TKOs (Thomas Keller's take
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Baked goods that are marvels of ingenuity and simplicity from the famed Bouchon Bakery.
The tastes of childhood have always been a touchstone for Thomas Keller, and in this dazzling amalgam of American and French baked goods, you’ll find recipes for the beloved TKOs and Oh Ohs (Keller’s takes on Oreos and Hostess’s Ho Hos) and all the French classics he fell in love with as a young chef apprenticing in Paris: the baguettes, the macarons, the mille-feuilles, the more...
Every Morning in Paris When I was twenty-eight, I lived on the top floor of 15, rue de Vouille. On the ground floor was a tiny boulangerie. Every morning I woke to the smell of baking bread. But before I got to Paris, my time in France hadn’t gone well. It took me several years of building up contacts to find a stage there. At last I did, at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Arbois, a small city near the Swiss border. My traveling friends dropped me off at the hotel where I was to work. The gruff matron showed me to my cell-like room, which was barely big enough for the bed. Strangely, the single window was almost completely black. When I was taken to the basement kitchen, I realized why: the kitchen still relied on a coal-burning stove, and my room was right above the chimney.
It wasn’t just the kitchen stove that evoked a past era of cooking--everything was antiquated. I had come from working at The Polo Lounge, where young chefs Patrice Boely and Daniel Boulud were preparing really forward-thinking cooking. I had spent three years searching for a stage only to learn how to cook on a coal-burning stove? In desperation, I called Serge Raoul, a New York restaurateur for whom I’d worked and whom I considered a friend.
He told me to take the next train to Paris, where he had an apartment. I could stay there while I regrouped. Rue de Vouille was in the fifteenth arrondissement, a
lovely middle-class neighborhood, with small shops and bars and brasseries. My bedroom window framed the Eiffel Tower. A good sign.
In a short time, I had my first Parisian stage, one of seven. For fifteen months, I immersed myself in the cuisine of France, working at different restaurants, ending at the Michelin three-star Taillevent. It was here that I witnessed the structure and organization, the attention to detail and consistency that made one of the world’s great restaurants what it was.
Open five days a week, Taillevent served lunch and dinner, so I had a great schedule. I arrived in the morning and helped to prepare the mise en place for lunch service. When lunch was done and the kitchen cleaned, by 3:30 or so, we’d have a break when I could hang out with my fellow cooks, walk in a park, or take a French lesson. We had to be back at 5:30 (dinner didn’t begin until 8:00 or so), and one of my afternoon jobs was to make the marquise au chocolat, one of the restaurant’s signature desserts, for the next day. It was a very rich confection, kind of a cross between mousse and ganache. It was sliced and served with a pistachio sauce. I love chocolate, so I loved making it. It became one of the highlights of my day and of my time in France.
I learned so much during those months in France in 1983 and 1984. It was where I first worked with foie gras, and with more obscure cuts we weren’t used to in the United States, like lamb breast. It’s where I had my first macaron, that most extraordinary of cookies. And where I tasted my first real croissant and mille-feuille (I was in heaven when I was eating one of those). Three days a week, a wonderful, noisy food market set up on my street selling fresh chickens, cheeses I’d never heard of, saucissons secs, and jambon cru, then unavailable back home. I was living at the heart of a thoroughly food-centric culture.
But looking back on it now, from an emotional standpoint, my most enduring memory is of waking up every morning to that smell of baking bread. The central staircase of our old building had been renovated to contain a tiny elevator, and I’d take this downstairs, pay a franc fifty for a demi-baguette (I had little money), and head back up. I’d share the bread with my housemate--we cooked at the same restaurant--with butter and jam and coffee.
It had quickly become clear to me how central bread was to life in Paris.
The boulangerie in my building was maybe 100 square feet of retail space; the ovens were in the back. I was fascinated by the man who baked the bread. I saw that a man could devote his life to baking bread, and that it was a good life, a worthy profession and one to be revered. That was very powerful for me.
On our way to the metro I’d pass at least three boulangeries, of all different calibers. The one in my building made bread and rustic little apple tarts. A second one sold large, garish meringues. The finest one made the most beautiful mille-feuilles and tarts. I’d never seen apple tarts like theirs, slices of apple, each one perfect, in concentric rings, with a glossy sheen of a glaze. I couldn’t afford them, but they were beautiful to behold, and they taught me about the level of excellence a bakery might strive for.
