Bouchon Bakery

Editor’s note: It takes a village to produce a Thomas Keller cookbook. There’s Thomas, his bakery chefs, a gaggle of cookbook writers and one stellar photographer. Linda Avery reviews the latest book, Bouchon Bakery, and takes a gluten-free brioche recipe for a spin.

Bouchon Bakery
by Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel
photos by Deborah Jones

Facts: Artisan, 400 pages, $50.00 (or Amazon $24.99)
Photos: 313 give or take (including a shot of Keller, the six-year-old Jersey heifer and butter source)
Recipes: 150

Every foodie knows the name Thomas Keller, but Sebastien Rouxel isn’t as familiar. Rouxel was hired by Keller in 1998 as head pastry chef at The French Laundry in Yountville, CA, and now leads five Bouchon Bakeries around the country.

It is apparent that the two have tremendous respect for each other. The collaborative effort put forth to produce this sophisticated cookbook is based on respect, friendship, and 14 years of working together.

The first 29 pages are devoted to their journeys to present day; Susie Keller and Amy Vogler weigh in (no pun intended) with a discussion of weighing verses measuring, equipment and favorite recipes.

Of the nine chapters of recipes that follow, bread – breads so beautiful that you can almost smell them – is king.

Keller announces “Bread is the reason Bouchon Bakery exists.”

The bread chapter (80 pages) includes fundamentals: bread dough shapes, a timeline grid addressing different bread requirements (so the baker can take advantage of down time to do other things.)

The quest for perfection is apparent throughout the book. Other chapters are devoted to cookies, cakes, scones, tarts, brioche, puff pastry and croissants, pâte a choux and confections. The cookies chapter even includes a recipe for dog treats.

Photos abound and are educational. Deborah Jones‘ photos are (this may be the first time I’ve said this) beyond perfection. They give the baker something to strive for. They are not just the end product images but technique photos and how-to photos. You will want to run out and buy a lattice bicycle cutter so that fruit can be seen through the open tops of your puff pastry.

This is not a book for the faint of heart. Most of the recipes include sub-recipes and are geared toward the experienced baker and the professional. In spite of the complexity of the recipes, anyone interested in baking will learn and appreciate the in-depth information.

Having said that, I’ll add that there is a recipe for the (with all due respect) ubiquitous blueberry muffin. However, this is the first time I’ve seen it noted “to rest the batter overnight or for up to 36 hours…” proving there’s always room for improvement.

We all have our favorite blueberry muffin recipe to which we can apply the new knowledge of a suggested resting period, but I don’t know anyone who can claim a fabulous Gluten-Free Brioche Roll recipe. This photo makes my mouth water. What a fabulous addition to any holiday dinner – be sure to mention that this is a recipe Thomas Keller uses!

Gluten-Free Brioche Rolls

(photo © by Deborah Jones)

Makes 12 rolls

In 2007, a young chef, Lena Kwak, did an internship at The French Laundry, and we asked her to stay. She was interested in nutrition, and as we found ourselves increasingly responding to diners who had specific dietary requests and restrictions, we often looked to Lena (pronounced “Lenna”) to test new recipes.

One of the most common requests we get is for gluten-free breads, cakes, cookies, pasta, and other preparations. And gluten intolerance is a condition we take seriously.

Every meal at The French Laundry begins with a cornet, a savory cone-shaped tuile filled with crème fraîche and salmon tartare. So Corey Lee, chef de cuisine at the time, asked Lena to develop a gluten-free tuile. And she moved on to other gluten-free products. Lena didn’t realize how important her work was until a diner came back to the kitchen, not to thank the chef, but to see her.

“She wanted to thank me for the brioche,” Lena recalls. “She started crying. She hadn’t been able to eat bread in seven years. People don’t realize how special the simplest pleasures are until they can’t have them.”

Lena had worked hard to create an all-purpose mixture, based on different rice flours, potato flours, and cornstarch, that she could use in any gluten-free baked good, one that could be substituted cup for cup, gram for gram, for wheat flour.

