bouchon bakery coissants

Bouchon Bakery croissants, all photos by my iPhone

I spent the first week of March in Manhattan digging into the work of writing The Bouchon Bakery Cookbook with Thomas Keller and executive chef Sebastien Rouxel, whom Keller calls “easily one of the 10 best pastry chefs in the country.” This project is especially exciting to me because I’ve spent my whole culinary career on the savory side and in hot kitchens and my knowledge of pastry is rudimentary. It’s very exciting to be able to explore a whole knew culinary world, and to do it with someone as knowledgeable as Sebastien and his team.

Get ready for the opening of their stand alone bakery next month at Rockefeller Center—it’s frigging gorgeous, design of course by Tihany.

In addition to the interviews and discussions with I had about the book with chefs Keller and Rouxel, I was able to explore two items I’m a passionate consumer of but know very little about: the croissant, an emblem of excellence for any French baker, and a magical cookie called the macaron.  You’ll have to wait till the book is out Fall 2012 for the recipes (they’re only in first draft form as they’re scaled down to home kitchen quantities; but, chefs, happily all recipes will lead with grams and our hope is also to include bakers percentages as well).  In the meantime I wanted to share ishots from the kitchen on the second floor of the Time Warner Center, where all Bouchon croissants and macarons are begun.

Croissants are made with what’s called a laminated dough; that is, a block of butter is wrapped in a yeast dough, and through a series of rolling and folding, hundreds and hundreds of layers of dough are separated by hundreds and hundreds of layers of butter, resulting in a light puffy rich croissant (or my actual favorite, pain au chocolate—croissant dough with chocolate inside—how can you not love a food culture that encourages eating chocolate for breakfast?! #francophile!).

Macarons are basically the fanciest form of Oreo cookie imaginable. Two baked meringue discs sandwich a creamy filling.  They should have uniform glossy fantastically fragile, chewy center and sweet filling. They’re made in all kinds of flavors and are usually displayed in an array of pastel colors.  Macorons are all put elbowing out cupcakes as the trendiest sweet around, but they’re classic and so when the next trend nudges them out, they will still remain supreme.

The first step toward croissant dough, locking in the butter.

It’s been rolled or rather sent through the sheeter, then given here a double fold.

The cross section of some dough that’s been cut; you can see the layers of dough and butter beginning to multiply.

Puff dough is similar to croissant dough, but it has no yeast, relying solely on the layering for its rise.

Bouchon Bakery locks the butter for puff pastry different from croissant dough.

A completely enclosed block of butter ready to be rolled out.

This is the croissant dough after all it’s many folds have been rolled out. Pastry chef Francoise Ip fluffs the dough a little before cutting it.

She uses a special adjustable accordion cutter to create uniform rectangles for the pain au chocolate.

Francoise puts two bars of chocolate on each rectangle.

Pain au chocolate will rise and then rolled on a speed rack the fourth floor to be baked.

Francoise uses a special croissant cutter to make uniform triangles.

On to macarons! Chef Sebastien uses an Italian meringue for the croissants. Here, mixed with pistachio paste, it is finished by hand to ensure it’s got just the right texture; it must settle just so in order to result in a smooth surface.

Pastry chef Christine Morrison fills a pastry bag with batter.

She pipes them onto parchment paper over a template to create uniform discs.

Notice how the little swirls from the pastry tip are relaxing out.  But the dough can’t be to relaxed that it spreads too much. Very tricky.  Chef Sebastien says, “They can give you a heart attack.”

These chocolate macaron shells have just been baked. Notice the wrinkled bottom one. This can’t be used and are an example of the precarious nature of the macaron.

Here they are in their case at Bouchon Bakery in the Time Warner Center.

The croissant and the pain au chocolate, front left.

As an antidote to all this pastry and baking, I was in need of some meat, and my friend and app developer, Will Turnage got me out to the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn to the Meat Hook, a butcher shop inside a great store called The Brooklyn Kitchen.  The Meat Hook has gotten a lot of attention for it’s excellent meats, butchering, sausages and other charcuterie delights.

