Monthly Archives: October 2012

Thomas Keller – Bouchon Bakery

I have to admit that initially I was tickled pink when a blog comment from Thomas Keller appeared in my email. But after it was quickly followed by one from Katniss Everdeen I knew that it was only spam.

Needless to say I went from cloud nine visions of having finally ‘made’ it in the food-writing world to the reality of needing to get a better spam filter. Those crafty spammer folks knew just what to do in order to get my heart pumping.

Thomas Keller.

Most people associate Keller’s name with his famed list of restaurants that include The French Laundry, Per Se, Ad Hoc, and Bouchon. But what some of you may not realize is that he also owns five bakeries. And unlike the target audiences of his flagship restaurants, Keller’s bakeries speak the universal language of baked goods.

Keller, Thomas (cr. Deborah Jones)

Inspired by the boulangeries (bakeries) of Paris, Thomas Keller and his team launched the Bouchon Bakery in 2003 next to their Bouchon Bistro in Yountville, CA. The success of the bakery has since resulted in additional stores in Las Vegas, New York City and Beverly Hills. All of their delicacies are based on traditional French baking techniques, and include everything from lunchtime staples like quiche and salads, to simple baked goods such as cookies and muffins, to the delicate macron, traditional French Viennoiserie (croissants, milk-bread doughs, brioche), and even treats for your four legged friends (dog biscuits enriched with foie gras and chicken stock).

This past week saw the release of Keller’s much anticipated book; Bouchon Bakery. Written by Thomas Keller and his pastry chef Sebastien Rouxel, this book has the anal attention to detail that readers have come to expect (and I happen to love) from a Keller cookbook. Details are meticulously laid out and accompanied by step-by-step photography to further illustrate techniques. I love baking recipes that have been scaled down from their original professional quantities with measurements given in weight. Honestly, if you plan to bake from this book buy a scale and embrace working with grams. You will be surprised by the favourable difference this has on your results. If you don’t have access to a scale, there are volume amounts offered as an alternative, but be prepared to face quantities such as “1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon”.

One recipe from the book I’d like to share with you is for the bakery’s famed Rum Cake. It is simple in terms of ingredients and overall taste, and yet it holds a plethora of layers that keep you coming back for more. I love the pureness embraced by this recipe. It is a classic cake that similar to the little black dress in your closet will never go out of style.

The batter itself is simple, consisting solely of a whack load of butter (we’re talking Paula Deen quantities here folks!), eggs, almond flour with a tad of all-purpose thrown in the mix, and of course rum.

Unfortunately my first attempt at this cake resulted in a crumbly disaster, my own fault as I couldn’t resist the pretty red Bundt pan that would look oh so lovely in the photos. Vanity won out over function. But the second time around I made sure to slather on an obscene amount of butter in my pan prior to adding the batter. I also found it helped to let the cake cool completely before attempting to remove it from the pan.

A rum simple syrup is brushed over the cake before it is drizzled with a rum icing.

The perfect rainy day indulgence with afternoon tea.

Bouchon Bakery is available for purchase through our online store or at local bookstores. For more information on this book please visit Thomas Allen & Son.

For a copy of the recipe for Rum Cake, please click here

Food & Wine Magazine: September Cover Recipe

Written & photographed by

As part of my culinary New Year’s resolutions, I have committed to creating each month’s cover recipe from Food & Wine Magazine. Joining me along the way is my fellow blogger Aimée from Food, Je t’Aimée, and our resident wine expert Kendall Harris of Wine2Three who provides us with fantastic wine pairings for each month’s cover.

Want to join in on the fun? We’d love the company! Pick-up a copy of the latest issue of Food & Wine and get cooking. Be sure to send me an email at to let me know you made the cover recipe, and if you’re a blogger don’t forget to post a link to your post in the comments below.


