Validating my cookbook collection, one damn recipe at at a time

20: Apple Turnovers — Bouchon Bakery

20: Apple Turnovers — Bouchon Bakery

For my 20th official recipe in this project, I decided to go big. Pastry. PASTRY, BITCHES.

Before I get too cocky, I must confess that this is a step back from what I initially intended to make, but it was a wise and calculated step.

I’d never made a laminated dough before. When you’re talking pastry, lamination has nothing to do with making something glossy and waterproof and everything to do with butter. It’s the process of folding cold butter into dough, thereby creating a crapload of super thin layers of dough with butter between them, so that as the dough bakes, it cooks into tender, flaky, and goddamn beautiful buttery layers. It’s a whole process, it requires a lot of time and chilling between steps, and is something I’ve been wanting to try for a while.

And then there’s croissant dough. Croissant dough is also laminated, but goes a step further in that the dough is also yeasted. So there’s rising required in addition to the lamination. Translation: SO MUCH CAN GO WRONG.

I’d been wanting to take on the croissant recipe in this book for ages. But after a good amount of research on this particular croissant recipe — word on the internet: it’s fucking tricky — that little voice of reason in the back of my head muscled her way to the front, grabbed the mic, and screamed, “You don’t need to do this! You don’t need to take on one of the hardest recipes in a very difficult cookbook, attempting a technique that you’ve never tried before alongside another technique that has gone sideways for you with some frequency!” (I have a bad track record with yeasted dough.)

There’s trying to run before you can walk, and then there’s trying to make Thomas Keller’s croissant recipe before you can make a simple puff pastry.

Fine. Puff pastry it is.

The Assignment: Apple Turnovers (Chaussons aux Pommes) from Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel

Thomas Keller is a damn legend. He’s a baller chef and restaurateur who’s won multiple James Beard awards. This book even FEELS intimidating — it’s huge and heavy and meticulous in its detail. The first line of his bio on his website is “Thomas Keller is renowned for his culinary skills and his exceptionally high standards.”

Hmmm, I wonder why I always let myself be scared off from attempting any of these recipes.

But it’s also totally inspiring. The technique detailed in these recipes is more than merely directional, it’s educational. The recipes feel more like assignments than fun little projects, in the best possible way. This book is intense AF, but if you put in the work and the focus, you can learn something.

The Recipe (directly from the book, which you should buy if you are hard core about baking):

“Dana, where’s the puff pastry recipe?” Folks, if I put in the puff pastry recipe, this blog would be stupid long. It takes up an extra two solid pages of double-column text with no pictures, in a small font. And there is no way on earth any of you would ever want to try to cook from a picture of that recipe because your eyes would cross, and you’d start to cry, and you’d blame it on me, and I’d be like, “I TOLD YOU!” But I found it for you somewhere else, in a much easier-to-handle format. Use this.

Things to Note About this Recipe:

  • This recipe makes WAY MORE DOUGH and WAY MORE FILLING than 6 measly turnovers. I got a bakers-dozen rounds cut out, and still had a good amount of scrap dough left after, which I carefully re-rolled and chilled. I made a few extra pastries with other experimental fillings, but then decided I didn’t need to be eating pastries for the next 2 weeks, so I saved the final piece of the dough, from which I can probably cut 6 square portions. Assume you’ll be able to make about 18 apple turnovers from this amount of pastry and filling when you use a 4-inch round cutter.
  • Making puff pastry from scratch is hard work. It requires precision, a lot of time, physical labor, and keeping that butter cold. That said, it’s totally worth it if you have the time. If you don’t, frozen puff pastry sheets are bomb. Make the apple filling and shortcut the puff pastry dough to make the easier version of these turnovers.
  • I LOVE the size of turnovers this recipe produces! They’re not oversized like so many American pastries, and I fucking love them. Does their restrained size also make it way too easy to justify having “just one more.” It absolutely does, so consider yourself warned.
  • I had doubts about that filling, man! It’s so simple, borderline plain! It took all my restraint not to add spices and other fun stuff to it, but I held off. (Except for salt. I definitely added a good pinch of salt because it was hella sweet and it needed it, and I regret nothing.) But do not fear — the flavor concentrates down and the sweet apple flavor is just gorgeous alongside the pastry.
  • When you’re folding the pastry, don’t add too much egg wash when you go to seal ’em up. Then the edges just kinda slide around and are impossible to pinch together.
  • After you fold and chill them, give the seams another good pinch before the final egg wash, focusing on really closing the corners.
  • The egg wash is just whisked egg, no water needed.
  • When you’re scoring vents in the tops of the pastries, less is more. There are no pictures of the finished turnovers in the book, so I went online to look up WTF the leaf pattern looked like. I found a few examples and gave it a go. After seeing how those turned out, I experimented with some more and less fancy cutting. Simple slashes totally suffice with fresh puff pastry like this; too elaborate, and you really can’t tell what you’re even looking at once baked.
  • Great British Bake Off is educational programming and here’s why: When my first batch came out of the oven, I could see that a lot of butter had cooked out. I recalled contestants having been chastised for this, despite the pastries looking mostly fine, the giveaway being the greasy and slightly-fried looking bottom. Hmmm. A bit of research showed me that was a sign my oven was too cool, which I’d often suspected. After upping the heat on the next couple batches, the final round came out with hardly any leaked butter in the pan. I LEARNED, MARY BERRY, I LEARNED!

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THE VERDICT

How did they taste?
Like fucking magic. I brought some to the office. One coworker said they could be sold in a French bakery; another called them perfect. I CANNOT BELIEVE HOW WELL THEY TURNED OUT. I was mentally preparing myself, all the way up until I opened the oven after 40 minutes of baking, for them to be a flop. They are better than I ever imagined they would be.

Would I make them again?
Hell yes, but I would probably not make them all at once unless it was for a special occasion. I would likely split up the dough and freeze half then bake up the rest.

Do I recommend this book?
If you want a book that feels like taking a desserts class, YES. If you want to be challenged to make immaculate versions of classic sweets in addition to DIY twists on favorite cookies, YES. If this whole post has you shook, NO.

What’s the next recipe I want to make from this book?
I’m going for the cookies next, methinks. Likely the TKOs (a.k.a. Thomas Keller Oreos, his version of the chocolate sandwich cookies), maybe the sentimental pecan sandies at the front of the book for his mom, maybe the macarons. But one of these days, I’m coming back for those croissants.

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I’m impossibly impressed that I pulled off this damn recipe. And if you’re reading this going, “UGH, I could never, I’m such a bad baker,” please know that I used to be a bad baker too. And that you can always turn it around if you want to.



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