A New Bouchon-ing Place

Well, this summer I gave my ugly ’87 kitchen a micro-mini (read…cheap) makeover.  She was SO yellow-brown.  All over.  And I couldn’t let her feel ashamed a moment longer.  And let’s be honest, I’m a homeschooler.  Which means, for those of you who don’t, that summer is THE only time for me to accomplish anything that doesn’t have to do with shaping young minds.

IMG_4772This is where it all started.  Well, obviously about three hours before this I also had cabinet doors.  Being the astute ex-photojournalist I am, I forgot to take that picture.  So, we begin here.  You get the idea.  See how dark and dungeon-y my kitchen was? So sad and unacceptable for a Tree House.  Months before this, I had tried more-than-I-care-to-mention gray color samples on my cabinet doors in order to reach the right decision.  For those months, my cabinets looked like this:

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My husband was very patient.

So, first things first, early summer vacation in Maui, which was magic all it’s own.

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And then I (we) got down to business:

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It was (is), by the way, summer here in dear old Cali.  And a scorcher at that.  So I found me some nice shady work spots.

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You know how everyone likes to jovially say, “humans plan and God laughs”?  Well, let’s just say that while I don’t exactly think that God was “laughing”, this knife, which accidentally got inserted into my leg, surely put a jarring halt on the whole kitchen remodel process.   Enough about that. Let’s move on.

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There were a few other distractions:

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Fruit trees bursting with abundance. This was ONE of many harvests….

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There was also squash coming out of our ears.  Which led, necessarily, to this:

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Sometimes you just have to stop and enjoy the abundance.

And, sometimes you also have to stop and enjoy a Summer Super Moon and some awesome sunsets:

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And while all this summer super-awesomeness was happening, so was the kitchen.  Therefore, this is what happened:

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I just want you, dear reader, to fully understand what it means to DIY your kitchen remodel.  Keepin it real friends.

So, the yellow doors were removed and the entire contents of my kitchen were relocated for a duration TBD.  And yellow doors were cleaned and sanded.  And sanded.  And sanded.  And then there were the cabinet frames to undergo the same process. Some of which became casualties along the way.  Because they blocked views – views which make the Tree House, the Tree House.  And some because they just made me feel closed in.  So off they went.  And it was magic.  Not butter and flour magic, mind you, but that will soon follow.

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This was the first to go.  Because, look.  It was right when you walked in the door and it blocked a magical view.  So my cabinet fairies removed it.  Look what was underneath the nasty plywood!

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The continuation of the beautimous wood beam that runs across the kitchen.  Why would anyone cover that up!!

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And because I have an awesome carpenter-dad, he did his carpenter-y thing and made a chalkboard out of the bare end of the cabinet.  Ta-da!

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I was making progress, happily having begun the priming on my frames, when the second cabinet casualty became necessary.  See that one in the corner? Yeah, so invasive.

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Not to fear. I had a great demo crew.  Did I mention how awesome my hubby was through all of this?  Another cabinet gone?  Sure, honey.

IMG_4835But seriously?  Can I get an “amen”?? Lovely spot for some future open shelving. And while we’re on the subject of how much creative license my amazing husband gave me with this kitchen, look at this:

IMG_4854A darling curtain under the sink to add a little color and a lot of character.  Let’s just pause a minute to talk about some logistics.  When you remove all your drawer fronts to paint them, means will necessitate you to still be able to open your drawers without (hopefully) severing your fingers.  So we had what I like to call “Red Neck” drawer pulls during the remodel.  Another name might be: screws.

IMG_4776So much ugly on the way to pretty. *sigh

So let’s see, what was next?  Well, here are some “during” shots:

IMG_4794I love this shot.  What really matters?  Can we find the tortilla chips?  Yes?  And the margarita mix? Ok, all is well.

IMG_4873Closing in on the final stretch.  Wall paint complete.  Frame paint complete.  Hideous poly-coated butcher block counter tops sanded, sanded and sanded again to a fine, smooth finish by yours truly.  Oh, I didn’t mention that?  Yeah, it happened.  This pic does no justice, so use your imagination.

