The Bouchon Bakery Cookbook From Thomas Keller

A 400-page equation of butter, flour and sugar

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Bread presents one of food's greatest paradoxes.

It is the approachable staple of many diets, but to make it well is exceedingly complicated.

This tension is the guiding force behind the new book from Thomas Keller's enterprise, Bouchon Bakery ($30; buy it here).

Keller's string of five bakeries has a near-universal appeal, and much of the book is dedicated to laying down familiar recipes: pecan sandies in honor of his mother, a take on the Nutter Butter, a blueberry muffin, a loaf of multi-grain bread.

The bakeries' fancier side is represented as well. So there are recipes for pâte à choux swans, meticulously crafted tarts, fluffy marshmallows and flavored caramels.

Every recipe is put through the Keller wringer, demanding precision and yielding perfection. When we baked the peanut butter sandwich cookies, Better Butters, it felt like training for the NFL after years of playing peewee ball.

It was a time commitment, and sure, we got beat up a few times. But when faced with our final product–which looked just like the photo and tasted even better—you could have dumped a cooler of Gatorade on our heads and we wouldn't have minded.

Victory tastes good.