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My daily bouchon

You guys are to be commended. It takes a very kind, optimistic crowd to greet the homely old celery root with open arms, and by gosh, you did. You’re clearly well schooled in the old saying, “You can’t judge a celery root by its cover.” You’re great.

So after all that good will and pale green soup, you deserve some dessert, don’t you think? I hope you won’t mind if it’s kind of, um, homely. You’re probably used to that by now.

Back in October, I took a weekend trip to Portland, Oregon, for work. I meant to tell you about it then, but I was knee-deep in my book proposal, and it was pretty much all I could do to keep feeding, bathing, and clothing myself, much less write something adequate to such a lovely, lovely city. I fell hard for Portland. It’s my new favorite. Oh, Portland, from your old brick train station to your free light rail, your river, your bridges, and that pair of shoes (cute and comfortable!) that leapt from your storefront into my suitcase, you got me, hook, line, and sinker. And that was before Pearl Bakery, even.

A reader of this site had told me about Pearl Bakery, but I had no idea just how bewitching it would be. Be-witch-ing. I went there three times in three days, friends. I took extra-long lunch breaks. I made it happen. I hoofed across town in high heels. I almost missed my train. I had to have my daily bouchon.

So named – en français – for their faint resemblance to a champagne cork, these little chocolate cakes could have easily kept me in Portland indefinitely, if I hadn’t had that pesky return ticket. Dense and delicate, with a fine, tight crumb, they were unusual in nearly every way – and unusually good. Tinted a deep, reddish brown from plenty of dark chocolate, they sat somewhere between brownie, scone, and day-old chocolate cake, and were studded throughout with semisweet chips. Some could call their texture a tad dry, I guess, but once on the tongue, a mouthful melted almost instantly – at which point, of course, I started pawing for more. This could have been a big problem back in Seattle, as you can imagine, had I not discovered that the recipe for bouchons was waiting on my cookbook shelf.

I’m sure I’m not the first to say it, but thank heavens for David Lebovitz. Within the folds of his Great Book of Chocolate lies the recipe for Pearl Bakery’s funny little beauties, as told to him by pastry chef Lee Posey. And, as with the book’s other recipes – I’ve tried a good handful now – this one works. I made just a few tweaks – substituting regular-size Ghirardelli chips for the mini ones indicated, mainly because I can’t find a worthy brand of the latter, and using a mini popover pan instead of a regular muffin tin – but otherwise, David, wow. Thank you.

With a shape not unlike a pert, stocky mushroom and a deliciously craggly, cracked top, these humble-looking cakelets are chocolate to the core – which is how, I think, we all should strive to be. They’re tailor-made for a chilly afternoon with a girlfriend, or boyfriend, and a good, strong cup of coffee. I can also tell you that they fit quite nicely into a Sunday evening with a couch, a DVD, a bottle of tawny port, my man, and my mother, who was in town for another installment of wedding planning. [Rehearsal dinner site: check. Rehearsal dinner menu: check. Wedding menu: check. Tables, chairs, tents rented: check. Exhausted and cold and tanked on a single glass of port: check!] I am also happy to report, thanks to an ingenious accident on the part of my mother, that bouchons are stunningly good when served with a dusting of fleur de sel. I didn’t think they could get any better, but they did. And then we all had seconds. They’re real keepers, right up there with celery root.

P.S. I hardly know what to say. For the second year in row, I am humbled to be among the winners in Wellfed.net’s 2006 Food Blog Awards. Thank you for thinking of me and my Orangette. Really. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Bouchons au chocolat
Adapted from David Lebovitz’s The Great Book of Chocolate, and Pearl Bakery

David’s method for making these lovelies calls for them to be baked in a standard-size (½-cup capacity) muffin tin. I have made them that way with very good results, but on my most recent go, I chose to try them instead in my new mini popover pan. [Big ups – man, my slang is wicked today – to my very petite cousin Katie and her man Andrew. You guys did very well in the Christmas gift department.] That way, I guessed, their shape would more closely resemble the ones at Pearl Bakery, which are taller and narrower than a typical muffin – more “cork-like,” if you will. As it turned out, I guessed right. So, friends, if you have a mini popover pan, now’s your chance to use it. But if not, no problem: just use a muffin tin.