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And while you’re using your imagination, consider this: imagine you move into your dream house.  Only, the oven looks like this:

IMG_4825AND…you’re a baker.  And you try not to cry because this is your dream house and darn it, you’re going to suck it up and bake in this thing until it dies.  And then imagine that by some gift, your contentment pays off, and the thing dies while you are humbly and cheaply remodeling your dream house kitchen.  Imagine yourself jumping up and down one night (not too crazily, by the way, you do have a stab wound) because you realize 30 minutes after turning old Bessy on, that she is COLD.  Oh delight!  Oh joy!  What gift is this?  The oven has died of it’s own free will, of old age and not your vanity!  And then imagine while you patiently wait and search for open box specials, that your truly incredible husband comes home with this:

IMG_4951A high-end GE convection oven found at a local Re-Store for…..$95.00.  No.Joke.  You dance again.  This time, less painfully.

Also, how about that open cabinet for my cook books?  Nice, yes?

IMG_4844Way back when, my afore-mentioned fantastic hubby created this fire ladder pot rack for me.  It works so well here, I love it!

Also, if I can just take a second to say: I’m a genius.  Fed up with nasty self-adhesive shelf paper, I came up with this alternative:

IMG_4849OILCLOTH.  STAPLE GUN.  Do it.  It’s so pretty and happy.  And durable.

IMG_4852Whew.  This was a long one.

Many distractions and injuries later, not only did my kitchen find it’s way back home, but so did my dining room:

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It really is my happy place.  I’m really glad we started the updating process here, because I truly spend SO much time in this room.IMG_4908

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My new Bouchon-ing place is so happy, colorful, warm, bright, hand-made, cozy.  SO ME!!  I feel like this kitchen is mine now.  So even though there was a lot of this:

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and, admittedly, some of this:

IMG_4785It was all so worth it.  For probably less than $500, including paint, supplies, oven, curtain, spray paint for the hardware and pulls, and lots (TONS) of elbow grease, I got a new kitchen.  I smile every single time I walk in.  Except. When I see that knife.  Then I cringe.

Ugly Scones

Ok, I have to complain for just one quick second about BIB. I’m not a patient person, so this is mostly my own issue.  But lots of the recipes, muffins and scones in particular, require some overnight facet to their production.  Remember how muffins need to rest?  Which, by the way, is completely legit.  It makes a difference.  And these scones?  The (ugly) dried cherries had to macerate overnight.  Did you hear that fancy word I just used?  It actually kind of sounds like a gross thing: macerating.  Like some kind of destructive thing is happening.  Which it is, but in a yummy way when we’re talking about Chocolate-Cherry scones.  My layman definition is to soak something in simple syrup.  Here’s the actual definition.  I’m not far off…


mac·er·ate

ˈmasəˌrāt
verb
(esp. with reference to food) soften or become softened by soaking in a liquid

I can also be very easily distracted.  Does that go hand-in-hand with impatience? We’ve got these orange trees on our property that are just dripping with sweet, juicy oranges.  I really wanted to make some orange chocolate scones because one of my most favorite blogging bakers makes them killer-style, right here http://joythebaker.com/2011/01/orange-and-dark-chocolate-buttermilk-scones/.  I highly recommend you make those also.  But this time, I stayed focused; on task.  I shall not waiver from the BIB for now.  Otherwise, I’ll be 80 when I finish baking my way through it!  Deciding to save laminated doughs for the summer days of no kids to educate, I settled on these here Chocolate-Cherry scones.

So you know what real scones mean, right?  More butter.

Again, with the butter.  But we’re baking here folks.  There’s very little way around the B-word.  And if you did go around it, your scones just won’t be the same.  So suck it up and run an extra mile so you can eat this.
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I think my pretty blue bowl helps the aesthetics of the hideous dried cherries, don’t you?
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Not so much, but the bowl is still pretty 🙂
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Turns out, macerating does no cosmetic magic for dried cherries.  They are still ugly.  And so is their juice.  Truth be told, there is nothing very beautiful about these scones.  EXCEPT.  The way they taste.  This magic created by cream and butter in the freezer.  Let me tell you, there was much eye-rolling over these “beauties”.   Here’s the cast of ugly characters:
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I must insert a humbling fact here:  I MADE A MISTAKE.
Thankfully, I realized it once I saw this:DSC_7516
See this powder-y looking stuff?  That’s bad scone, baby.  Scones are definitely on the dry side, but this is just WRONG.  In this house of many souls, I cannot feed all mouths sufficiently unless I at least double every single recipe, which I did here.  Only, I didn’t double the cream.  Cringe.  I quickly remedied the problem and moved on.DSC_7517 That’s more like it!DSC_7518 Yes, I measured them.  Because, I’m baking Bouchon and honestly, they bake evenly when they are the same size.  Fact.DSC_7520
They go into the freezer just like this, covered with plastic.  The beauty of freezing them is that you can pull out as many as you want and throw them into 350 whenever you crave an ugly scone.