Grilled Skirt Steak with Poblano-Corn Sauce & Salsa

Rating: 4 out of 5 (great flavours, quick & easy entertaining)

Initial Thoughts: Am I having deja-vu? Didn’t we just have a steak cover?! Not that anyone in my family would ever dream of complaining about steak, but so far this year’s covers have been pretty meaty. A crazy dessert. That’s what I’m holding out for…

THE TEST: This month I was once again alone in the kitchen as Aimée from Food, Je t’Aimée was busy putting the finishing touches on her new site, which I am happy to announce is now live! You can check it out here. Luckily Kendall Harris of Wine2Three was able to keep me company with yet another excellent wine pairing! Don’t forget to check out her article at the bottom of this post…her choice of Carmenere went perfectly with the buttery skirt steak.

Mouthwatering would have to be the way I’d describe the photo on this month’s cover. But it wasn’t until I read through the recipe that I realized this particular dish had been developed as part of a 3-ingredient recipe challenge. I immediately became intrigued!

Grilled fresh corn and poblano chile are the star flavours alongside the steak. Half of the vegetable mixture is pureed into a smooth sauce, while the remainder becomes a chunky salsa to spoon over top of the meat. This dish came together quickly and easily…especially with Mr. Spock manning the grill. In terms of entertainment food, this would be a perfect recipe to serve guests as the sauce/salsa can be made beforehand and the steak only needs a quick sear on the grill before dinner is on the table. Serve this up with a couple of quick sides and BAM! (Sorry – couldn’t resist channeling me some Emeril).

THE RESULTS: I must admit that I was skeptical as to how much flavour impact this dish was going to have with only three ingredients, two of which (poblanos and corn) I find to be quite mild in taste. But low and behold, this recipe turned out to be a hit at our house! The corn and pepper held a nice sweetness from the grill that was full flavoured and roasted. Combined with the buttery taste of the skirt steak, this dish was balanced, fresh and exciting. The pureed sauce combined with the chunky salsa gave everything an interesting textural difference.

Yes – I would have liked some cilantro, maybe some lime juice and red pepper flakes – but as far as a 3-ingredient challenge goes this was inspired. I will definitely be playing around with this recipe in the future.

Cover Recipe:
Grilled Skirt Steak with Poblano-Corn Sauce & Salsa 

The mission of Food & Wine Magazine is to find the most exciting places, new experiences, emerging trends and sensations in the culinary and wine industries. From travel and entertaining to luxury and design, this magazine brings an energetic and stylish take on food and wine. For more information on Food & Wine Magazine, please visit


Wine Pairing by Kendall Harris of Wine2Three

Carmenere is one of my favorite red wines for grilled meat! Carmenere is famous for being the signature grape of Chile and also famous for its cool life story. It was first grown hundreds of years ago in the famous French region of Bordeaux, and was pretty much wiped out during the late 1800’s when the Phylloxera epidemic hit Europe and destroyed most of its vineyards. Luckily, it had been exported to Chile where it was thriving but the Chileans assumed it was the Merlot grape. Until…in 1994 a French Professor of Oenology corrected everyone: this Chilean grape was not Merlot, but long lost Carmenere! So in a sense, Carmenere is a relatively NEW discovery and the pride and joy of Chile.

Carmenere is a red wine that is characterized by its deep crimson color and its aromas and flavours of red fruits and berries. It often holds a pleasing spiciness which makes it pair wonderfully with grilled meats. The best Carmenere comes from Chilean producers like Concha y Toro, who not only vinify it on its own but also blend it with other grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to make some interesting blends. This is a wine varietal to get to know, and one that can be enjoyed at some very excellent prices as well! Enjoy your taste of Chile!

Kendall Harris is a wine blogger who shares her adventures in the wine world as Wine2three on Twitter & Facebook. She has an Advanced Certificate from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET) and is passionate about sharing her wine knowledge with others. “Like” her page on Facebook for fun, informative wine posts!


COOKBOOK REVIEW Classic Artisan Baking

Review written & photographed by Helena McMurdo

Classic Artisan Baking is available for purchase through our online store or at local bookstores. For more information on this book please visit Thomas Allen & Son.  

Julian Day is the proprietor of Meg Rivers Artisan Bakery, a popular UK mail order cake company that has been shipping treats around the world for over 25 years. The company was originally started by Meg Rivers, a busy mom wanting to make cakes free from preservatives and artificial colourings. Julian ran a successful food wholesaling business in rural Warwickshire and was approached by Meg’s family after her death to take over the Meg Rivers business. Having now run the company for several years, Julian decided it was time to put together a cookbook with the original Meg Rivers recipes and bakery favourites.