Also, for the chocolates, be sure choose good ones – these are chocolate cakes, you know, so don’t skimp.

3 ½ ounces bittersweet chocolate, such as Valrhona Guanaja 70%, chopped
3 ½ ounces unsweetened chocolate, such as Scharffen Berger 99%, chopped
1 ¾ cups cake flour
1 ½ Tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, such as Ghirardelli

Adjust a rack to the middle position, and preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 12-well muffin pan or mini popover pan with butter or cooking spray.

In a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, melt the bittersweet and unsweetened chocolates together, stirring occasionally. When the chocolates are just melted, remove the bowl from the heat and set it aside.

Sift the flour, cocoa, and salt together into a medium bowl. Set it aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer (or a mixing bowl), beat the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Beat in the melted chocolate until well incorporated. Using a rubber spatula or spoon, stir and fold in the dry ingredients in three additions. Add the chocolate chips and stir to combine. The batter will be quite thick.

Divide the batter between the wells of the muffin tin or popover pan. Bake the cakes for 15-18 minutes, or until they still feel quite soft in their centers when pressed lightly with your index finger. Do not overbake them, or they will be dry.

Remove the pan from the oven, and allow to cool on a rack for about 10 minutes. Carefully remove the cakes from the pan and cool completely before eating or storing. (I find that they taste best when they’ve been allowed to rest for a couple of hours. The chocolate flavor needs time to settle and ripen a bit. Oddly enough, they really don’t taste all that great when they’re warm.)

Note: The bouchons are best eaten on the day they’re made, but they’re still very good the next day. Store them at room temperature in an airtight container. I also froze a few and let them defrost at room temperature, and they were quite tasty.

Yield: 12 cakes


Blogger HoneyHoneyNY said...

I just posted in my blog about my new craving for mocha muffins, but I think you've inspired a new craving. Those bouchons look so amazing and chocolatey. I may have to take a day indulge my baking instead of the half-day I had originally planned.

9:20 PM, January 15, 2007  
Blogger plum said...

Ah yes David. What would we do without him?! Thank you for brining these to my attention as I have the Great Book of Chocolate and have to admit that these little cakes had not grabbed my attention but now after reading your mouth-watering description, I'll have to dig it out and give them a try!

11:15 PM, January 15, 2007  
Blogger Pille said...

I'm now really really craving these now - such cute cracked tops! And that's not good, as after eating way too many of chocolate & nut blocks a la Molly over Christmas, I really shouldn't eat more chocolate now;)

11:28 PM, January 15, 2007  
Blogger Ashley said...

I am so making these next weekend! Thank you so much for the lovely idea!

5:29 AM, January 16, 2007  
Blogger Homesick Texan said...

Portland! Yes! I spent 24 hours there in December and quickly fell in love with its bounty as well: Stumptown, Esparza's, bottomless bowls of pho, cilantro-stuffed bahn mis and the literary majesty that is Powell's. Unfortunately, I didn't make it to Pearl, so thank you very much for posting this recipe--so cute, like Champagne corks indeed!

6:01 AM, January 16, 2007  
Blogger wheresmymind said...

Should've made a little marzapan toad to go on top as they look like cute little toadstools ;)

7:52 AM, January 16, 2007  
Blogger hannah said...

oof these look dangerous.

i dream of portland, and i camped outside of pearl myself while i was there. yum yum.

7:54 AM, January 16, 2007  
Blogger Melindy said...

So glad that you came to my fair city and discovered the lovely Pearl Bakery! It is about 5 minutes away from my house by bike.(Of course I won't be trying that today here, Its SNOWING, like it did in Utah where I am from) I will certainly be trying a Bouchon from the Pearl and making some at home! Next time you go to the Pearl Bakery, you must try the fig and walnut panini. It's my favorite. This morning however, I may try my hand at your popovers- I can use a muffin pan, right?
Happy Tuesday

8:09 AM, January 16, 2007  
Blogger amisha said...

these sound absolutely wonderful. no wee pan here so i will have to forego the remarkably cute shape of yours... but hopefully the chocolate will make up for that.