This also happened this week:
(please try to ignore the unfinished painting.  That should be solved this summer…)
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Remember how I mentioned that mess in my kitchen was an inevitability?  Well, I scratched myself out a little Bouchon Corner.  It’s smaller than it looks, really.  And the rest of my kitchen looks  a little crowded so I can have one place that’s neat.  But I’m okay with that, ok?

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Here’s another BIB take-away: Scones need glaze like muffins need streusel.  There’s just something cosmically right when butter laden baked morsels are topped with more heaven.  So these got topped with a mix of the ugly cherry juice and powdered sugar.  Which, is also not very beautiful to behold, except with your tongue.
DSC_7532 I’m getting all Fancy-food-blogger here and posing my scone with some coffee.  It’s totally authentic though.  I stood here at my tiny island and ate this scone (while rolling my eyes, of course) and drank this coffee.  
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Rum Cake and such

It sounds simple enough, right?  I’ll have a food blog.  It merges two of my great loves: baking and photography.  It will be fun and whimsical and people will chuckle as they read my posts.  Then I started baking, and trying to take pictures while I was doing it.  Of every step.  It became obvious that while I love my kitchen, our life is hectic and my prep and baking areas are usually a mess.  And speaking of messes, how about my hands? Nails half-painted and breaking off because of same said hectic life.  Nobody wants to see that!  Then it dawned on me that the only proper light for taking beautiful natural light photographs (during the day) does not usually correspond to when my hectic life allows for baking (usually late at night).  So all these obstacles led me to some unique solutions: keep my kitchen cleaner (or use a small aperture so the  mess in the looks like some kind of mod wallpaper in the background); keep my hands in better shape (or bribe friends with baked goods, iced coffee and swimming if they will come use their better looking hands for my shots); strategize a few baked items in a row so I can plan them more carefully and take advantage of natural light (there’s no fudging that).  I do love this process; this food journey.  Just need to put on my walking shoes to get over these little bumps in the road.

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Moving on to the BIB.  I’m not a very patient person.  I decided to REstart this whole baking-my-way-through-Bouchon thing with scones that take two whole days to make.  Perfect.  So, while there is macerating and freezing going on (more on that later), Rum Cake is happening RIGHT NOW. Rum cake is some kind of wonderful.  It’s not super-boozy, its just yummy and warm.  Like a Hot Toddy, but not quite so strong that it makes you want to go to bed.

There are a couple things about this cake: butter (obscene amounts, really) and eggs (11 of my home-hatched beauties).  There’s other stuff, mind you.  Almond flour, Rum, of course.  But if we’re talking high-volume ingredients, we’re talking butter and eggs.  Because, just what you need when you’ve just started working out again after a 10-week hiatus due to a terrible ankle sprain and right before you go to Hawaii, is butter-laden cake.

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Now, you maybe have noticed in some of my pictures my super awesome stovetop, which could only be made better by a griddle.  Lest I sound ungrateful, I was sold on this 80’s kitchen by the stovetop alone.  Which is great, because I also love to cook.  But let’s be real, bakers use ovens.  Period.  In our old house in (cringe) suburbia, I had a magnificent convection oven, in which I could bake three sheets of cookies at once, no problem.  Also (don’t tell Papa Murphy’s this), I baked TWO pizzas at once *GASP.  You have not, however, seen this:

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It’s the red-headed stepchild of my kitchen.  Even the sadly yellow cabinets enjoy a higher station in kitchen life than this monstrosity.  You may think it’s from the 50’s, but according to the home inspector, ovens looked like this well into the 80’s, when the previous owners built our house.  So here it stands.  It bakes unevenly.  It’s always 6:15 in my kitchen.  I store baking pans in the bottom oven because it burns everything.  I can cook one thing at a time.  But hey, I once spent six months with NO oven in my old house before magnificent convection beauty was installed, so I can handle this.  I’m flexible.

