For a long time my husband and I have been wanting to try Thomas Keller’s famous fried chicken. It’s served at his restaurant Ad Hoc every other Monday night. However, getting up to Napa for dinner after a long day at the office is not really workable for us.
Sure, we tried his recipe and made our own and it was delicious.
But, there’s something kind of wonderful about eating a dish made by someone else particularly if that means someone else is dealing with all of the fryer grease instead of you.
We decided that the best way to get our hands on some of that fried chicken was to venture up for a box lunch instead. The garden behind the restaurant has become Addendum and box lunches of either chicken or bbq are served a few days each week.
I also learned that lunches can be ordered in advance so we were able to skip the long ordering line and have this in front of us in very short order. It was a really lovely day we went. Very clear and sunny and the car said it was 94 degrees. A bit hot for eating outside but we did get a couple of mostly shady seats at a picnic table so that helped.
We also each got two little paper bowls – one contained coleslaw and the other potato salad. Really though, all I cared about was the chicken.
Three pieces of hot and crispy chicken. I did quite like the little rosemary leaves on top. The cornbread was honey soaked and ….just no. Each piece had one bite taken and that was it for us. It was quickly ignored for the chicken.
On the way home we stopped at Bouchon Bakery for a few treats and bread, and by the side of the highway we stopped at a cherry stand. Then in Tiberon the weather changed with the temperature dropping quickly down to 64.
Not quite the view we’d hoped for over the bridge.
- – marcella
We’ve been wanting to bake pretzels over here for a long time.
Some really delicious pretzels were shared at the bread baking conference. They were really, really awesome. However, neither of us had been able to attend that particular class. We did wander over to see if there were any recipe sheets left and well, the formula was all they were given. A little sparse for my first try.
Then came a post from Michael Ruhlman that showed some really beautiful pretzels too. That got us to the ordering of lye and pretzel salt stage.
However, those ingredients sat in the cupboard neglected.
Next I read the recipe in the Bouchon Bakery book, and once I decided to bake my way through the book we knew we were finally going to try pretzels over here.
I got my very neglected in the back of the refrigerator sourdough starter revived. It took a few days to get going.
Once it was happily and predictably rising again I mixed together the stiff levan needed for the pretzel dough. After 12 hours it was nicely puffed and bubbly.
The ingredients are mixed and at that point I was stumped. The directions called for mixing for a few minutes to combine the ingredients and then to mix for an additional 30 minutes. Seemed like that had to be wrong. Maybe autolyse for 30 and then mix for a shorter time? Maybe just mix for a longer time, but surely not 30 minutes.
So, I began to google and could not find one link of anyone having made these and blogged about them. Then to the bakery web page but there were no notes about the book or a corrections page or anything. Off to the publishers page with the same results. At this point I’m totally second guessing things. I finally decided to contact Michael Rulman (whom I do not know, but I do love reading his blog and books and I digress) and ask him. He was very kind and confirmed that indeed the dough is mixed for a full 30 minutes.
Onward. After all that mixing, the dough gets a quick fold and a 15 minute rest and then the pretzels are shaped. The book directs how to make the traditional twisted pretzel. It also mentions that they make small (just one ounce) mini-batards. I divided the dough in half and made some of each. The shaped dough is then refrigerated for a few hours.
Next a solution of lye and water is stirred up and the pretzels are given a dip and then a sprinkle of salt and into the oven they go.
The first was eaten with mustard and was really delicious. More were nibbled along side the soup we had for dinner.
These will definitely be made again now that we’re over our pretzel fear.
- – marcella
Somehow Friday got away from me. Baking has been happening even if the posting is slow.
Just before Christmas I made the Cinnamon Honey Scones. Cinnamon honey bits are made by mixing together flour, cinnamon, honey, sugar and butter. This mixture is patted into a square and chilled. Then when cold and firm it is cut into little cubes which are folded into the scone batter.
After the scones are cut into shape they are frozen and baked in their frozen state. I baked up four for our breakfast with the plan to bake up the rest on Christmas morning if we loved them. They were very tasty and were eaten up before a photo could be taken.
Oh well, I thought. I could always take a picture when the rest are baked. Great in theory, but it didn’t actually happen.
The scones are delicious, and since they are made with a mixture of cake flour and all purpose they are very, very delicate. While I am not a fan of the dry and crumbly scone these are almost too cake like and delicate.
Also, they spread.
The top half of the scone rose beautifully, but the bottom half spread out into an oddly shaped base as though the scone had melted. Not so attractive. I wondered if it was just me, but after looking through the book a couple of times I realized there are zero photographs of a baked scone in the book. Only photos of them in their raw state. Maybe it’s not just me with the slumping scones.
So I set about to make the plain scone (the better to eat with the jam I’d just made) and decided to bump up the proportions of all purpose to cake flour and see what happened.