Brent Young showed us their meat room. The beef is from Lee Ranney’s Kinderhook Farm in Ghent, NY—100% Grass fed, grass finished.

Fellow butcher Ben Turley shows off a double cut lamb chop from the dorset lamb he’s with in top photo (from Meiler & Sons farm in Pine Plains, NY); look at that awesome fat!

Thanks Brent, Ben and Harry for the tour (sorry I didn’t meet Tom!) . Absolutely love your Brooklyn Kitchen and the excellent Meat Hook! Can I open a franchise in Cleveland?!

Which is where I headed the following day after a delightful meal at Traif, a short walk away.

If you liked this post on New York City, check out these other links:

    © 2011 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2011 Donna Turner-Ruhlman. All rights reserved.


36 Wonderful responses to “NYC Notes: Bouchon Bakery Cookbook Begins”

  • Laurie

    Can’t wait to go on my next trip to NY. Mouth watering post, for sure. Macarons rival Laduree, and look forward to the taste test! Nice to see you venturing into new territory.

  • Digging Dog Farm

    Good luck with the Bouchon Bakery Cookbook.

    I saw “The Meat Hook” guys on Food(ography). Looks like they have a blast there at the shop.

    • ruhlman

      No! I was buried. Also had to file the review for Modernist Cuisine for the Times. next time!

  • Carri

    Will Bouchon be open by the end of April? I’m in NYC Easter weekend, looking forward to some delightful baked goods that are not my own!

  • Kevin

    Michael, Next time you’re in Portland, check out Ken’s Bakery on NW 21st – best pain au chocolate for hundreds of miles – valrona!

  • Carolyn Z

    MR, you fixed the RSS feed. The blog entry appeared in my reader. Thanks!

  • JoP in Omaha

    This will be another awesome book. I’ll be making the macarons,for sure. I totally love meringue that crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside. A delight. I bet the book will help me turn out that texture more consistently.

  • Victoria

    Well, I followed the recipe Luisa posted a short time ago, and I made bagels this morning before work. I mean real bagels; the best I ever had. And I can get to H & H in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.

    I guess if I can learn to make bagels, I can learn to make croissants and macarons.

    I love the ham sandwiches on baguette at the Time Warner Bouchon. They are the closest sandwiches to Le Deux Magots I’ve had in the States.

  • Donna

    Hey—just want to say “good job” documenting with your iPhone—I like your photos because they’re so informative.

  • Eric F. Van de Veldee

    Looking forward to the baking book. Just got into macaroons myself. Piping is tough!

    Thanks for going metric and weight-based!

  • John K.

    Michael — Please, please do talk them into letting you open a Meat Hook franchise in Cleveland! We so could use something like that (if there is something similar, please let me know). I’ve been reading a blog from a fellow in Chicago who has written about a new place there called Butcher & Larder. It’s made me think the same…how I wish we had something similar here!

  • Steve

    Michael, after my wife and I have done so much more baking nowadays since we purchased “Ratio,” my hope is that the Bouchon Bakery Cookbook will give weighted measurments, unlike it’s Bouchon Cookbook counterpart that gave most if not all measurements in volume. Can’t wait for the book

  • Kimber

    Nice picto-blog post, a sweet journey that take us into a place of distinct bakery creations as I experienced at Bouchon in Yountville Napa in October. They take it seriously and it shows and tastes in what they create. Nice that bakery has gone beyond Hostess, yet I still crave HoHos on occasion. Who knew Macaroons could be so good. I had Paulette’s out in LA. I look forward to the book. (Also, there are still a few decent meat shops in Clevelands ethnic areas)

  • Andrea

    My office is two blocks from Time Warner, and Bouchon is my favorite lunch spot. Please please please include the grilled cheese and tomato soup in your book!

  • Beth

    For anyone in Cleveland, you have to try the very excellent croissants at Blackbird Bakery in Lakewood. The best – crunchy layers of buttery goodness.