At 140 pages plus index, the book is divided into sections for different types of baking with recipes for family cakes, small cakes, brownies and bars, biscuits and cookies, loaves, breads, and tarts. And what beautiful recipes! The book is filled with traditional British favourites like Caraway Seed Cake, Lemon Drizzle Cake, Bakewell Slices as well as fun treats like Traffic Light Tarts; jam filled tart shells in red, yellow and green. The tart section features tempting desserts like Rhubarb & Marscapone Tart and Tarte au Citron.

I love leafing through a cookbook and finding lots to enjoy and savour on every page. In fact, I found myself constantly ticking boxes and adding sticky notes to recipes I want to make in the future. The beautiful photography by Steve Painter very much contributes to the overall enjoyment of the book. I felt like I was peering through the windows of British country farmhouses and seeing all of these beautiful treats laid out inside.

Be prepared for a few unfamiliar items such as self-raising flour, readily available on shelves in the UK but harder to find in North America. However, you can easily search online to find recipes for blending your own self-raising flour. I also found myself envious of all the pretty and useful cake tin liners that the author seemed to employ in many of the cakes, which try as I might I could not seem to find. Instead I settled for parchment paper, which of course worked just as well (if perhaps not as prettily).

A word about pans: many of the recipes call for 6-inch or 7-inch pans (not our usual North American 8-inch standard). Being a total sucker for all things cute and small I succumbed and bought two new pans, somewhat begrudgingly at first. But any resentment soon vanished once I saw my lovely little cakes.

These small quirks might put off some readers, but I felt that the overall results of the recipes and the delicious cakes were worth all of the additional effort. I found lots of inspiration in the simplicity of the recipes.

One final small note about the overall size of the book: it’s not something I’d usually mention but at 7.5 x 9.5-inches, this book employs the smaller size that I’m seeing being used now by many cookbook publishers and I have to say I quite like this trend. It fits easily in my handbag, and doesn’t take up the whole counter when open. Yes, I am one of those people who often will be found carrying cookbooks around in my handbag! And this is exactly the kind of book I’d toss in any day of the week.


COOKBOOK REVIEW The Gluten-Free Aisan Kitchen

Cookbook review written & photographed by Andrea Savard

The Gluten-Free Asian Kitchen is available for purchase through our online store or at local bookstores. For more information on this cookbook please visit Random House of Canada


The moment I opened this attractive and well-organized book I was impressed and excited to start cooking! I have always been a huge fan of Asian cuisine. Unfortunately, since soy sauce traditionally contains wheat and is one of the main ingredients used in Asian dishes, this means I typically need to avoid the cuisine. I am always envious when I see people picking up takeout orders from their neighbourhood Chinese restaurant. Being able to eat at any restaurant without second thought is something you take for granted until suddenly you’re faced with strict dietary constraints. But thanks to Laura Russell’s The Gluten-Free Asian Kitchen: recipes for noodles, dumplings, sauces & more (published by Celestial Arts, $22.99 USD) I will now be able to enjoy all of my favorite Asian fare again.

What I love about this book is the colourful and well-photographed food, which is a refreshing change from many GF cookbooks out there (and a personal pet peeve). I like the way that Russell organizes the recipes into categories, instead of by country of origin as is the case with many Asian cookbooks. She even includes an entire chapter for desserts and Asian inspired cocktails (the Saketini, made with cucumber and lime was light and refreshing).

The ingredients listed in this book are mostly available at local grocery stores; surprisingly I had the majority of ingredients on hand already. All of the recipes appear to be very user friendly, although the dumplings looked like they would require a solid afternoon’s time commitment.

This cookbook has taught me that cooking delicious, gluten-free Asian inspired dishes is easier than I thought. It requires a few different combinations of spices and some items that might not be in your cupboard, but everything is readily available in most grocery stores. This book will be a mainstay in my kitchen. With summer officially over and temperatures starting to dip, I look forward to cooking up warming dishes such as Asian Braised Short Ribs with Star Anise, Gingery Pork Potstickers, along with the abundant number of curries listed in the book.