8:31 AM, January 16, 2007  
Blogger tannaz said...

i had a steamy love affair with a chocolate bouchon this summer. to think that i can make them at home is a bit too much to handle. these look irresistible!

8:53 AM, January 16, 2007  
Anonymous Luisa said...

Chocolate bouchons! These look lovely. I've got a recipe for chocolate bouchons from Thomas Keller (via the LAT, natch) that I still have to try, because I keep getting tripped up on the required tin. Having nothing "mini" in stock, maybe I'll just have to try the regular ("maxi" in comparison) muffin tins?

10:23 AM, January 16, 2007  
Blogger christianne said...

They are so very cute! I like that they resemble champagne corks -- and I especially like wheresmymind's idea of little marzipan toads! Adorable!

10:30 AM, January 16, 2007  
Anonymous Julie said...

Mmmmm. I need these. I don't have a mini-popover tin (although I now know the next thing to go on my wedding registry), but I'm going to try them in a muffin tin for the moment.

Might I suggest that this would be a great entry for the next Sugar High Friday, which is being hosted by none other than David himself?

10:45 AM, January 16, 2007  
Blogger SF Money Musings said...

I was in love with Portland the first time I spent the weekend last year. I went back in late September/early Oct and didn't want to leave. I was truly in love with the Pearl city. There's also a wonderful bakery in the NW side near Gleason and 14th ... can't remember the name.

The Voodoo Donut Shop is a great place. They have marvelous and creative donuts. Nikolai's a Lebanese restaurant is great on the SE side of Burnside. And the RoxyAnn diner in the "Castro" of Portland has good American diner fare and blueberry pancakes.

I can't wait to make these this weekend!

11:32 AM, January 16, 2007  
Anonymous Kat said...

Oh, Portland! You certainly make me miss it. My new (though I'm not sure I can call it new anymore . . .) home of San Francisco can be awfully nice, but I'm tempted to move back to Portland at least a few times each month.

(Did you find time for Powell's and/or Stumptown coffee? Well, the good thing is that neither will ever leave.)

Pearl Bakery is magical. I don't know how you feel about crepes, but if you're a fan, you should try Le Happy on your next visit. It's lovely.

12:07 PM, January 16, 2007  
Blogger Judy said...

They look very tasty, and how cute they are!

2:12 PM, January 16, 2007  
Anonymous Hannah said...


I've just finished reading through your archives, and thank you, it's been an absolute treat. I now have pages and pages of your recipes copied into a word document, and seeing as I've taken a few weeks off work before university goes back (I'm from Australia), I've got some serious baking and soup-making to do.

Belated congratulations on your engagement, and book, I can't wait to read it.

Thank you for the wonderful escapism!

2:57 PM, January 16, 2007  
Anonymous Kristen said...

Congrats on your win!

Your muffins are most lovely. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

6:28 PM, January 16, 2007  
Blogger Natalia said...

I loooove the Pearl Bakery! When I went to school in Portland I got a croissant with cheese and ham baked inside and it was one of the most delicious things I've ever had. Next time I'm in Portland, I'll be getting a bouchon.

7:30 PM, January 16, 2007  
Blogger katie said...

I am so thrilled that you liked the Pearl Bakery enough to mention it here! And David rocks my world, his recipes are always perfect. I hope you'll come see Portland again soon, it just keeps getting more and more delicious! (especially the chocolate...I'm pretty sure we're about to become the drinking chocolate capital of the world.)

8:20 PM, January 16, 2007  
Blogger Molly said...

HoneyHoneyNY, it sounds like you have one heck of a delicious day of baking in your future! I hope you can find a good recipe for those mocha muffins of yours. I've got my fingers crossed...

Plum, get out David's book and get to work! These bouchons really are wonderful. I just ate one a minute ago - pulled from the freezer and defrosted in the microwave (gasp!) - and it was so, SO good.

Oh Pille, I hear you. My sugar intake has been WAY up since Christmastime. I keep trying to reel myself in, but then my stack of recipes pulls me back to the oven. Waaaaah!

You're very welcome, Ashley! We both owe David a big thank you too.