It was so good that Corey suggested she talk to me about developing a product we could market. It was 2010, and I was already making a number of products for Williams-Sonoma, but this one was potentially the most special of all. And that’s how Cup4Cup was born. It’s something we’re very proud of, as we are of these gluten-free brioche rolls. These are not just “pretty good for gluten-free,” they are fantastic brioche rolls, period.

2 teaspoons (7 grams) instant yeast
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons (20 grams) granulated sugar
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons + 1 3/4 teaspoons (230 grams) warm water, at 75°F/23.8°C
3 3/4 cups + 1 tablespoon (535 grams) Cup4Cup (available at Williams-Sonoma)
2 tablespoons + 3/4 teaspoon (20 grams) kosher salt
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons (158 grams) eggs
1 1/2 tablespoons (22 grams) egg yolks
1/4 cup (80 grams) honey
3.5 ounces (100 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 egg for the egg wash
1 teaspoon (6 grams) Maldon salt for sprinkling

You will need a 12-cup muffin pan.

1. Combine the yeast and sugar in a small bowl. Stir in the warm water, and set in a warm spot to proof for 10 minutes or until the yeast mixture is foaming and bubbly.

2. Meanwhile, combine the Cup4Cup and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Whisk together the eggs, yolks, honey, butter, and proofed yeast mixture in a medium bowl.

3. Turn the mixer to low speed and slowly add the egg mixture. Increase the speed to medium and mix the dough for 10 minutes. It will be very silky and not as stiff as regular bread dough.

4. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set the bowl in a warm spot until the dough has about doubled in size, about 1 hour.

5. Using a rubber spatula, deflate the dough, turning it over a few times in the bowl. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 2 hours.

6. Make the egg wash by breaking 1 or more eggs, as needed, into a small bowl and whip with a fork or small whisk to combine the white(s) and yolk(s) well. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer before using.

7. Spray the muffin pan with nonstick spray. Spoon 1/3 cup (75 grams) of the dough into each cup. Brush the tops of the rolls with egg wash, sprinkle with the Maldon salt, and set in a warm spot to proof uncovered for about 40 minutes until they rise (but are not doubled) and spread slightly.

8. Preheat the oven to 350°F (standard). Bake the rolls for 15 to 17 minutes, until the tops are a golden brown and a wooden skewer inserted in the center of a roll comes out clean.

9. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

19 replies
  1. Linda Avery
    Linda Avery says:

    Hi Emily,
    I raced for the cookbook when I saw your post. No typo here. You may want to find Chef Rouxel and pose the question. Happy Holidays! Linda

  2. Gwen Ashley Walters
    Gwen Ashley Walters says:

    Alexis, I hate to step in here, but I will because your logic doesn’t make any sense.

    If 20 grams of salt and sugar actually measured out to be the same in teaspoons, then there would be no need to duplicate measurements in grams and teaspoons/tablespoons, right?

    Granulated sugar and kosher salt are totally different in terms of crystal size and density, therefore 20 grams of each = 20 grams, but converting each to teaspoons (or tablespoons + teaspoons) will NOT result in equal measurements.

    Emily, my Diamond Crystal salt weighs 5 grams, not 6, but to Alexis’s point, I did weigh 20 grams of my salt and 20 grams of my sugar, and they both came within reasonable margins of the measurements in this recipe.

    That said, I’ve asked Linda to contact the publisher for a final ruling. In the meantime… if you both do not have scales, I suggest you buy them.

    I measured out 20 grams of my Diamond Crystal kosher salt, and 20 grams did indeed = 2 tablespoons + 3/4 teaspoon. Too salty? I guess that’s a matter of taste.

    I measured out 20 grams of granulated sugar (my current sugar jar has an off-brand from Mexico), and I got 1 tablespoon plus 2 and 3/4 teaspoon (the recipe says 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons.

    So, I think the recipe as published is probably correct. If it’s too salty for you, then, it’s too salty for you. Nothing wrong with that.

