Bouchon Bakery

 

Photo of image by Jones, Deborah. “Bouchon Bakery”, 2012, Front Cover.

As I’ve said before, baking is my happy place! Over the years I have baked everything from brownies to cream puffs.  I started out baking small birthday cakes for family and before I knew it I was decorating large wedding cakes for the local bakery. I have always enjoyed developing my baking skills and rarely felt intimidated trying new recipes and techniques.

But I’m going to let you in on a little secret of mine. I am embarrassed to admit this, but I’ve never been good at baking bread. I’m not talking quick breads, I’m talking REAL bread. The kind that uses yeast, and bakes up with a beautiful crust, and tastes delicious. This confession is shocking, I know. It’s not that I’ve never tried, because over the years I actually have made several wholehearted attempts at baking bread. But inevitably, it just never works out.

Several years ago I took a fun little weekend getaway with my husband to Portland, Oregon. One of the things that we did while we were there was go to Powell’s book store, or more formally known as Powell’s City of Books. Now if you have never been to Powell’s, you have really missed out. Powell’s is the largest independently owned new and used book store in the WORLD and they have been in business for 50 years. The Burnside location covers an entire city block and is estimated to have approximately one million books. The books are a wonderful mix of both used and new books, all intermingled together in what must be thousands of shelves. The organized by subjects within nine color-coded rooms that are connected by odd stairways and passages. In fact, Powell’s even provides maps at the front counter so that you can figure out where to locate your book. It’s extremely easy to get lost in this book store, which is exactly why you need to go.

Photo of image by Jones, Deborah. “Bouchon Bakery”, 2012, p. 289.

Anyway, while wandering through stacks and stacks of books, I happened upon a beautiful book by the name of Bouchon Bakery, written by Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxe. Bouchon Bakery was founded in 2003 by renowned chef Thomas Keller in Yountville, California. It was originally opened to provide artisanal breads for Chef Keller’s nearby restaurants. However, the bakery became a popular location to visit in it’s own right. This is absolutely no surprise given the exquisite breads and desserts shown in the many gorgeous photographs in the book.

I had every intention to start baking my way through that book right away, but one commitment after another kept taking priority. Before I knew it the book was being packed away for a long-distance move and then it remained in storage for nearly a year. I kept thinking about improving my bread baking, and of course the Bouchon Bakery book is what I knew I needed to use. I’m happy to say that I have finally managed to procure my book. I have begun my bread baking journey and I’m excited to start sharing my adventures with you.

 

References:

Powell’s City of Books. (n.d.) Retrieved from https://www.travelportland.com/attractions/powells/

About Bouchon Bakery, Yountville, CA. (n.d.) Retrieved from https://www.thomaskeller.com/bouchonbakeryyountville

Powell’s City of Books. (n.d.) Retrieved from https://www.powells.com/locations/powells-city-of-books

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A Run in the Rain

It’s been a long, cold, wet winter. I heard today that there have only been five days of sunshine so far this entire year, and I’ve got to tell you that I’ve really been feeling it. Last year I ran outside pretty much the entire winter; but this year, well, it’s been rough.

Last night I told myself that I was going to get in a quick run before my mid-day appointment today. I prepared myself for the fact that it might be a bit rainy or gray, but told myself that I was going to get out there and run anyway. As soon as my eyes opened, I heard the sound of the rain on the roof of the house. It wasn’t a pitter patter — the rain was literally pounding the shingles as it came down in torrents. The motivation that I had felt the night before slowly slipped away. I got out of bed and began to get ready for the day but was overcome with disappointment. I knew that due to my schedule, if I didn’t get a run in this morning, I wouldn’t have another chance for several days. 

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Will Run for Chocolate

What motivates you to run? Most of the time I just plain enjoy running, so that’s motivation enough. But there are times that I need more than that. Some days my schedule has more items on it than can fit into the hours of the day, or maybe I’m just plain tired. Sometimes I go through a rough period when I’m just not feeling it, or I’m in the midst of a long, wet winter.  That’s when I need to have something to get me out the door to log some miles.

