Thursday, August 22, 2013

Dodo vs. Bouchon

Dear Reader,

     Here, at the Dodo, many gears are turning behind the pale electrical field of your computer, or as the kids say, your 'device:'  which gives it vaguely sinister and phallic connotation, don't you think?  Ah, but I digress; behind the Dodo, inside the Dodo, are people:  Two capable IT genii; two top-notch editors, and two people working round the clock for Microdique- a small custom fabrication team.  Yes, these are the same two people;  there would be no blog at all but for these 6-in-2 superhumans, and it seemed a good time to say 'thank you' to them both.  There is, to be sure, me; a voice and focusing lens for what you receive here, but these other two are the cream in our coffee.   

      Today's project has been lifted, sifted and re-wrangled from this cookbook; Bouchon Bakery.  Purged of conceit and arcane instructions, this adapted recipe has new hope of being made by regular joes/common folk/mere mortals.   Bouchon Bakery is a beautiful coffee table book- the images are lush, the format commands respect (not to mention half your counter space, should you dare to place it within the splotch zone), and the foodstuffs are showcased in salivating center-folds of delicate, crumb-free perfection.  The Bo Derek of photographed baked goods (note to 'device' users: look her up on the Internet).  The thing, any gamer or game theorist knows, is that we want challenge, we want to earn it, we want it to be hard, but we don't want to be Sisyphus.  It must be a challenge, but not foolish make-work.

     A cookbook's highest function, it's desire, is to be followed; to have its recipes live again and again in being made. 
     The instructions in Bouchon Bakery cannot be followed without a diminishment in love- they do not foster love.  They foster frustration.  Cooking without love is not for this blog.  Cooking without love is cooking for money.  Bouchon Bakery cooks for money and it smells like it.  In fact, it attempts to drive readers away from cooking for love; but I think the recipes in this monstrous book deserve a little love; there are good recipes here, if a bit high-needs.  The spoilt little beasts just need to be tempered by confidence.

      I walked by Bouchon in Yountville, early this summer- it was a nice yellow, with delineating frames of pleasant co-ordinated trim, and crowded with custom. They spilled out all over the sidewalk, this flock of:  Purchasers.  Buyers.  Consumers.  Clients, even. 

     Cooking for love is what we all do- when you make toast for your child while on the phone, you make it for love.  When you stir risotto for 40 minutes; it’s for love, and when you make a pie, spreading flour all over the floor, you do it for love.  This is a noble and worthy pursuit- do not let fascist cookbook authors take that away from you!  You are the one who is making food for the love of another. 

    There is another cookbook I have been reading recently, and I have been meaning to tell you about it: Essential Pepin.  This book has terrific recipes with plenty of challenge sans cabalistic overtones.  The book comes with a delightful DVD, where Jacques Pepin demonstrates a bevy of kitchen skills.  It is illustrated by the author, not so much to instruct, but to embellish the pages.  He pens a hand lettered message to the chefs, cooks, and bakers who read the book:  "There is no greater love than the love of cooking.  One always cooks for another."  What a fine gift for us, the chefs of love!

     Here is what I made you,  based on Bouchon's  cream puffs:

Make yourself a batch of pâte à choux.  Take 1 cup of water; put in 1/2 cup of butter and heat it in a saucepan until it boils.  Lower the heat, add one cup of flour and a bit of salt (if you used unsalted butter).  Mix this paste pretty robustly, with a wooden spoon.  Mix it for maybe 2 minutes, then remove it from the heat.  Now add 4 eggs, one by one, beating well after each addition.

Dollop the dough out by the tablespoon onto a silpat or parchment paper covered baking sheet.  Put the sheet in the freezer, while you make a streusel type dough to form into a little cookie to put on top of the puffs before you bake them. 

The streusel cookie dough: 

Mix well: 
3/4 cup of light brown sugar
1 cup of all-purpose flour
1/4 cup almond flour/meal
6 Tablespoons of butter

These ingredients will clump up, but to get them to hold together you will have to press them with your fingers- dribble in a teaspoon of vanilla; it will help it to hold together.  Press a teaspoon or two into a small, thin patty.  Freeze these little patties for 10 or 20 minutes, to make the whole assembly less anxietizing.

Next, balance a little patty of streusel onto each puff, and then put them into an oven preheated to 375.  Lower the temperature to 350, and bake them for 20 to 25 minutes.  Lower the temperature to 325, and bake them another 10 minutes, to insure their centers are cooked.  Just take one out and break it open to test it. 

If you get this far, bravo!  I'll throw you one better if you've got the nerve, make pastry cream or whipped cream and fill them with it.  Pastry cream is a dense egg and milk/cream custard- Joy of Cooking has a recipe, as does Essential Pepin.

     Hoping to be your Worcestershire, dear.