Cookie of the Month: Biting into Bouchons

I have been lucky enough to be in proximity to some amazing places. Some are majestic, like the Golden Gate Bridge and the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco; others encompass the beautiful landscape of Sonoma and Napa valleys, where all sorts of treasures can be discovered.

One lucky jewel found in the nearby wine country berg of Yountville is Thomas Keller’s small, but mighty little bakery called Bouchon Bakery (https://www.thomaskeller.com/yountville-california/bouchon-bakery/bakery#). I have visited this spot on numerous occasions, particularly pre-pandemic, when gathering in smallish venues was a little more desirable. The bakery storefront is quite small and usually a long line of eager customers fill its interior and even extend out the door. It’s worth braving the wait, which usually doesn’t take long and is a road that leads to something worth seeking out…a little namesake pastry known as a Chocolate Bouchon.

Part brownie, part mini chocolate cake, all yummy, the Chocolate Bouchon, with its cylinder  shape, is named for the French word for “cork.” This is a cork in all the best interpretations, dense, yes, but tender despite its sturdiness, and dense, mostly with the flavor of good rich dark chocolate. The Bouchons are sold several to a bag, which you can carry out and go your merry way, which, I’ve done, and merry is really the only way to go once you’ve enjoyed a Bouchon.

Renowned chef and baker Thomas Keller participated as a consultant on the amazing and Oscar-winning animated film, “Ratatouille,” and a subsequent Ratatouillie-themed Disney cookbook, “What’s Cooking: A Cookbook For Kids.” In it, as well as his cookbook “Bouchon Bakery,” he features a recipe for Chocolate Bouchons. As delighted as I’ve been to purchase them from the bakery, I was eager to give these little gems a homemade try.

Since the recipe was featured in a cookbook for kids, I thought I could probably handle it (although it was given three starts, a “master chef” level of accomplishment”). 

The recipe instructs that one should use a muffin pan, lined with paper liners. Even though I thought that would work, I was remembering the bouchons from the bakery, and thought my little mini cheesecake pan with the removable bottoms would work better to achieve the cylindrical shape.

[Rather than using paper liners, I buttered and floured each one and the bottoms, hoping this would work just as well to remove the little bouchons.

The rich chocolate flavor of the bouchons is, in part, from one cup of cocoa powder…I went with a high-quality brand for the recipe.

The cocoa is blended with flour and salt and set aside.

The recipe called for A LOT of butter…three sticks, which are melted. It almost seemed like a mistake. But I would be very wrong about that!

Three eggs and sugar are first blended and mixed until light in color. Vanilla is added. Then the dry ingredients are added alternately in thirds with the melted butter, similarly to the milk in many cake recipes. I imagined that with so much butter, this method was the way to blend it all in. 

More chocolate — in the form of chips —  is added to the very rich and somewhat thick batter. 

I divided the batter between all the cavities of the mini cheesecake molds.

The little bouchons baked up nicely, peeking just above the edges of the pans.

I used a rack to flip the bouchons upside down to cool (similarly to inverting a tube cake pan so that a cake will not collapse or deflate while cooling).

I lifted the pan off the bouchons, which all released nicely and held their shapes.

I inverted each little bouchon back upright and let them rest awhile longer.

They were such beauties, I was tempted to leave off the final dusting of confectioner’s sugar. I think they’d be well-received either way.

I sprinkled confectioner’s sugar over each, anyway…just a little bit to add a contrasting lightness to the rich dark, as well as another note of sweetness.

I remembered enjoying bouchons from the bakery, but I was extremely impressed with the homemade version…a famous bakery sweet come to life in my own kitchen. If you think these are just another way to a brownie, think again. Think  all the deep chocolate of the best brownie or cake, but somehow lighter, despite and because of all that butter, which lends its own lilt of moist (almost juicy) texture and flavor, taking this well beyond any brownie, bar, cookie, cake or pastry you have ever had. 

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