Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel--who oversees pastry at The French Laundry, the Bouchon Bakeries, and per se--came by our studio yesterday to indulge in the simple joys of baking. Together they have collaborated on the upcoming book BOUCHON BAKERY (Artisan Books; October 23) that combines recipes from Keller's childhood and the French pastries he discovered as a young chef in Paris.
Keller believes in the power of a good bakery to anchor a community and bring the people together. Whether you're an experienced baker, or just starting out, remember: great baking comes from simple ingredients. We're talking eggs, sugar, flour, and water. The complexity comes in learning and refining techniques, all of which are illustrated in this full-color book. If you want to make your kitchen more efficient, keep practicing and don't be afraid to make mistakes.
They also emphasized the importance of using quality equipment. Rouxel says one of the best tools for baking is the freezer, and comes in expecially handy when he's making cream puffs, or pâte à choux:
Cream puffs are tricky; they're supposed to be light and airy but not soft. One mistake most people make in the kitchen is their tendency to under bake, "Americans we're always afraid of over baking," says Keller. When it comes to cream puffs you want to allow the dough to expand so that the moisture will evaporate and the insides will be dry. Rouxel keeps his cream puffs dry by making them a hat:
When it comes to ovens, you don't need to spend a lot of money on something fancy as long as it is properly calibrated. Some people don't realize their ovens are off by a few degrees, but that slight disparity can have a lasting effect on how your pastries turn out. To see if your oven is heating correctly, set your oven to 350 degrees and place an oven thermometer in the center of the oven. Check the internal thermometer four times (every 20 minutes) and calculate the average internal temperature. Your oven is correctly calibrated if the average internal oven temp falls between 325 and 375 degrees. If the average is outside that range, you'll need to consult your owner's manual to finish the job.
Thank you for coming by, it's always a treat!