  3. Alexis
    Alexis says:

    Thanks Gwen for checking the weights. I realized the weight issue after I posted and had thought about it for a while. My husband compared the brioche to a heavily salted pretzel. I was hoping for a sweet bread, hence the disappointment. Even compared to a pretzel, it was still extremely salty when I tasted it leftover yesterday.

    • Gwen Ashley Walters
      Gwen Ashley Walters says:

      Alexis, thanks for commenting because it’s good for other readers to know this isn’t a traditional sweet brioche dough. I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts.

  4. Emily
    Emily says:

    I feel like having both a volume measurement and a mass is misleading. I used the volume measurement because isn’t one of the selling points of cup4cup the fact that you CAN use a direct volume substitution for your traditional recipe? I have scales but it was easier to just measure it as a volume.
    When I made this I followed it to the letter despite my better judgement saying as I added the salt that it seemed too much. My family found them inedible because of the salt. I think that a comparison to a salty pretzel is generous, I would compare them to play dough. Sure, you can eat them, but why would you?

    • Gwen Ashley Walters
      Gwen Ashley Walters says:

      Hi Emily, I don’t think providing both volume and weight measurements is misleading at all. I do know, as a chef, that weight measurements are far more accurate than volume. I see it as the author is providing the volume measurements as a courtesy to home cooks who do not have scales. That said, I don’t know 100% if this recipe is correct as they intended and we are trying to get in touch with them to find out.

  5. Emily
    Emily says:

    I think that is is misleading when they are not equivalent.

    If I had used the weight then I probably would have had a delicious treat, but using the volume I did not. 🙁 That is all I meant. It’s only a courtesy if it is correct and the result is the same.

    I would use this recipe again but I will reduce the salt significantly. Now I just need to find all that time!

  6. suze
    suze says:

    then how much salt should i use then for this recipe? i can’t tolerate too much salt coz i have high blood pressure. pls. help. i missed brioche so much and haven’t eaten it in ages.

    • Gwen Ashley Walters
      Gwen Ashley Walters says:

      Suze, if you have high blood pressure, you might want to skip this recipe. It is high in salt (which I love) but if you are not accustom to any salt, you will find it too salty. If you do decided to make the recipe, you can start by cutting the salt in half, but I have not tested that, so I cannot say it will work or not.

  7. Gwen Ashley Walters
    Gwen Ashley Walters says:

    Alexis and Emily…. I finally bought the Cup 4 Cup and tested this recipe today. My verdict? It’s delicious. Is it salty? Not to me, but I love salt. I can definitely taste the salt and I wouldn’t want any more. In fact, I used unsalted butter to slather on them.

    I am eager to retest this using wheat flour. I’ve never baked with gluten-free products before. I generally don’t like gluten-free baked goods, either, but I did eat two of these rolls as soon as they came out of the oven, and I would have eaten a third had I not remembered I have dinner reservations tonight.

    If you found it way too salty, then cut the salt in half. But I can’t guarantee you’ll get the same results. If you want to see a picture of my rolls, go to my twitter stream @chefgwen and you’ll see I tweeted it out at 5:22 pm today.

  8. Yvonne
    Yvonne says:

    After reading your reviews, I have to say that my brioche wasn’t salty except for the top. I weighed everything that could be weighed including the eggs. The bread was just perfect other than the crown. Next time I’ll leave off the Maldon salt. It’s pretty, but too salty for me. I just cut off the very top and ate it without the finishing salt.

  9. Laura
    Laura says:

    I tried this recipe not knowing what to expect after reading the reviews. I have to say that myself and my family were very impressed with these rolls. The texture was the first thing that impressed us when we broke the roll open to butter it. The mouth feel was just as impressive and then the taste topped it all off! I do not think the salt was overwhelming. I did use weight and not volume. I will definitely be recommending this recipe to my GF family members!

    • Gwen Ashley Walters
      Gwen Ashley Walters says:

      Thanks for commenting. I’m not GF, and so was intrigued and I was impressed. It is salty, but I love salt.


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