Ah ha! So, Homesick Texan, you've been bitten by the Portland bug too? It got me almost instantly! I climbed off the train, checked into my hotel, walked into downtown, found Powell's and Pearl Bakery, bought a bouchon, and then called Brandon to announce that we needed to move to Portland. I loved it.

Wheresmymind, maybe you should go into food styling. What do you think? Hmm? Those marzipan toads sound pretty darn inspired...

Hannah, might you be coming back to Portland anytime soon? And might you let me camp outside Pearl Bakery with you?

Melindy, can you tell me more about this fig and walnut panini? I had some sort of little baguette sandwich with prosciutto and fig jam and goat cheese, and it was delicious. Is the panini anything like it - I mean, you know, with walnuts? Oh, and as for the popovers, yes, you can most certainly use a muffin pan. No problem!

Amisha, don't worry - the chocolate flavor of these little guys is good enough to make up for any decrease in cuteness! The first time I made them, it was in my regular muffin tin, and though they looked a little ordinary, they tasted absolutely dreamy. I took a few to work, and my coworkers went crazy.

Tannaz, I loved reading about your summertime love affair with a chocolate bouchon! I wonder how the one you tried compares to Pearl Bakery's? Only one way to find out, I guess. Go fire up that oven, girl!

Luisa, yes, you MUST try Keller's bouchon recipe. I insist! I didn't know he had one - clearly, I've been lazy in keeping up with the LAT - and I'm very curious to see how it compares to this one. You MUST try it. MUST. Even if you have to make "maxi" bouchons rather than mini ones. It's all about the flavor, anyway. Cute shapes are just a side perk. xo

Thank you, Christianne! I asked for a mini popover pan for Christmas with this very recipe in mind, just so I could have that "corkish" shape. I've been a little obsessed, in case you couldn't tell.

Julie, don't you love this whole wedding registry thing? Although Brandon and I like the old, vintage-y sorts of plates and dishes that can only be found at thrift shops and antique stores, we are loving being able to get specialty pans, tools, fancy glasses, and those kinds of things from our registry. Mandoline? Yes! Mini Cuisinart? Yes! Magi-Cake Baking Strips? Of course! Fun, fun, fun.

SF Money Musings, thank you for those great Portland suggestions! Brandon and I are trying to plan a weekend getaway down there - he's never been! - and this will all come in handy...

Oh yes, Kat, I did find plenty of time for Powell's, and it was everything I'd heard it would be. I came away with a nice, fat stack of new reading - and then went to Pearl Bakery for a bouchon, of course. Next time, I'll be sure to look up Le Happy too.

Thank you, Judy!

You're very, very welcome, Hannah. And wow - thank you for taking the time to read through my archives! That's a feat of endurance! Whew.

Thank you, Kristen!

Natalia, it sounds like there's a Pearl Bakery fan club in the making! We need official t-shirts or something, don't you think?

Hi there, Katie! Of COURSE I liked the Pearl Bakery enough to write about it - I LOVED it! Now I just need to introduce Brandon to your lovely city, and maybe to some of its drinking chocolate too. Mmmm.

9:47 PM, January 16, 2007  
Blogger ooishigal said...

Lovely !

4:25 AM, January 17, 2007  
Anonymous Max said...

The slightly dry description makes me a little wary, but after your glowing review, how could I not try them?? Definitely my next project in the kitchen. They look divine.

10:21 AM, January 17, 2007  
Anonymous ellen said...

congrats on your win-i have enjoyed reading your musings-good luck on your book.

1:03 PM, January 17, 2007  
Blogger Molly said...

Thank you, ooishigal!

Max, I know what you mean. I was wary of writing "dry" - it's such a scary word! I hope you won't take it too literally. Really, the texture of these little cakes does look and feel a little dry and dense, but once you take a bite, it melts into all sorts of wonderful softness and flavor. It's kind of like a shortbread cookie that way: it seems a little dry and crumbly, but in the mouth, it melts, letting its flavors open up. Give it a go! I don't think you'll be sorry...

Thank you, Ellen! I feel very, very lucky to have so many good things come my way.

1:23 PM, January 17, 2007  
Anonymous maryeats said...

molly, saw the shout out in the PT today. Congrats on the book.

6:27 PM, January 17, 2007  
Blogger talkoftomatoes said...

love Portland... love Seattle... love chocolate. And you!