I have found that it really keeps me motivated to run when I have an upcoming running event on my calendar. If you’ve never participated in a formal running event, you should really try it. I probably never would have signed up for one myself except that when I first began to run, my health insurance offered reimbursement for participation in an event. I certainly wasn’t trying to compete for a medal, but I figured that since it wasn’t going to cost me anything, it could be fun to try it.  After my first event I was hooked. Now I try to keep something on my calendar every two to three months just so I have something that I’m working towards.

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How to Keep From Leaving Things at the Gym

Have you ever arrived home from the gym only to find that you left something there? Or worse yet, you didn’t realize you left an item there until you couldn’t find it, and by that time it was no longer in the lost-and-found? I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I have had both of these things happen to me.  Just off the top of my head I can tell you that I have lost a swimsuit, swim bottoms, goggles, as well as all of my toiletries. It’s very frustrating not only because losing things can get expensive, but it is also a big disruption to my routine when I have to go buy something before I can go to the gym again.

Several months ago I tried to figure out what I could do to solve this problem. The more I thought about it, I realized that what I was doing at work would help me in this situation as well. I work as a phlebotomist (I draw blood for lab tests) and we have to make sure that we do specific things to identify each patient and prevent germs from being spread. The first hospital that I worked at trained us to follow a very specific routine so that we wouldn’t forget to do anything. What was great about it was that once I had the routine down, I never had to worry whether I had forgotten to do any of the numerous things that I was required to do. And if I got interrupted mid-process, I was able to go back to the point where I had left off, and I knew immediately that I had completed everything up to that point.

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Chocolate Butter Cupcakes

Chocolate Butter Cupcake

I just finished baking my first assigned recipe from an awesome cookbook called Rose’s Heavenly Cakes.  I have joined a group of internet bakers who are all baking the same recipe each week and blogging about their experience.  The recipe this week was Chocolate Butter Cupcakes.  I was grateful that I was starting out on a somewhat easier recipe because this week has turned into a bit of a challenge for me which resulted in having to cook in a kitchen that is not my own. My husband has Alpha One and needs a liver transplant.  This week he was unexpectedly hospitalized for an infection and I have been staying at the Transplant House near the hospital since it is several hours from our home.  I was a little worried about having everything I needed and since I left home rather hurriedly, I didn’t have time to bring baking things.  I was so happy to see that they had a KitchenAid and they also had muffin pans.  The kitchen actually was beautiful and more spacious than my own, but I felt like a fish out of water not being able to find things when I wanted them.

Preparing to bake

So there were a few “firsts” in cooking this recipe.  I don’t know if I am strange or what, but I have never sprayed and floured my cupcake liners before.  Most of the time they come right off without a problem but I have had a few times that they didn’t so I figured I’d better follow the instructions  and sprayed and floured the liners.  I noticed when I was icing the cupcakes later on that the papers pulled away very easily.  Another first was using King Arthur cake flour.  When I was in the grocery store I saw the King Arthur flour and since I had never used it before I thought I would give it a try (after all, it cost more than the other brand so it must be better, right?)  Lastly, since I wasn’t at home with all my decorating equipment, I ended up decorating with some products I have never used before.

I was very impressed with how detailed Rose was about each step of the recipe.  I mixed the cocoa in the hot water and let it cool.  I mixed the liquid ingredients.  Then  I combined it all for the batter.  The recipe was really quite easy to make.  Unfortunately I didn’t have my usual scoop for filling the cupcake liners so I just scooped them in using a regular spoon.  Into the oven they went.  The first time I checked them they weren’t quite done.  You will see a big dent in one of the cupcakes in the photo where I pressed in a little heavily when I checked.  I gave them a few more minutes and they were done and looked beautiful.