As you can see the bottom still spread but it is much better than the first batch. Also – to confess – this is the scone that spread the least out of the four I baked. The scones are still moist and delicate so I think I’ll continue to increase the all purpose to cake flour ratio in future batches.
They were indeed delicious with the jam, and I’m happy there are more in the freezer for a future baking day.
- – marcella
We’ve made these muffins twice already.
The first time I followed the measurement recipe (I’ve been following the weights on all the recipes until now) just to see how things would turn out. Like the lemon muffins the batter is quickly mixed and then left to rest in the refrigerator for up to 36 hours.
We had these muffins for dinner and my husband loved them. I liked them. I’m not a fan of corn kernels in my muffins so I knew that would be an issue, and it was. Also, I found them too sweet. I like honey butter or even jam on corn muffins, but they were too sweet for that.
I also have to say I’ve not been having much success with the muffin recipes instructions to preheat the oven to 425 and then reduce to 325 once the muffins go into the oven. They do get a nice spring but they do not brown well at all.
The second time I made the muffins I left out the corn kernels and reduced the sugar to 1/3 cup. I was much happier with the flavor of these. I know the husband liked them because he immediately packed two of them up to take to the office for breakfast the next day.
I played around with the baking temperature this time as well. Most of my other muffin recipes bake at 375 so I gave that a shot. The muffins rose straight up like a soufflé rather than a pretty domed muffin. However, they did brown much better. I think next time I’ll try 350 and see what that does.
Corn kernels or not, more or less sugar, they were a tasty muffin with a very cake like texture. Give them a try and let me know what you think.
- – marcella
I’m behind a bit on posting about this book, but we’ve been baking over here.
These yummy cookies are simply a variation of the chocolate chip cookie recipe. Easy to mix up and bake.
Again, I baked “regular sized” cookies and the batch yielded 3 1/2 dozen rather than the recipes large cookies that makes just 6.
I did prefer these to the chocolate chip ones – they were less “flat” tasting since the lack of vanilla didn’t matter with the additional chocolate in there. These cookies went to a pot luck and disappeared pretty quickly.
Happy holiday baking!
- – marcella
It’s been a little cooler here and there’s even been some rain so the idea of hot chocolate has been having some appeal. What better to top off some hot chocolate than some homemade marshmallows?
The recipe from the Bouchon Bakery Cookbook is pretty straightforward. I don’t think there can be too much variation in a marshmallow recipe after all. Gelatin is softened – I used powered which I had rather than the sheets which the recipe called for. Otherwise, I followed the recipe as written. Egg whites whipped. Sugar syrup cooked. Then the syrup is poured into the egg whites while the mixer is running. Next the softened gelatin is added and beaten well. Pour it into a pan, cool, and cut into squares of puffy marshmallow.
It’s raining again today. I think that means it’s time for another mug of hot chocolate with homemade vanilla marshmallows.
Hope your baking is going well and you are warm and dry.
- – marcella
We like lemon things around here. A lot of lemon recipes are tried out and not too many make the cut. The last time I tried a lemon muffin recipe it was in a magazine that got all scientific in their testing and declared that their recipe was the ultimate in lemony. Ick. Ultimate in chemically maybe but it was a terrible muffin.
This recipe looked really promising. No extracts, oils or flavorings. Just fresh squeezed lemon juice and lots of fresh lemon zest. They also have poppy seeds and a certain someone around here likes lemon combined with poppy seeds.
I have to say there were lots of differences with this recipe than the usual muffin. Even with that, it was really simple to put together. The muffin batter is chilled for 12 – 36 hours so I made the batter the night before. It’s a one bowl recipe and everything is mixed together with an immersion blender so it’s speedy quick and there are few dishes to wash. Rather than using a bowl, I mixed the batter in a round tupperware pitcher which has a nice lid for storing in the fridge.
In the morning I used my muffin scoop and portioned the batter into 12 regular sized muffins. Into the oven and then into our tummies. Yum!
These were truly lemony muffins. The texture was more cake like than muffin. They also kept well for a couple more days of breakfast and snacking treats. Definitely a recipe to be repeated around here.
Grab a copy of Bouchon Bakery and bake along with me.
- – marcella
This week we took a turn away from the sweet and made some bread.
I confess I made a few adjustments along the way and didn’t strictly follow the directions. Even though I strayed, the bread was still very delicious.
A few minutes are needed the night before to mix together a poolish. It is simply some flour and water and just a pinch of yeast all stirred together. This rests overnight and serves as a starter for the bread. In the morning it will be very bubbly and will have risen quite a bit.
The poolish is mixed with the flour, yeast and water to start the bread dough. Salt is added and everything is allowed to mix for quite a while. Then the dough rests and is given a series of folds to help develop the gluten.