Let me run and get some port...

............Toast to you!

7:51 PM, January 17, 2007  
Anonymous David L. said...

Yo Molly!
So glad you liked those Bouchons. From my first bite, I was hooked on them too and just had to track down the recipe for them, which they generously shared.

If you go back, their fig cookies are outstanding too, but I couldn't find a way to get them into the chocolate book...maybe I need to do The Great Book of Figs next?

12:24 AM, January 18, 2007  
Anonymous veron said...

I always wanted to make these! Thanks for reminding me with this post. They are adorable little bites of chocolate!

7:55 AM, January 18, 2007  
Blogger Gemma said...

I keep hearing good things about Portland - must add it to my places to visit list. The bouchons look delicious, I have a non chocolate baking weekend planned but I'll remember them the next time I feel like chocolate!

7:56 AM, January 18, 2007  
Blogger heather_ly said...

Yum! Thanks for giving me a reason to turn on my oven and heat up my chilly Vermont home. I just moved back from PDX and The Pearl Bakery and Saint Honore are two of the places I miss most. Luckily, I am closer to High Rise Bakery in Boston for which Pearl was my substitute.

9:03 AM, January 19, 2007  
Blogger Melindy said...

Oh Excuse me Molly!
I said fig and walnut and alas meant fig and anise.
Although the Pearl Bakery also has a walnut panini. I love walnuts. But I also am excruciatingly fond of this fig and anise panini. It is a roll made of whole wheat flour, and no sweeteners, It has chunks of Calmiyra figs and a wondefully flavorful flecks of anise! I think it would be great as a little sandwich with like chevre and arugula. I like it cut open with a smear of almond butter. I used to get these at the Portland Farmers market last fall, when I first moved to Portland. The Pearl bakery also makes a chocolate panini, and a pecan rosemary panini. Speaking of the Pearl- yesterday I got a Bouchon! I am eating the leftovers as I type-

9:40 AM, January 19, 2007  
Anonymous Tangerine Dreams said...

Ahhh...chocolate and strong coffee. I'm drooling as per usual reading your posts but my husband and I would have to take turns eating the bouchons out on our snowy deck. My two year old would be so wired after all that chocolate! Looks gorgeous.

11:58 AM, January 19, 2007  
Blogger Crystal said...

What a treat to hear my hometown spoken of so highly! Some new and old faves everyone should check out: Sahugan chocolates on 15th & W. Burnside, St. Honore bakery on NW Thurman and 23rd, Saint Cupcake on NW 17th, Tads chicken and dumplings in Troutdale.

1:11 PM, January 19, 2007  
Anonymous Eric said...

You make me miss Portland. After living there for 5 years, and now residing in Ohio, I do miss the Pearl Bakery and the other great restaurants in the area. Also, you always have such great photos. Thanks!

2:06 PM, January 19, 2007  
Blogger Elle said...

Another cheer for Portland and the Pearl Bakery. Last time we were there I bought a bouchon and a couple of sandwiches to go and they were perfect for the plane ride home. Lots of airlines now expect you to subsist on nibbles, so I bring my own food. Powell's Books got us to Portland in the first place. Thanks for the recipe. May be a while before we see Portland again.

3:48 PM, January 19, 2007  
Anonymous miss piggy said...

I also fell in love with Portland when I went there for the first time last summer. Unfortunately, I didn't get to Pearl Bakery, but will definitely try these delectable-looking cakelets. Thank you for a lovely blog--it's a treat to read. Also congratulations on your upcoming marriage.

9:05 PM, January 19, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Molly - Great post, but I am shocked - SHOCKED! - that no one mentioned Ken's Artisanal Bakery, on NW 21st. I love their croissants, the bread's to die for, the best macarons, everything is awesome. If you haven't been, you've got to put it on your agenda for next time. It's that worth it.

Love, LAA

12:39 AM, January 20, 2007  
Blogger Molly said...

Thanks, maryeats! That mention in the PI came as a total surprise. A real treat!

Aw, thank you, talkoftomatoes!

David, dear sir, you're a good man for tracking down this recipe. Thank you, thank you, thank you! And as for those fig cookies, ooh, now I really need to hurry up and get back down to Portland...