  • Irvin

    I think there should be a deluxe edition of the cookbook that comes with a brick of that butter, the triangle croissant cutting tool and accordion cutter. But I’m super excited for the book even if you don’t offer that edition. Thank you for including grams and baker’s ratios! I’ve been using them more and more lately.

  • tasteofbeirut

    I am just amazed at how America takes a hold of a foreign specialty and just flies with it; I used to wait to stop by Paris to go to Ladurée and Gérard Mulot for the macarons, resigned to the fact that they would never be found in the US; and here they are, all over American blogs and now bakeries…

  • NYCook

    While not 100% unfamiliar with Baking and Pastry, as Ruhlman said spending most of my career on the savory side of things, I certainly wouldn’t call myself comfortable. Bread, custards, souffles, cheesecake, cookies, basic chocolate work,what I call Cook’s desserts, yeah I can bang those out no problem, but I lack the feel and level of comfort that comes from constant repetition. I’ve also found it heard to find reliable pastry recipes, which is what I love so much about Chef Keller’s books. They are straight forward, easy to follow, and I have NEVER messed one up. The baking and pastry portions of both Ad Hoc and Bouchon are phenomenal and while l don’t think I’d be piping out macaroons at home any time soon, I hope my pantry guy is reading this post.

  • Duncan | Syrup & Tang

    I would hope that none of those chocolate macaron shells in the photo were used for sale, as they are clearly subpar — poor feet and thin wrinkly shells, most likely overmixed.

  • lucy

    your “whole culinary career” pfft!
    also a whole “knew culinary world”!!

  • Craig

    Great post. I was hoping they would develop the Bouchon Bakery cook book. Nice to see the pics – I always wondered how they rolled the chocolate in the pain au chocolate. Very cool!

  • Lamar

    Glad they’re putting a cookbook out. Theirs is the best Macaron I’ve had. The overall level of technique in everything they do is top-notch.

    If anyone wants a great croissant, also check out Maison Kayser in Paris or Tokyo…they are impossibly flakey, and buttery delicious.

  • E. Nassar

    Another Keller Ruhlman collaboration! I am in for sure.

    “Chef Sebastien uses an Italian meringue for the croissants”?!? you meant macaron of course.

  • Susan

    Many times I have lamented the small number of bread and pastry recipes in the other Keller cookbooks and wistfully thought of how great a Bouchon *Bakery* cookbook could be.

    Congratulations on this most recent collaboration! I will pre-order my copy as soon as the option is available.

  • Walt

    Can’t wait for the cookbook!!! I’m glad you got out to Brooklyn Kitchen. What a great place! On my last trip to NYC, my goal was to find a nice heavy clever. Brooklyn Kitchen came through with flying colors. We spent the rest of our afternoon wandering Williamsburg, munching on charcuterie from their meat counter! What a great memory.

  • Hema

    Bouchon Bakery is so friggin delicious, I’d eat there everyday if I lived in NYC. I’m waiting for Mr. Keller to open one in Cleveland….

  • Theresa

    I’m lucky enough to work two blocks away from Rockefeller Center. You know where I’ll be often for treats.

  • Carolyn Z

    MR, will you need a home cook/baker to test out recipes? I would be happy to help out. I used to be a scratch baker in a previous life. And I’ve been a recipe tester for Relish magazine for about the last year and a half. Please let me know either way. Thanks!

  • Monique

    Thanks for the inside look at Bouchon Bakery. It’s one of my favorite bakeries in New York and I’m happy to hear there will be a new location near my office. Excited for the cookbook, too!

  • Nancy

    You had me at pain au chocolat. But what of the wrinkled macaron shells, man? Are they to suffer the indignity of rotting in some steaming landfill alongside decades of poopy diapers and McNuggets? Or can I have them?

  • Veron

    Ah, le macaron, how thee torture me. Yes, they are very finicky, you almost have to baby some batches when the weather changes. Anyway, looking forward to this collaboration!


  1.  Photos from Bouchon Bakery | Simply Cooking
  2.  Bouchon Bakery Cookbook Sneak Peak | Michael Ruhlman