Sunday, March 28, 2010

You know it's Spring when Pastel-Colored M&Ms are in stores!

The weather in Mountain View has been incredible the past couple of weeks - sunny and warm! The flowers are blooming and the birds are chirping. But you know it's really Spring when pastel colored M&Ms make their way into stores.

To commemorate the beginning of Spring I decided to make some M&M cookies. These were a fun treat my mom used to make when we were kids. I think the pastel colors are just beautiful. And did you notice that these Spring M&Ms also have bunnies, lambs, and chicks? I don't think they taste any different, but they sure are cute!

Cookies pre-bake time.

I looked online for a good recipe, and ended up using one from the Joy of Cooking. I ended up tweaking the recipe, because I ran out of all-purpose flour. I subbed 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour to make up the 2 cups of flour. I also used baking powder instead of baking soda. As a result of these substitutions I ended up with a puffier, "cakier" cookie. They had more of a wholesome flavor due to the wheat.

The trick to making these cookies visually appealing is to push the M&Ms into the dough after you have formed them into balls and smashed them down into discs. This way you can show off the cute lil' chicks and lambs. I let AJ decorate a couple. He said, "This is how a man makes a cookie." That crazy kid.

"Man" cookies.

I like the lambs with "Ms" for eyes.

I am not sure I would add whole wheat flour to the next batch of M&M cookies I make, but they were tasty. I think the whole wheat version could do well with the addition of some spices and maybe a brown butter glaze. Something to try next time.

Enjoy! Happy Easter!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Bouchon Bakery - Yountville, CA

Nothing says "Happy Valentine's Day" like a heart shaped TKO and a macaroon.

AJ (and our friend Kelly) planned a lovely Valentine's Day weekend in Sonoma wine country. AJ and I spent the weekend with two other couples, sipping on wine and eating some lovely meals together. Kelly did an amazing job of planning our wine tours and dinners, so I got to sit back and enjoy the ride. However, I did have one request - a stop at Bouchon Bakery on our drive up.

Bouchon Bakery is the brainchild of Thomas Keller - the reknowned chef of the French Laundry and Bouchon Bistro. Bouchon Bakery was originally built to provide the fresh baked bread for Bouchon Bistro in Yountville. Chef Keller's wonderful pastries find inspiration from the exquisite bakeries of France. After experiencing great success with the original Bouchon Bakery in Yountville he opened up two more bakeries - in Las Vegas and New York City.

Treats galore.

We arrived in Yountville just around noon and found a line had already crept outside of the small bakery. As we stepped inside the sweet smells of fresh bread and sweet dough hit our noses. The plethora of treats that lined the glass cases was almost overwhelming. The bakery sells a couple of sandwiches, savory quiches, and some salads in addition to their sweets. I knew that I wanted to try a macaron and their namesake bouchons, but wasn't sure if that was sugar overkill.

Lucky for me, my friend David ended up buying a bag of bouchons to share (score!) I ended up ordering a turkey, brie, and cranberry sandwich on fresh bread and a pistachio macaron. AJ went with the mushroom and cheese sandwich and Thomas Keller Oreo (TKO).

Fresh baked bread - my weakness.

Joe Cool.

It was a beautiful day in Yountville and we were fortunate enough to snag a table in the sun. The bouchon was too enticing to wait to consume. Dessert before lunch? Don't mind if I do! The bouchons are named for their cork-like shape. They were almost the perfect brownie - moist, chocolatey, and a mix between fudgy and cakey. I stopped myself from filling up on brownies alone and moved on to my sandwich.

Turkey, brie, cranberry sandwich.

The bread on these sandwiches was freshly baked - nicely warm, with a slight crunch on the outside, and soft on the inside. The gooey cheese paired wonderfully with the slightly sweet, tart cranberry sauce, and the tender turkey. I only ate half to save room for my macaron.

Pistachio macaron.

The french macaron is quite different from its cousin - the coconut macaroon. The macaron is a meringue-based cookie consisting of egg whites, almond flour and confectioner's sugar. My pistachio macaron was a beautiful pastel green, but the pistachio flavor itself was much more subtle. The cookie was light and crisp, with a chewy interior. The creamy pistachio filling was delightful. AJ's TKO was delicious as well, especially if you are an Oreo fan. But if it were up to me, I would take a whole box of macarons to go!

All smiles at Bouchon Bakery.

Bouchon Bakery was the perfect place to start off our Valentine's Day weekend in Sonoma. This cozy bakery transported me to a French village. I certainly plan on coming back again soon!