Aren't they cute, Veron? I love their funky little shape. Three cheers for my mini popover pan! Whoop!

Gemma, what is this about a "non chocolate baking weekend"? I've never heard of such a thing!

Heather_ly, I've heard wonderful things about High Rise Bakery. One of my brothers and his family live near Boston, so I might just have to plan a visit soon. After Portland, of course.

Melindy, I am SO jealous of your proximity to the esteemed Pearl. Those paninis sound fantastic! I think I may have seen a chocolate one when I was there, but I was so fixated on the bouchon that I can't say for sure. Oh, and speaking of anise, high on my list of weekend "to do"s is a recipe for scones that include anise seeds. I read them in my Macrina Bakery cookbook, and they sound wonderful. Must be something about anise in the air...

Thanks, Tangerine Dreams! Oh, and yes, keep these little things out of reach of your little one! Yikes. That could be a wild ride.

Thanks for the Portland tips, Crystal. I'm adding 'em to my list.

Thank you, Eric. It must have been tough to leave Portland, huh? I mean, it was kind of tough for me, and I had only been there for three days...

Elle, I hear you. I always pack a meal when I travel on planes - sandwiches, often, or ratatouille and a hard-boiled egg, or bread and cheese. But ooh wee, next time, I'm going to pack a bouchon too! Great idea.

Thank you, Miss Piggy!

Ooh, yes, LAA, thank you for reminding me! I had wanted to get to Ken's Artisan Bakery on that trip in October, but I didn't have a car, and it was a bit of a schlep from where I was staying. Next time, though, I won't miss it! I *did* manage to get a ride to Ken's Artisan Pizza with some colleagues, and it was wonderful, if a little salty. [And I say that as a real salt lover.] You and Greg should try it! xo

12:48 PM, January 21, 2007  
Blogger Gretchen Noelle said...

Thanks for your always inspiring blog. And thanks for the tip on the sugar high event. I am proud to say that I have finally entered my first blog event with a delicious Peruvian Chocolate Layer Cake. Yum! I am thrilled about the book you have started and hope to get my hands on it as soon as it's out! Blessings!

1:35 PM, January 21, 2007  
Anonymous Caroline said...

From another Portland lover...thank you for your wonderful writing. It is always a pleasure to read your posts. Congrats on your book deal, you deserve it!

8:39 PM, January 25, 2007  
Blogger Molly said...

Thank you, Gretchen! Your Peruvian chocolate layer cake sounds delicious...

Thank you, Caroline! What sweet words.

8:17 PM, January 26, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I had some bouchon from the Bouchon Bakery run by Thomas Keller in California. They're slightly less puffed than the ones shown, but still great, with the crumbs sliding down my throat. Yum!

10:28 PM, February 04, 2007  
Anonymous laura said...

Molly, what about using a regular popover pan for bouchon? I love the shape!

5:13 PM, February 08, 2007  
Blogger Molly said...

Sounds pretty dreamy, Anonymous. Mmm!

Laura, you know, I'm afraid that a regular popover pan would make the bouchons too big and unwieldy. They're quite dense and rich, so the mini-popover size is actually a pretty generous portion. A muffin tin works nicely too, although it doesn't have that cute shape. Give it a go!

7:22 PM, February 08, 2007  
Blogger Catherine said...

I love chocolate bouchons! I really have to get the right baking tins for these! They look so much better this way.

7:20 PM, February 09, 2007  
Anonymous Ashley B. said...

These are seriously my favorite afternoon snack of all time. When we left PDX I longed for these. I've been making them at home for a few months now and am much quieter about how much I love that city.

2:42 PM, July 21, 2008  
Anonymous Rob said...

This is one of my favorite recipes. After visiting Portland and trying this recipe years ago I had a chance to make them again. I forgot where I had placed the recipe. 8 Yahoo pages later I found it again. I use mini popover pans and they taste exactly like the ones from the Pearl bakery. Thank you so much!

8:00 AM, March 26, 2010  
Anonymous Annette said...

Baking with high quality chocolate equals a fabulous recipe. Thanks!

9:15 PM, June 05, 2012  

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