Chocolate Bouchon

Chocolate bouchons are amazing cork shaped brownies found at Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery in Napa and NYC. The recipe is also used to make the warm chocolate brownie served at Ad Hoc, which is our favorite dessert at any restaurant in the Bay Area country. Every time we go to Napa, we have to get a fix of bouchons from the bakery or the brownie at Ad Hoc. They are extremely addicting!

Our friend, Brennan, is a total bouchon junkie. When we bring back bouchons from Napa, we have to give the brownies to Deb, Brennan's wife. Otherwise, Brennan will eat them all and neglect to tell Deb about their existence. We accidentally outed him once... oops! We thought he'd share at least one.

A few weeks ago, I made bouchons for the first time and I turned it into a battle between Valrhona and Scharffen Berger chocolate. The recipe calls for Valrhona chocolate, but I also wanted to try bouchons using Scharffen Berger. It's our favorite local chocolate maker and we've been baking almost exclusively with Scharffen Berger for the last 5 or 6 years.

Let the battle begin. The recipe uses Valrhona Equatoriale (55%) semisweet chocolate, which I couldn't find at the local supermarket. Instead, I used Le Noir Gastronomie (61% cacao), which was a good competitor to 62% semisweet Scharffen Berger chocolate. The bouchons are baked in 2 to 3 ounce flexible silicon timbale molds or baba cups. I haven't ordered the timbale molds yet, so I used silicon muffin molds. The muffin molds produce a small circular brownie similar to the brownie at Ad Hoc.

The difference in the batter was immediate. The Valrhona cocoa powder is Dutch processed and produces a darker batter compared to the naturally processed Scharffen Berger cocoa powder. In the slideshow, you should be able to notice the blacker Valrhona and the browner Scharffen Berger brownies.

Time to taste. Individually, the two brownies were each excellent. They both had a nice texture — a chewy, slightly crunchy exterior and a soft, moist interior. The Valrhona bouchon had a more intense, pure chocolate taste. Whereas, the Scharffen Berger brownie had a sweeter, fruity flavor. Hungry Bear, Deb and I preferred the Valrhona ones and surprisingly the bouchon addict, Brennan, liked the Scharffen Berger brownies more. When they were served at Thanksgiving, it was probably a 60/40 split in favor of Valrhona. In general, the people who chose Scharffen Berger tended to prefer milk chocolate over dark chocolate.

We were able to compare our brownie variations to bouchons from Bouchon Bakery... thanks Jane! Compared to the original, our brownies were very similar in taste and texture. It was hard to tell the difference, but our brownies were slightly less sweet than the real bouchons. Dare I say, we actually enjoyed our brownies more than the original!

It was quite a battle. One that needs to be repeated with different chocolates. Valrhona is the reigning champion, but who is going to step up to the challenge? Callebaut, Guittard, Ghirardelli, Lindt, I think you are being called out!

Chocolate Bouchon Battle

Chocolate Bouchons Recipe

Bouchon Bakery uses 2-ounce fleximolds and serves smaller bouchons. 3-ounce (2-inch to 2-1/2-inch diameter) timbale molds or silicon muffin molds can be used for larger cakes.

Recipe Makes 12 servings of the smaller bouchons or 16 brownies using muffin molds.

Butter and flour for the timbale molds
3-1/2 ounces (3/4 cup) all purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs
1-1/2 cups plus 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
24 tablespoons (12 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and slightly warm
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, such as Valrhona Equatoriale (55%) chopped into pieces the size of chocolate chips
Confectioners’ sugar

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour 12 timbale molds. Set aside.

2) Sift the flour, cocoa powder, and salt into a bowl; set aside. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in another large bowl if using a handheld mixer, mix together the eggs and sugar on medium speed for about 3 minutes, or until very pale in color. Mix in the vanilla. On low speed, add about 1/3 of the dry ingredients, then 1/3 of the butter, and continue alternating with the remaining flour and butter. Add the chocolate and mix to combine. (The batter can be refrigerated for up to a day.)

