also really appreciate that they've put so much effort and research into the bread section, especially on how to get good steam injection into the oven. This is probably the only baking book I've seen that departs from the standard "pour some water into a hot pan in the oven to make steam" technique. Having steam in the oven when baking bread is necessary for a thin caramelized crust; if you've ever made bread that had a dull, chalky, thick, and hard crust, it's probably because of a lack of steam. The weakness of the traditional steaming method is that it doesn't produce a whole lot of steam and it cools your oven down tremendously. The method described in Bouchon Bakery is designed to correct these flaws and involves rocks, chains, and a Super Soaker water gun. Yes, really!
It's been my experience that most baking books fall into one of two categories: 1) a recipe book without much information about technique, background, theory, etc, or 2) a very technical treatise with unexciting or not very good recipes. Bouchon Bakery achieves the perfect balance, I think.
The recipes in Bouchon Bakery are absolutely incredible, and the information in each section helps you to improve your technique and will help you to understand why you're performing certain steps, how to make your baking better, and what has likely gone wrong in your previous baking mishaps.
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Showing 1-10 of 16 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 24, 2012 12:55:27 PM PDT
Great review! Thank you.
Posted on Oct 26, 2012 10:15:40 AM PDT
Patricia Scarpin says:
One of the best - if not THE best - cookbook reviews I've ever seen in Amazon. Thank you!
Posted on Oct 28, 2012 6:20:24 PM PDT
Margaret O'Hara says:
Thank you for your detailed and thoughtful review. It is excellent!! I truly believe that I now have a clear insight concerning what sounds like a wonderful book.
Posted on Nov 23, 2012 11:42:59 AM PST
Excellent review - thank you for taking the time to give all the important details.
Posted on Nov 25, 2012 4:03:59 PM PST
Virginia Jarvis says:
thanks you have convinced me!
Posted on Dec 3, 2012 1:37:49 PM PST
Bree Bowman says:
Great review! Have been looking for a kitchen scale that has lower increments than 1 gram as suggested in your review, but has been unable to locate one. I can find .1 ounces, but not .1 grams. Any suggestions?
In reply to an earlier post on Dec 4, 2012 1:55:03 PM PST
Ryan Mitchell says:
Thanks for everyone's kind words!
Bree, I've heard very good things from several sources about this scale American Weigh Black Blade Digital Pocket Scale, 1000 by 0.1 G . It's not the exact one I use, but it has great reviews, measures in 0.1 gram increments, and you can't beat the price!
Posted on Dec 24, 2012 4:07:38 AM PST
Aysegul D. Sanford says:
Just bought the book after reading your review. Thank you for a really detailed review. Cheers..
Posted on Jan 2, 2013 12:34:00 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 2, 2013 12:36:04 PM PST
Great review. I received the book for Christmas and am enjoying reading all of the background info, theory, technique etc., as well as the recipes. When I read that Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt was used in all of the recipes, which is important to know since it weighs differently than other kosher salt brands, I wondered if they mention anywhere in the book what type of all purpose flour is used. Most recipes that I have in other cookbooks, specify bleached or unbleached all purpose. Have you seen any mention of this in the book and maybe I've just missed it? If you haven't seen it in writing, any ideas of which type is the preferred go-to flour that one would use? You sound like someone who is very well versed in baking and in this cookbook, so I'm hoping you may be able to provide some insight. Thanks!
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 5, 2013 8:56:50 AM PST
@Bree Bowman, I have found that any scale capable of measuring large quantities of ingredients (like a kitchen scale) is not precise enough to measure tiny amounts of ingredients (like a teaspoon of baking powder.) If you find a scale capable of measuring both, accurately, it's very prohibitively expensive! My solution is to have a good kitchen scale and also a scale that's intended to measure small increments accurately, like a scale intended for Oriental Herbalists. Search for acupuncture supply companies in the USA (they usually carry small, reasonably inexpensive herb scales, the herbal supply companies usually only sell to professionals, if you run into that problem, call and explain you only want a one-time buy of a scale.) I don't know if Amazon will allow this info to stay here, but you can search for OMS Medical Supply or Lhasa Supply, they are now merged and might be listed under Lhasa OMS Supply. Mountain Rose Herb Supply might also carry these small scales. Expect to pay around $25.