For the icing I wasn’t sure what we were supposed to do so I used one of the recipes recommended by Rose in the introduction  to the cupcake section.  I started out thinking I would make the Egg White Chocolate Buttercream but somehow got confused and did the shopping for the  Golden Neoclassic Buttercream and didn’t realize until I was in the midst of making it that I had switched.  I was intrigued with the golden syrup that Rose talks about but wasn’t sure what it was.  I’m not sure if it is karo syrup that is golden versus the light or dark syrup or of it is some other brand of syrup, but I couldn’t find any so I went with the light karo.  The Golden Neoclassic was very different than any icing I had made before.  The only thing that went a bit different than the instructions was that when I had the corn syrup and sugar in the pan over medium high heat, I was supposed to watch for bubbles at the edge of the pan and let it cook a few more minutes until there were bubbles all over.  Mine went from bubbles on the outer edge to bubbling all over and bubbling out of control in a matter of seconds so I pulled it off right away.  I think this was probably due to the fact that I was working on a stove that I wasn’t familiar with and it was probably cooking a little hotter than indicated.  I was a little worried that it wasn’t going to be the right consistency since we didn’t use a thermometer,  but I went ahead and added it to the eggs.  I whipped it until the bowl had cooled, about 7 minutes, and then added the butter and vanilla.  I then added some chocolate.    Normally I would pipe the frosting onto the cupcake with a large tip, but I didn’t have my equipment and I’m not sure that this icing would have held up well with that.  It seems to be an icing that does better for just spreading .  The cupcakes would have been fine without any decoration but I decided that as long as I had all these cupcakes made I would take them to the hospital to give to the nurses as a thank you.  So I tried some nifty little squeeze bottles of Wilton icing I got from the grocery store and some plastic decorating tips. (This made me laugh because only a few months ago I got mad at a friend of mine for using these instead of the regular bags and tips.)   I was much more limited on what I could do, but for a little bit of quick decorating they were fine.

The cupcakes were very good.  The texture was more dense than a typical cupcake and they were very chocolatey.  My husband really liked the buttercream as it had a little bit of caramel undertone to the flavor.   I enjoyed the unique flavor of the buttercream as well.  All in all I consider this project a success.

I’m really exited about next week’s assignment – Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cake.  And I’m really looking forward to being home in my own kitchen.

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Ignorance Was Bliss

We’re all familiar with the old adage, “Ignorance is bliss.” More and more I am finding this statement to be true. It is particularly true as it relates to my love of running. When I first began to run, I was blown away by how it made me feel. I loved to feel the air in my lungs. I loved to feel the rhythm of my feet on the pavement. I loved how the complexities of life seemed so far removed from what I felt that very moment. I loved the beautiful atmosphere and the sun on my face. All of those things together made me feel so alive. It was, in a word, blissful.

In the early days, one of my favorite running routes took me to the edge of town where I would run on a nice little country road. It was a wooded area and the houses were on large parcels of land and set way back from the road. I would hear the birds singing in the trees and would see squirrels, bunnies, and even the occasional deer.

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New Shoes

Guess what was delivered today — my brand new running shoes! I can hardly wait to take my first run in them. I picture myself running down the road with the speed and stride of a cheetah, springing forward almost effortlessly. Of course the sky will be blue and the warm sun will be on my face as I run harmoniously through nature.

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Patience can be a Superpower

When I was at work not too long ago, I had to keep a patient waiting for quite some time. Not only was I having computer issues, but I had to give my attention to another problem as well. When I finally called the patient back to the room, I apologized for making her wait so long. I was completely blown away when she calmly told me that it was no problem, and that if there was one thing that she was good at, it was being patient. Being a very impatient person myself, I was intrigued and I asked her to tell me more. She described how even as a child, it never bothered her to wait for things and she was always told that she had the patience of Job. The more she told me, the more convinced I became that patience was this woman’s superpower.

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New Year, New Blog.

It’s a new year and, like many of you, for the past few weeks I have been pondering what I would like to focus on in the coming year. One of my biggest priorities for this year is to complete a writing portfolio. This will involve writing numerous pieces in a variety of genres. I will also be submitting some of those pieces for publication.

Naturally, with my renewed focus on writing, I couldn’t help but think about this blog. I began this blog many years ago, and haven’t written anything for it in quite a while. This blog was a means of keeping some normality during a very turbulent time in my life. My husband was undergoing some very serious health challenges and the blog gave me something to focus on other than that. Some of my hobbies were baking and cake decorating, so I focused the blog on those things. I also belonged to an online baking group that baked weekly projects from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s cookbook entitled “Real Baking.” I thoroughly enjoyed blogging but the writing stopped when my life reached its breaking point, and I just never started up again.

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April Showers. . .

 

I cannot believe that it is already April.  Don’t get me wrong — I am not at all sad that we are leaving the cold weather behind. But time has just been flying by these past few months.   It has been a bit blustery the last few days but then I suppose that is what spring is all about.  We’ve all heard the saying, “April Showers brings May flowers!”

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