3) Put the timbale molds on a baking sheet. Place the batter in a pastry bag without a tip, or with a large plain tip, and fill each mold about 2/3 full. Place in the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes (30 to 32 minutes for the muffin pans). When the tops look shiny and set (like a brownie), test one cake with a wooden skewer or toothpick. It should come out clean but not dry (there may be some melted chocolate from the chopped chocolate). Transfer the bouchons to a cooling rack. After a couple of minutes, invert the timbale molds and let the bouchons cool upside down in the molds; then lift off the molds. (The bouchons are best eaten the day they are baked.)

4) To serve: Invert the bouchons and dust them with confectioners’ sugar. Serve with ice cream if desired.

[Recipe via Bouchon by Thomas Keller]

Note on the Pictures: I forgot to invert the bouchons before I sprinkled on the confectioners' sugar, so the browned top is facing down... damn! I might have to make some more to retake the photos. Who wants some brownies?

[tags]chocolate, bouchon, ad hoc, bakery, valrhona, scharffen berger, brownie, battle, semisweet[/tags]

15 Comments on “Bouchon Battle – Valrhona vs. Scharffen Berger”

  1. That is what I call an amazing challenge! :)

  2. Jennifer said:

    These look delicious! I’d be glad to take those off your hands. ;-)

  3. Mandy said:

    what a fun challenge. I personally love Valrhona chocolate. :) And would use it in anything that calls for Dutch Processed Cocoa.Oh, I discover your blog through Tastespotting. Nice blog!

  4. Chuck said:

    Thanks Mandy. I’ve been a Scharffen Berger evangelist for the last several years, but I’m going to start using Valrhona more often for a change of pace. You can’t go wrong with either one!

    I hesitate to share this Cook’s Illustrated article, Much Ado about Dutching, Cocoa Powder, where Valrhona and Scharffen Berger cocoa powder came in at the bottom of the Dutch and naturally processed categories, respectively. Callebaut came out on top overall.

    Some of the testers’ complaints are things I enjoy in my chocolate, e.g. Scharffen Berger’s extra fruitiness. To each their own, I’ll still stand behind Valrhona and Scharffen Berger cocoa powder… not much of a limb. I will try out Callebaut one of these days… I think that’s the next chocolate challenger.

  5. Litalush said:

    I loved the title, the story, the battle itself and of course the final result. the pictures are just amazing!!! you are truly gifted!!

    love your blog!!


  6. tom said:

    Scharffenberg is a more complex chocolate, so yes it has fruit tones that dont’ necessarily work best for cake. For eating out of hand, Scharffenberger is the best widely available chocolate, but for cakes, most people like darker tones, something more ‘chocolatey.’

  7. haumea said:

    I baked a batch with Ghiradelli, just a tad bitter. I tried Guittard and it’s the closest to Valhrona Chocolate.

    I found the Valhrona Chocolate and Cocoa Powder reasonably priced online.

    I love these Bouchons and my co-workers enjoy when I bring them in to the office.

  8. Hello, this is a reallyoutstanding submit. In concept I’d prefer to jot down like this as well – taking time and real energy to make a great write-up… but what can I say.!. I procrastinate alot and never appear to get something done. Thank You

  9. Eric said:

    Woh I like your content , saved to favorites ! .

  10. ben said:

    Why would someone who likes dark chocolate prefer Valrhona? Doesn’t Valrhona wash the cocoa beans with alkaline (potassium), making it darker yet taste quite a bit softer, while the lighter Scharffen Berger isn’t processed and is more bitter?

    Incidentally, I’m looking for a (dutch) cocoa powder to add to cold milk. All the natural stuff I bought doesn’t dissolve well. Anyone try this with Callebaut? Valrhona? King Arthur Black Cocoa?

    BTW, baking powder (acidic) is needed when using the dutch chocolate (neutral) since it won’t react with plain (neutral) baking soda.

  11. Candy Goulette said:

    Whole Foods carries a lot of Valhrona chocolate, including the equatorial 55% feves (which I have to hide when I bring them home or husband will eat them all). Living only 70 miles from Ad Hoc, I guess I’ll have to make a little trip to try the brownies…


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