So, bake to Rum Cake.  First, BIB suggests using a cast iron bundt pan, which sounds dreamy.  I have lots of cast iron, which I love dearly, but the array does not include a bundt pan.  So, I used what I had.  Here you will see the butter and sugar coated pan.  I have mixed feelings about doing this.  It was indeed pretty, but there was somewhat of a disaster upon disembarking the cake from the pan, which you will soon witness.  I sheepishly admit this is most likely due to the fact that I did not apply an adequate layer of butter.  But, this is a learning process and honestly, I am used to buttering and flouring a pan, not sugaring it.  And, probably BIB suggests cast iron because it creates some kind of magic with the butter and sugar coating.

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This Rum Cake, it was luscious from the start…

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 Seriously, look at this batter.  I may or may not have *tasted some.

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It was magnificent to behold straight out of the oven….

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This cake gets a pretty little bath of Rum simple syrup.  You know why they call simple syrup, simple?  Because it is SO very simple.  Equal amounts sugar dissolved in water.  That’s it.  Then you can add lemon juice if you fancy homemade lemonade concentrate, or Rum in the case of this cake.  So while the cake was still warm and fragrant, it was bathed *and I mean BATHED, in rum simple syrup.

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Alas, my funky metal bundt pan did not create the aforementioned butter and sugar magic.  So, then there was this:

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Obviously, it made absolutely no impact on the flavor, because right after it got drizzled with that rum simple syrup, it looked like this:

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(did you notice the pretty towel I hung on the fridge?  It’s totally crooked.  Yay me.)

So as my tasters rolled their eyes in Rum Cake ecstasy I said, “Hey, this is supposed to have glaze!”  They rolled their eyes again and were speechless.  So I poured yet more rum, some powdered sugar, half and half and some vanilla paste (my own addition) into sweet bliss together in a bowl.  This is what happened:

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There was more eye rolling as I did this and then begging for more tastes.  At which point, I had to bring in the big guns (daddy) and supply the necessary coffee he would need to wash down this baked beauty.

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And the next day? There was this.  But don’t worry, even the crumbs were scrubbed together with small fingers and consumed with much eye rolling.

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Once Upon A Muffin

So these muffins are…old.  Let me clarify:  I made them long ago in a far away summer before homeschooling 4 kids and moving to 8 acres consumed my every waking moment.  Now things have “settled”; that’s probably the wrong word.  It’s actually definitely the wrong word, but I miss baking and in the midst of making big decisions about how to kill monstrous weeds and which math curriculum will make my kids not want to run away screaming, I must bake.  So I began with blueberry muffins, because honestly, if you’re going to make cake in a muffin pan and eat it for breakfast, it should at least have fruit in it, right?  Here’s tip #1 I learned from BIB (if you remember, that means Bib Intimidating Book): rest your muffin batter overnight in the fridge.  It creates this heavenly crumb from some kind of crazy chemistry that happens with all the gluten and fat and moisture.  Plus, then the batter is ready first thing in the morning and you don’t have to try to read a recipe while you’re waiting for coffee to brew!

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Remember way back when? That time we talked about molasses and how it adds this certain kind of dreaminess to cookies?  Turns, out, it is just as dreamy in your blueberry muffins.  Crucial Muffin Tip #2 (listen up, I don’t like to repeat myself!): NEVER, EVER make a muffin without streusel.  I mean EVER.  Again, in your life.  Because, as if muffins were not already tasty and soft and wonderful, then there’s this crunchy, sweet, nutty goodness on top that puts them over the top.  I’m not even kidding about streusel.  You can use white sugar, or brown.  Pecans or walnuts (but, really why wouldn’t you use pecans?!).  You can add cinnamon, or not.  Just do it.  I promise, you will never look back.  Ok, streusel rant over. Whew.