I also learned that a bakery is an anchor--it draws a community around it. People would sit in the bakeries to eat their croissants; they would gather in the morning, and in
the afternoon. People come together at and around bakeries. Baking is a unifying force.
The smell of baking bread is universally adored for a reason: it appeals to us at the core of our humanness. It’s the smell of sustenance and security. To enjoy that aroma even before I was conscious of the new day had a great impact on me--one I didn’t truly realize until, well, now, trying to understand why on earth I have five bakeries. I’m a restaurant chef, a savory cook—what am I doing with five bakeries?
The reason is bread, and croissants, macarons, puff pastry, apple tarts, and mille-feuilles.
Per se and The French Laundry, highly refined restaurants, speak to only a small segment of the population. Even our bistro, Bouchon, and our family-style restaurant, Ad Hoc, have specific, somewhat narrow, audiences. Bread does not. Pastries do not. They are universal. And that is one source of my desire to offer baked goods to as many people as possible, and why I’m so excited to be sharing the craft in this book.
Excerpted from Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2012.
Pecan Sandies for My Mom
My mom, Betty Keller, was a creature of habit. She worked very hard at her job managing restaurants while raising five boys and a daughter as a single mother. She loved to have cookies on hand at the end of the day, and she especially loved the Keebler pecan sandie. It was part of my childhood, and it’s a flavor combination, vanilla and pecan, that I associate with her. It was an adult cookie to me. There was always a bag of them in the cupboard...
...Food is a powerful connecter of who we are to who we were, to our past, to our memories, and, for me, to a different and simpler time. Even the smallest thing--a cookie--can help us understand what we feel now while reminding us of what we once felt and who we’ve become versus who we were then. So much of who I am today is tied to who my mom was, the choices she made, the way she worked, and how she lived her life. What success I have today, I owe to her.
All of which is why the pecan sandie is so important to me.
Makes 1 1/2 Dozen Cookies
1 3/4 cups + 1 1/2 teaspoons All-purpose flour (250 grams)
3/4 cup Coarsely chopped pecans (80 grams)
4 ounces Unsalted butter, at room temperature (170 grams)
3/4 cup + 1 3/4 teaspoons Powdered sugar (90 grams)
Additional powdered sugar for dusting (optional)
Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F (convection) or 350°F (standard). Line two sheet pans with Silpats or parchment paper.
Toss the flour and pecans together in a medium bowl.
Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on medium-low speed until smooth. Add the 90 grams/3/4 cup plus 1 3/4 teaspoons powdered sugar and mix for about 2 minutes, until fluffy. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed for about 30 seconds, until just combined. Scrape the bottom of the bowl to incorporate any dry ingredients that have settled there.
Divide the dough into 30-gram/1 1/2-tablespoon portions, roll into balls, and arrange on the sheet pans, leaving about 1 1/2 inches between them. Press the cookies into 2-inch disks.
Bake until pale golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes if using a convection oven, 22 to 25 minutes if using a standard oven, reversing the positions of the pans halfway through. (Sandies baked in a convection oven will not spread as much as those baked in a standard oven and will have a more even color.)
Set the pans on a cooling rack and cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Using a metal spatula, transfer the cookies to the rack to cool completely.
If desired, dust with powdered sugar.
The cookies can be stored in a covered container for up to 3 days.
Excerpted from Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2012.
(Photo, left © Deborah Jones)--author of The French Laundry Cookbook, Bouchon, Under Pressure, Ad Hoc at Home, and Bouchon Bakery, has eleven restaurants and bakeries in the United States. His two Michelin Guide three-star-rated restaurants, The French Laundry and per se, continue to vie for best restaurant in America and for ranking among the top five eateries in the world. He has been honored with innumerable awards, from an honorary doctorate to outstanding restaurateur to chef of the year (for successive years).
(Photo, right © Deborah Jones)--co-author with Thomas Keller of Bouchon Bakery, oversees all aspects of the pastry department for Bouchon Bakery, The French Laundry, and per se. In 2005, he was named a "Rising Star" by StarChefs magazine. In 2006 and again in 2008, Pastry Art & Design magazine declared him one of the "Top Ten Best Pastry Chefs in America."
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