In anticipation of the various gatherings that occur around this time of year, we've pulled together five of our favorite cookbooks from recent months. Each day this week, CH will feature a different cookbook and a recipe, the sum of which will make up a complete holiday meal. Our final recipe: a sweet finish from "Bouchon Bakery."
From the boulangerie-style outpost in star chef Thomas Keller's restaurant empire, Bouchon Bakery, comes a self-titled cookbook. Filled with the recipes the chef has become known for including such classics like Oh Ohs, his take on Hostess Ho Hos, as well as traditional recipes from Keller's extensive French background like macarons. Perfect for the season are Bouchon's pumpkin muffins—on their own, they're delicious, but with Keller's typically sophisticated fondant shell transforming them into sugary little pumpkins, they're a baked autumnal masterpiece.
Keller's French pastry training comes through in the precision and detail of the cookbook's recipes, whose measurements are all calculated in both grams and cups. As pastry novices, we were intimidated by Keller's specificity at first, but as we started the recipe, we found the detail informative and reassuring. Efforts to follow the instructions carefully will be rewarded with a beautiful batch of nicely spongy, slightly sweet muffins. The ambitious baker can go on to attempt the book's challenging but beautiful fondant variation to truly wow their guests.
Images of the book by James Thorne
1 1/4 cups + 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 + 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 pinch ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup + 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup + 3 tablespoons canola oil
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons canned pumpkin puree or fresh pumpkin puree
1/4 cup + 2 1/2 tablespoons eggs
1/2 cup + 1/2 tablespoon golden raisins
Place the flour in a medium bowl. Sift in the baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and allspice. Add the salt and whisk to combine.
Combine the sugar and oil in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and mix on low speed for about 1 minute. Add the pumpkin, increase the speed to medium-low and mix for about 1 minute, until smooth. Reduce the speed to low and add the eggs in 2 additions, mixing for about 15 seconds after each, or until just combined.
Add the dry ingredients in 2 additions, mixing on low speed for about 15 seconds after each, or until just combined.
Remove the bowl from the mixer stand and scrape the bottom of the bowl to incorporate any dry ingredients that may have settled there. Fold in the raisins, if using. Transfer the batter to a covered container and refrigerate overnight, or for up to 36 hours.
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line the muffin pan with muffin papers and spray the papers with nonstick spray. Transfer the batter to the disposable pastry bag and cut 1/2 inch of the tip from the bag; or use a large spoon. Pipe or spoon the batter into the papers, stopping 1/2 inch from the top.
Place the pan in the oven, lower the oven temperature to 325°F, and bake for 45 to48 minutes, or until the muffins are golden brown and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Set the pan on a cooling rack and cool completely.
Decorated Pumpkin Muffins
2 pounds of white rolling fondant
5 drops of yellow food coloring
8 to 15 drops orange food coloring
1 drop red food coloring
2 cups cream cheese icing
6 cinnamon sticks
Dust the work surface lightly with powdered sugar. Flatten two pounds of fondant on the surface and squeeze 5 drops of yellow food coloring, 8 drops of orange and 1 drop of red onto it. Fold the fondant over and press down on the edges to seal, then begin pulling the ends of the fondant to stretch it. Twist the fondant, then roll it into a log under your palms. Repeat the steps until the color is solid with no streaks. If you would like a different shade of orange, add another drop of yellow food coloring, up to seven more drops of orange or 1/2 drop of red. If the color becomes too dark, knead in additional fondant to lighten it.
Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight.
Dust the work surface lightly with powdered sugar. Divide the fondant into 6 portions. Roll one piece into an 8-inch round, under just 1/8 thick. Center the round of the fondant over a muffin, letting it drape over the sides. Press your fingertip gently into the center of the muffin to form an indentation for the stem.
If any fondant is overlapping at the base of the muffin, lift it to remove the overlap. Cup your hands around the muffin. Gently press the fondant against the muffin, turning the muffin to encase it in the fondant. The fondant should extend about 3/4 inch below the bottom of the muffin, but the underside of the muffin should not be covered. With your hands still cupped, apply more pressure around the bottom of the muffin and continue turning to form a pumpkin shape. Using a paring knife, trim away the fondant from the bottom of the muffin. If you have 3-inch cardboard rounds, place the muffin on a round. Use the heel of your hand to smooth the bottom of the pumpkin as needed. Using a gum paste/fondant tool, the edge of a popsicle stick, or a chopstick, press seven equidistant vertical lines around the pumpkin, working from the stem end to the center and then from the center to the base, to resemble the natural lines on a pumpkin.
Repeat with the remaining fondant and muffins. Push a cinnamon or licorice stick in the top of each muffin.The muffins can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to three days.
Recipe excerpted from Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel (Artisan Books). Copyright 2012. Photographs by Deborah Jones.
Mustard Soft Pretzels
Culled from "Salty Snacks," this recipe for mustard-filled pretzels features infused flavors in a moist bread to whet appetites before dinner is served. First boiled, then baked, the pretzels proved easy to make and features household ingredients.
Riffing on the traditional raw meat dish, "Dirt Candy" delivers a spicy recipe for broccoli and avocado carpaccio. The intelligent addition of red bird's eye chili and Thai basil dress basic veggies into a star side dish.
Based on the classic bulgur wheat salad, this tabbouli recipe from "The Lebanese Kitchen" adds the color and flavor of winter with the addition of celery root, fennel and pomegranate.
French Farmhouse Chicken
An ordinary chicken dish this is not—Chef Stéphane Reynaud's recipe for "Come In, We're Closed" features a cheese-stuffed bird on a bed of cubed potatoes for a rich, satisfying meal in a single dish.