Yup, just straight down the street from The French Laundry. Bouchon appeared first, and then the bakery, on the same lot, seperated by a casual outdoor cafe already dotted with couples enjoying their coffee in the warm morning sun. I could spend time here, later. Pull the door open! (The Martha Stewart green paint on the outside did surprise me. I expected it to be the colour of bread: oak. But, the colour, with the awnings, and the patio was so right.)
A feast for the eyes! And, there is nothing like the smell of freshly baked bread. Good morning! I fluttered around like a butterfly in a flower garden. “Oh, my gosh! Oh, my gosh! Look at this! Look at that!” And then started clicking my camera. I could not take enough photos. It was not a large room, but it was so quaint, somehow. Did you see the chocolate mousse with the chocolate mouse on top? The humour was great fun! The artisan breads were gorgeous. I could see immediately that when I make my bread (the one shaped like a head of wheat below) that I cut the ears too close together. I have made it since coming home, and they look almost like these. The only difference is the difference a professional oven makes. And, a professional oven does make a big difference when it comes to baking French or Italian crusty breads. I knew by now to ask for a tour of the kitchen. I didn’t plan to ask. The desire just flowed through me and the question, out of my mouth. The fellow tolerating my antics and pleasure was so sweet. He was surprised, but did ask, and then, I was in! (Apparently the requests to visit the bakery kitchen are few and far between.)
“Hello! You are so lucky to be working in such a wonderful bakery! Thank you for letting me take a peek!” I got a big grin and then had a very brief sharing of a word or two about the lemon tart she was building. There were huge trays of yummies everywhere. Clearly,Â the pot de crÃ¨me were for Bouchon. I love them. So luscious.
And then over to the other side where the bread is being shaped by this gal. This time, I had a little chat with her about breads. I told her I make my own, and love bread making. She then told me that the one she was shaping was her own creation, and this was the first time she had made it. They needed to proof, and wouldn’t be ready for a bit, so I couldn’t sample. But, what a healthy environment to work in. To be inspired to create your own bread, and then to be encouraged to do it. I was impressed. She was definitely an interesting gal, and as she was so busy, I was mainly speaking with her as she had her head down, though I had seen her look up and laugh, or smile a few times throughout our brief interchange, and really wanted to catch that image on my camera. So, I said, as I was heading out, “Come on, give me a little smile!” See he hilarious pasted-on grin? I really wanted to roll up my sleeves and just play in this kitchen the rest of the day. I mean, I would have taken orders, and worked hard. But would have learned so much. The experience would have been just such a dream. And, though they were very busy, there was a lot of room and I don’t think I would have been in the way. I am certain, I would have been a significant help. I do have my Food Safety training, but, I guess there are other considerations. Are there?
I walked by a tray of buns (what is the correct word for these?) that had been slashed and were proofing. Immediately I recognized them as one ofÂ the intricately beautiful breads offered to us the evening before at The French Laundry. Honestly, until I saw them proofing, I hadn’t realized how the design was created on the crust of the bread. Not as simple as it looks, either, as the depth would also have to be uniform.
Oooo. He looked important. I thanked him for letting me have my little tour, and then asked if I could take a photograph of him. His reply, (after a little sideways glance looking for an escape route), “Only if you participate.” If I must. I really prefer to take the photo. But, here we are, Matt McDonald, the certified master baker overseeing the Bouchon Bakery in Yountville, and me. “Cheese!”
Double cheese, and my sweet clerk grinned for me. I am glad he did, as he was such a warm host.
Yes, I am buying a bag of goodies to take home. He is getting me my mouse mousse!
And, with my coffee (that was so hot, I never ended up being able to drink it) I purchased a scone that was recommended. I ate it the following day, and it truly was exceptional. I think there must have been a flavouring used that I may have read is used in some breads. It had a flavour that was really delicious, but did not come from any of the ingredients. Though, the glaze, and every bite as superb! I didn’t expect that. I expected a scone. A plain old tasty scone. This really was an elevated version of that. I could not reproduce this. Yet, the signature chocolate bite I did buy and taste almost had me dancing. It was tasty, but if this is the signature bite, then I am a really good baker! I could easily make one much better at home. The almond bite was pretty, and tasty, but I could do better with that, too. What did I learn? I am better than I thought at making some things. However, come to think of it, almost anyone who bakes can make anything sweet better at home than the bakery can make it. I really think so. But not the bread. My homemade bread is really nice, but I cannot get the crust like a commercial oven can. I cannot get the heat a commercial oven can.
So, it isn’t even close to noon yet, and I have traipsed through the French Laundry Garden, had a tour through the Bouchon Bakery, and sat in the morning sun, enjoying my treats, my steaming hot coffee, my husband, and the comical little black crows fluttering about the courtyard, pecking at the crumbs left of the ground. Off to Sonoma, Sausalito,Â and back to Lauren’s home in Palo Alto. Still most of the day to come, and my level of satisfaction is already completely saturated. A great beginning of a great day!