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Aren’t these flour dusted frozen blueberries so beautiful?  I mean, they’re so happy!  Muffin Tip #3 to take away from BIB: frozen blueberries will not squish all to bits when you incorporate them into your molasses-laden muffin batter.  Brilliant.  And, it actually works!

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Just in case you wondered if I actually used my nifty scale?  The answer is absolutely!  I even use it when I measure the streusel.  Promise not to go off on that again… It’s so handy, and I don’t even miss my measuring cups.  That “Tare” button is my new BFF.

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Seriously?! Come on!  Look at the brown goodness happening here!  Perfect muffin crumb to streusel ratio.  Perfect golden crunch with that cake-like muffin crumb.  If you need further proof that these muffins are indeed uber-nosh worthy, I submit for your review the following picture:

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My youngest boy literally shoving the muffins into his mouth.  This would be his second, as evidenced by the crumbs on his plate.  Each of my kids shoved the muffins into their mouths in the same way, at the very same time, gushing about how these were the best muffins they had ever eaten.  I let the little rule of not talking with your mouth full go, just this once.

Quick recap of Muffins 101:

* Rest your batter

* Freeze your berries

* Always and forever put streusel on your muffins

* Let your kids talk with their mouths full when they’re complimenting your cooking

The hard stuff

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So you might already know this, but the day after my last post I was keenly reminded: Life is HARD. One day you’re cruising along, feeling good because you’ve been working out regularly and a fun family vacation is coming up and you’re having fun baking and blogging and then BAM!  Your dog gets attacked right in front of your eyes and plans change and life gets messy, complicated and sad.   Fast forward to today.  I picked myself up, dusted myself off and started all over again.  I didn’t want to work out, but I did.  I didn’t want to grocery shop, but I did.  I didn’t want to bake, but I sure did.  And you know what happened?  I found a little glimpse of my happy place in the fusion of sugar, butter, flour and other familiar and delicious things.

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Today Thomas Keller would have been disappointed by my messy kitchen.  I didn’t “work clean”.  But it was therapeutic baking, not pretty baking.  And I wasn’t going to blog it (another item on the list of “I don’t wanna”), but I drug out the big gun camera and took pics, messiness and all.  And boy was it worth it. Do you see this cookie dough?  It’s a special kind of magic.  I will not disclose the amount of it I ate before I formed it into large orbs and baked it….

DSC_3598Let’s just talk for a minute about one ingredient I bet you only drag out once a year for the perfunctory ginger bread cookies at Christmas (if you’re into that sort of thing): Molasses.  It’s sort of an unsightly thing; blackish brown, thick liquid that smells, for the lack of a better vocabulary word, weird.  But BIB uses it quite often and I’m becoming a bigger fan every time I use it.

DSC_3599These cookies are uh-maze-ing.  They are perfectly, and I mean ideally, tenderly crispy on the outside, soft and just a teensy bit gooey on the inside.  They aren’t salty, too bland, too sweet or too dry.   They are dreamy and chocolate-y and will most certainly be my new go-to chocolate chip cookie.  And that molasses?  It just adds a little depth, a little oomph.

DSC_3600These cookies are called “Chocolate Chunk and Chip Cookies”, but I did not have any good chocolate to chop up for the “chunk” portion, so I substituted all chips.  I also couldn’t bring myself to measure out 150 grams of cookie dough for one cookie, so I made them half that size and even then they are easily twice as big as my boring old chocolate chip cookies.  But let’s be real people, you wouldn’t just eat one of these anyway, so who cares if they are twice the size?

So to recap: we have here a messy, therapeutic baking session resulting in ridiculously fantastic cookies.  Did I mention it was messy?  I’m an authentic person, readers, and I feel it only right to tell you there was no staging for this photo, no tidying up.  This is the real deal.  Shameful.

DSC_3602One last baking tidbit I’d like to leave you all with.  These little mats.  They are magic.  I will forever and always use them instead of parchment or cooking spray or any other form of keeping my baked treasures from sticking to their vessels.  I HIGHLY recommend you give them a try!

DSC_3603And so I baked and overcame and refocused and ate cookies.  And life is still hard, but this crazy show of my life must go on and so I will too.