This is where I strayed. The book directs to put the dough in a greased bowl and let rise for an hour and then carefully and gently move it to the counter where it is folded. Then the dough is put back into the bowl and this is all repeated two more times. I left the dough on the counter, covered it with the upturned bowl and when it was time to give things a fold, just moved the bowl over to the side out of the way. Much easier! I doubt it changed out the bread turned out but it sure saved me some work.
Next the dough is divided into two and shaping begins. Here I forgot to weight the dough so my loves are not precisely the same size. I don’t think that those of us who ate it particularly cared. They weren’t off enough that it affected baking time. The loaves are then placed in linen to rise.
Somewhere I have a length of linen that I paid too much money for at a baking shop. I’m sure it will turn up when I do not need it. It was no where to be found when I did. Instead I used my canvas pastry cloth and it worked perfectly well. The picture highlights how much practice I need on my loaf shaping, but with all the recipes yet to go I’m sure I’ll get better at it.
Into the oven went the baking stone and in my case a heavy cast iron skillet. The book directs that for the best steam to fill a baking sheet with 10 pounds of river rock and some heavy chain from the hardware store and let that heat in the oven. I can hear you laughing but I swear it’s true. I did not have the time nor inclination to go to the hardware store and frankly my garage doesn’t need the addition of chain and rocks in between baking sessions. I went with my skillet. Much less thermal mass but a better trade off for me.
After the loaves were risen and (poorly) scored – another task I really need tips or practice or something to improve – they went into the oven and water was tossed into the heavy cast iron skillet making quite the cloud of steam. I donned a good oven mitt and poured the water into the pan from a measuring cup. The directions called for a super soaker water gun. I suspect my son may have one boxed downstairs with the rest of the outgrown toys, but I didn’t go hunting.
In spite of my corner cutting we ended up with some very good bread to go with our dinner. The crust had a really good color and while it wasn’t as thin as a bakery (likely because of my laziness regarding rocks and chains) it was fairly thin and crisp and the bread had a good texture.
I’m having a lot of fun baking through the Bouchon Bakery book. I am having trouble deciding what to try next as there are so many tempting things to choose from. Come back next Friday and see what we baked.
- – marcella
This week I went for a standard – the chocolate chip cookie. We were headed to a pot luck and thought a batch to share would be a nice addition to the meal.
There were a few twists with these cookies that made them different from the usual recipe. Molasses is added to the creamed butter and sugars. I confess that I’m not a huge fan of molasses. The flavor can be pretty overwhelming. In fact, in tasting the raw dough I thought the flavor of molasses was definitely too strong. However, once baked it was not overwhelming at all.
The cookie also has a mixture of chocolate pieces which melt into the cookie and chips which retain their shape. I really liked the mix.
Finally there isn’t any vanilla and I confess I missed it. If I make these again I’m adding some into the cookie. I thought it was a little flat without it.
The cookbook warns that they love BIG cookies. One batch makes 6 cookies. Clearly not enough for us to share. Instead I made these using a small cookie scoop. This yielded 3 1/2 dozen cookies.
Kind of sobering when you think one cookie baked according to the recipe would equal 7 regular sized cookies – yikes! More scary if I’m honest with myself that I would eat more than one giant cookie in a sitting!
Get a copy of the book and bake along with me.
- – marcella
Nothing sadder than to finish of the last of the most delicious apricot butter ever.
This past summer a friend gifted us with a box of beautiful fruit. There were lots of really delicious apricots in the box and I decided that making apricot butter would be the best plan. I love apricot butter which is just like a jam in that it uses whole fruit, but the fruit is pureed to make a nice smooth and thick jam without any fruit pieces.
I love making apricot jam or butter because the fruit is just so easy to prepare. Wash them, cut in half and the pits just fall out. No peeling is required either. I cut the apricots into quarters and simply drop them into a pot. Turn the heat on to medium and start cooking. If the fruit is a little dry, it’s fine to add a little water to the pan to keep things from sticking.
After about 20 minutes the fruit should be nice and soft. Remove the pan from the heat and turn the hot fruit into puree by pulsing in the food processor or running through a food mill. Don’t go crazy and turn it into liquid, just a nice thick puree.
Then measure out the puree. For every cup of puree you will need 1/2 cup of sugar and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice. Measure everything back into the saucepan, stir it well and give it a taste. Adjust the sugar and lemon juice if necessary. Now it’s time to cook it up.
Cook the jam over medium-high heat at a nice boil. Keep stirring. Soon the jam will thicken up. There are lots of jam tests: the plate or spoon in the freezer, the mounding on a spoon test, the sheeting off a spoon test or the temperature test – the target temperature at sea level is 220 degrees F. Pick your favorite to get the texture you like best.
Pour the apricot butter into jars and process in a water bath for 15 minutes.
Print the recipe: apricotbutter
Just be sure to make plenty so that you don’t run out in November!
- – marcella