Bouchon Bakery Brioche

IMG_4184I finally did it. I tackled something from the Bouchon Bakery cookbook. Just in case you’re unfamiliar, it’s probably the most beautiful cookbook I have ever touched. It’s my kind of coffee table book. Who needs a huge tome about art or tasteful nudes when you have food porn to decorate your living room? Yeah, I said it – food porn. I basically see it as the permanent equivalent of Bon Appetit magazine which usually also seems pretty unattainable. I have flipped through it a ridiculous amount of times and daydreamed about Sebastian Rouxel berating me in French while crafting the perfect croissant or baguette (in my brain he smells like the tantalizing combination of freshly baked bread and a subtle and unidentifiable French cologne) but I have never actually made anything from it before. It was the first thing I baked in my new place and that seems appropriate I think. Don’t be afraid of this cookbook just because I was – the recipes are extremely well-written and the brioche behaved exactly as these two amazingly talented French dudes said it would. How else could I explain this perfect symmetry?

IMG_4186I’m talented, but usually achieving near-perfection is more difficult than this. I found the recipe online from good ol’ NPR because I still feel a little too awed to reproduce it, even an adapted version. Make this brioche kids – it’s ridiculously satisfying and there are so many nice things to do with day-old brioche. More on that in the next post 🙂

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Baking with Julia – Double Chocolate Cookies

IMG_4366Mmmmmmmmmmm chocolate. Just lots and lots of chocolate in these here cookies guys. A whole pound actually. Normally I can be counted on for using a whole pound of butter but a whole pound of chocolate might be a first for me. I got a new temporary job baking commercially for the first time in my life and after rotating huge sheet pans all day and all the other stuff that goes along with it I have to admit that I wasn’t all for making these cookies, but I’m glad I did. It certainly helped that it was a two step process so I just mixed the dough at night and baked them quickly in the morning. Easy squeezy. Plus I brought most of them to work with me, thus endearing me to many of my new co-workers. I’m not ashamed to admit that I occasionally buy people’s affection with foodstuffs – you have to play to your strengths in this life after all.

Double Chocolate Cookies

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/2 t baking powder

1/2 t salt

12oz bittersweet chocolate, cut into smallish chunks (I cheated and used Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chips)

1 stick unsalted butter

4oz unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped

4 large eggs, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 1/2 T instant coffee powder

2 t pure vanilla extract

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl and set aside. Get a small pot of water on the stove at a simmer and place a stainless steel bowl over the top, making sure the bottom isn’t touching the water. Divide the bittersweet chocolate in half and place half in the stainless bowl with the unsweetened chocolate and butter. Keep an eye on the butter and chocolate and stir with a rubber spatula until everything is smooth and melted, then remove the bowl from the heat and set it aside. Don’t forget to turn the heat off on the stove or you’ll boil that little pot dry and that will suck.

Put the eggs, sugar, coffee, and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat using the whisk attachment for at least 10 minutes until the mixture reaches the “ribbon stage.” This literally seems to take forever but it is actually only 10 minutes. To make sure you’ve achieved the ribbon stage, detach the whisk, dip it in the batter and wave it back and forth over the bowl. If the ribbon sits on top of the mix for a moment before sinking in, you’ve done it. If not, keep beating.

With the mixer on low, gradually add the warm buttery/chocolate mixture, then add in the dry ingredients. Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the remaining bittersweet chocolate chunks with a rubber spatula. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least a few hours (I did it overnight).

When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 4 baking sheets with parchment. Using a medium-sized cookie scoop, portion out the dough onto the prepared sheets leaving at least two inches between each mound. I portioned out half and then mixed some dried cherries into the remaining dough because I LOVE dark chocolate & tart cherries together. This was a fabulous idea by the by.

Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through baking. The cookies are done when they’ve spread a bit and just started to crack on the top – underdone is better than overdone with these guys. Cool on the cookie sheets for a few minutes before removing the cookies to a cooling rack to come to room temperature. But make sure to eat a few while they’re still warm because then they do this:

IMG_4356I ate this with my morning coffee and it made for an amazing breakfast – don’t judge me.

Double Pea Pasta with Ricotta & Lemon

IMG_4298Even though we’re all grown-ups and we deep-down know that we’re all equal and all that crap, do you ever go somewhere and just feel so much like you don’t belong that it is downright insane? This happened to me the other day at a very beautiful fantasyland store that is peopled with the clothes and accessories that imaginary me wears in her perfect life where nothing ever gets dirty and you never have to wear sensible shoes and shares a name with a class we all either took or flirted with taking in college. I’ll let you ponder that crazy run-on sentence for a minute….got it?

Okay good, onward with the story – so I’m walking around just taking in the vibe and daydreaming about the aforementioned perfect fantasy life and I decide that yes, I can have a candle. An overpriced but very delicious-smelling candle is definitely on the menu today. A little treat and then I will go. I get in line with my $22 candle and even though I already told myself that this is an acceptable splurge purchase I was kind of agonizing over it a little when I hear the total of the woman in front of me – $463. Then I glance behind me and see that the woman back there is easily holding like $600 worth of lovely clothes and that’s when it hits me – I really do not belong here. I am sandwiched in between two people who are dropping a combined grand like it’s nothing and here I am hemming and hawing over my $22 candle. Sheesh. Talk about a reality check. So then I drove to the grocery store (a place where I can generally afford things) and bought the ingredients for this pasta which did not cure my Anthro-Rage but definitely did help a lot. Carbs and cheese tend to do that don’t you think?

Double Pea Pasta with Ricotta & Lemon

(adapted from Everyday Food)

1 lb gemelli or other fun tube-shaped pasta

2 T unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups frozen peas

1-2 cups snap peas, fresh or frozen (I just used the whole little package but sizes may vary)

1 cup whole-milk ricotta

1/2 cup (eyeball it) chopped fresh italian parsley

3 scallions, white & light green parts, thinly sliced

4-6 strips of bacon, thinly sliced

1/2 cup reserved pasta water

zest of 1 lemon

salt & pepper to taste

Put a large pot of water on the stovetop to boil and heat a medium skillet to crisp the bacon. When the pan is good and hot, throw the bacon bits in there and keep an eye on them so they don’t burn, stirring as needed. Get a plate lined with paper towels ready and when the bacon is crispy, scoop it out with a slotted spoon and lay it on the paper towels to drain.

When the water boils, add a generous palmful of salt to the water (I use kosher) and add the pasta. After about 4 minutes, add both the frozen peas and the snap peas to the water with the pasta. The pasta should be al dente after around 3 more minutes which is the perfect amount of time to cook the peas – cool, huh? Make sure you don’t overcook the pasta. Mushy pasta is like the #2 biggest cooking offense behind overcooked meat in my book. Anyway, take a glass measuring cup and scoop out about 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water before you drain the pasta & peas and set it aside – we may need it for the sauce.

After draining, add the pasta and peas back to the pot and throw in the butter, ricotta, scallions, and parsley and mix well. If you need to, add a bit of the pasta water to thin the sauce and help it coat the pasta. Salt and pepper generously throughout the mixing process, then add in the bacon bits and most of the zest (I saved a little zest to garnish the plate).

IMG_4297Serve this dish with some crusty bread, a crisp white wine and maybe some lightly dressed greens and it will solve all your problems. Okay, that’s a lie. But I promise it will taste really yummy so that’s something at least.