Cookie Love

So it’s been almost a week since my first Bouchon Bake.  I have endured a weekend of tortuous temperatures at a swim meet for my kid and now exhaustion requires me to bake to stay awake.  So I decided to start at the beginning (even though I will NOT be baking my way chronologically through this book).  Thomas Keller pays sweet homage to his mother by putting her recipe for these dandy little Pecan Sandies at the very front of his book.  Like Keller, my love of baking/cooking/all things kitchen-y came from my mom, so I can totally appreciate this shout-out.  And it is well deserved Mrs. Keller!

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Let’s talk a minute about butter.  It gets a bad name. It’s just really heavily processed heavy cream.  But man, it’s good.  And there really is no substitute in baking.  Now don’t get me wrong, back when I was the “Mayonnaise Monitor”, an endearing nickname given me by hubby’s coworkers, I substituted weird things for butter: applesauce, fig paste, you name it, I tried it.  And did my cookies taste good?  Did they taste Bouchon? NOOOOOOOO.  How could they?  Butter is the very foundation of cookies.  Just look at this mountain!  I did double this recipe, so don’t worry, it was divided between many cookies.

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And how about Pecans?  Talk about a beautiful creation.  I must admit I never bake with walnuts.  Once I found pecans, walnuts were literally a bitter memory.  Pecans are: (listen up!) buttery.  They are delicious raw, toasted, candied and mixed into just about any cookie you can think of.  Try them, you’ll never go back. Oh!  And don’t they look especially nice in my pretty vintage bowl?!

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The line-up of ingredients.  No, nothing was left out of the picture; there are just four ingredients in these lovely treats: flour, powdered sugar, pecans and of course, butter.  Sometimes simple is beautiful (and delicious).

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The mix-up. So incredibly easy.  In fact this is what I overheard during the preparation of these cookies (I am NOT making this up):

Boy 1 (perusing BIB): I can’t believe you’re going to make some of this stuff mom, it looks really hard!

Boy 2: Well, mom’s making it.  It can’t be that hard!

Thanks, Boy 2.  I’m hoping this is more of a “Mom is such a good baker, everything is easy for her!”

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You might be asking yourself at this point: Did Mel really measure each ball to weight 30 grams?  Yes.  Yes, she did.  But only out of complete devotion to baking the Bouchon way.  I wanted uniform cookies and it was somewhat satisfying to know they were.  But for some reason, my cookie balls wanted to be 34 grams, so I had to keep correcting them. And again, how about my pretty bowl? There’s something to be said for pretty things, like blue vintage Pyrex.  Makes my baking even more fun.

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So then there was the smooshing.  BIB said “using a spatula” , but I improvised with a glass (don’t tell), which worked fine.  Just goes to show you can improvise some things in baking….

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And then came the baking, the golden perfection, the dusting, the gorgeous, scrumptious simplicity of these little cookies.   They were perfect: tender, but crunchy short-bread-like dough bursting with chunks of toasty pecans.  They were gobbled by kids who had no idea how magnificent they were, whose heads readily and rapidly nodded when asked if they liked the cookies.  They were relished by my visiting friend and myself.  They will be enjoyed with coffee tomorrow.  There were a success.

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Stay tuned, it’s going to be a busy Bouchon week.  There will be cookies coming out of my ears (for a good cause) and some buttery breakfast banana muffins because bananas are ripening too quickly on my counter.

At Last….(insert Etta James singing soulfully)

Once there was a girl who bought a really big, intimidating cook book.  By a big wig chef.  Who had a big, uber-skilled pastry chef at his big, fancy-shmansy bakery.  Then there was a heat wave and equipment failure and a delay-of-game by her own invention of ginger-peach ice cream sandwiches.  Then, she manned-up (as it were) and began the baking.  She broke out the scale (genius!)

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and then sat staring at the Big Intimidating Book thinking “Uhhhh, what do I bake first?”.  She decided one summer night that fried chicken was in order, in which case cornbread was in order, in which case there was no better place to start than there.

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And you know what?  There was in fact a recipe for cornbread in the BIB (Big Intimidating Book).  And you know what?  The batter was supposed to rest “overnight”.  And you know what?  It was 9 am and the girl reasoned that since she only slept for 6 hours a night, then 9 am to 5 pm could certainly more than qualify as “overnight” resting.  So she weighed ingredients and she rested her batter and she thought all day about cornbread and then she baked it (while frying chicken and drinking a cocktail).

