I’m standing in my kitchen. I have about six square feet of floor space, a counter and sink on one side, the fridge on the other, and the oven at the end. Across the counter are scattered a cookbook that is big enough to be a coffee table art piece, a stand mixer, two large bowls, miscellaneous spices, my camera, a rolling pin, a kitchen scale, a whisk and a spatula. The oven holds four saucepans of varying sizes, two sieves, four large spoons and one small one, and a bowl of egg yolks.
I am completely out of my depth.
The cookbook, Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller, is inspiringly beautiful. It’s also meant for a French pastry chef who has a kitchen the size of my entire apartment, unlimited freezer space, and four days to prepare one recipe. It’s not meant for an until-recently-vegan who has no idea what the difference is between silver-leaf gelatin and regular gelatin, whose kitchen scale rounds to whole grams, and who isn’t even entirely sure what a tart pan is.
I’m making spiced caramel chiboust with hazelnut streusel and peaches. I don’t know what chiboust is. I can’t pronounce it. And I’m about to pull out the kitchen blowtorch (with about a tablespoon of sugar still left in a glass bowl – I must have missed a step somewhere in the caramel-whisking madness).
Luckily – miraculously – the chiboust turned out. It doesn’t look exactly like the one in the book, but it doesn’t look too bad either. I decided to forego the blowtorch (installing the can of butane was a nonstarter) but the hazelnut streusel crust is buttery and crunchy, and the chiboust is light and perfectly spiced. My peaches weren’t ripe yet, but you can never go wrong with raspberries from the backyard. I’m actually impressed with my culinary prowess.
More importantly, everyone else who tried it was also impressed.
Yes, I need external validation. If you do too, buy this book and try something out of your comfort zone. It will make you feel like a real Parisian pastry chef, if a slightly frazzled one.