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And you know what?  The well-measured-long-anticipated-from-a-fancy-shmansy-pastry-baker-guy-cornbread WAS NOT PERFECT!.  At first the girl stood dumbfounded.  This was supposed to be the holy grail of baked goods.  There was weighing of ingredients and careful folding of corn kernels.  The girl just knew it must be because she used 1% milk instead of whole; that she used coarse ground cornmeal instead of fine; that she made it in (gasp!) a 9×13 pan instead of muffin tins!  But alas, the crowd gathered disagreed and declared it tremendous.  The girl herself had to admit the crumb was superb, the texture fluffy but with brawn, the corn providing juicy pops of flavor.  And there it was: Mel baked Bouchon.  And it was not scary or too big.  It was fine and delicious and imperfect and it was an outstanding partner to her fried chicken.

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WRONG!

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I was so excited when my kitchen scale arrived Tuesday.  Well, I would have more excited had I not been in bed sick with a fever….but I digress.  Anyway, it was here!  I could begin my Bouchon journey!  Or so I thought.  Next morning, feeling more human, I excitedly opened the box fresh from Amazon.  Then I realized my mistake.  This was no .1 g increment scale!  Either it had been wrongly advertised or in my zeal I had mis-read the product information.  Either way, it was WRONG!  Now I realize .1 g is a very minute measurement, but if I’m going to do this thing, darn it, I’m going to do it RIGHT!  If Thomas Keller says I should measure out 1.7 g of baking powder, then there will be no measuring 1 or 2, but precisely 1.7!  So back to my computer I went (because if I have learned nothing else, it is that here in this general middle-of-california-valley-area there are no kitchen stores specialized enough to carry a .1 g increment kitchen scale, believe me, I’ve tried).  Sorry for the run-on parenthetical sentence….So search I did.  What did I find?  Most scales measuring down to .1 g increments were “pocket” scales that were not large enough to measure my larger weight ingredients.  And accurate as I want to be, there is not enough room in my full kitchen for two separate scales.

So after almost swallowing my tongue at some of the prices of large-range kitchen scales (those with small increment measurements which could also hold large weights), I found it.  On my trusty Amazon!  A scale that weighed up to 3000 g (roughly 6.6 pounds) in as small as .1 g increments.  A scale that didn’t cost as much as a small car!  In fact, in some crazy Amazon fluke, the 3000 g scale cost half what the 1000 g scale did.  So into my virtual cart it went and then I was asked “would you like to receive this item tomorrow for $3.99?”.  Absolutely!  So today it will arrive, and I will be waiting with bated breath.  Even better?  My mom is visiting.  It’s the cherry on my Bouchon Sundae.  It’s the icing on my Bouchon Cake.  She’s the woman who taught me to bake.  The woman who showed me how to turn black bananas into glorious tender “bread” (read: cake).  The woman who taught me you should always have softened butter on hand.  Now she’s here to celebrate the launch of my Bouchon journey.  How fitting.  How RIGHT.

If you can’t take the heat…….

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So, you might be wondering: has she baked something?  Was it great?  Delicious?  Everything she hoped it would be?  No, no, no, no.  Because for the last seven days, there has been a heat wave here in Cali.  7 days of 110 degree temps and no overnight relief (in other words, no late night baking to avoid the heat!).  So I wait.  For the temperatures to break, for my fun baking dreams to materialize.  But I sure have done some reading.  Talk about thinking you know about something (baking) and realizing you know next to nothing (me).  Apparently a food scale that measures down to 1/10 of a gram is going to revolutionize my baking.  Apparently there are names for all the different stages of softened butter.  Apparently I shouldn’t be improvising as much as I do when I bake…..But you know what?  For the sake of this book, I’ll follow the letter of the baking law.  For the sake of Bouchon re-creation, I will do what Thomas Keller’s baking gurus do.  I’ll stop my flippant heaping teaspoons and shoddy flour measurements and use a scale, down to the gnat’s you-know-what.  Because that’s the point, right?  To bake the Bouchon way?  Tomorrow there’s supposed to be a break in the super-heated spell cast over Cali and I pray it lasts so I can get this show on the road!