Bouchon Bakery, by Thomas Keller and Sabastien Rouxel, with Susie Heller, Matthew McDonald, Michael Ruhlman, and Amy Vegler (New York: Artisan, 2012), $50.00

If you are a casual baker, spending kitchen time with Bouchon Bakery, the book that represents the outpouring of the establishment itself (the bakery exists in multiple locations, but the first was set in motion in Yountville, California), will rearrange your skills and deeply challenge any knockabout behavior. If baking is a powerful mainstay of your life (either professionally or avocationally), Bouchon Bakery will require you to rethink techniques and, along the way, likely adopt new strategies.
And, I say this as a compliment to the heavy-weight (literally and figuratively) book, the work will shift you from a speed-reader to one who turns pages at glacier speed. Truly. This is what happened to me.
Initially, the chapter divisions (“Cookies,” “Scones and Muffins,” “Cakes,” “Tarts,” Pâte à Choux,” “Brioche & Doughnuts,” “Puff Pastry & Croissants,” “Breads,” “Confections,” and “Basics”) seem simple enough. Once into a recipe, say for “Chocolate Chunk and Chip Cookies,” the concepts within will refashion the thought process of baking. It’s a lot to absorb, but the hows and whys are thoroughly explained. One perfect example can be found in the preparation of the dough for the cookies where the attention to adding eggs is critical: “Add the eggs and mix on low speed for 15 to 30 seconds, until just combined. Scrape the bowl again. The mixture may look broken, but that is fine (overwhipping the eggs could cause the cookies to expand too much during baking and then deflate).” The resulting cookie dough balls are arranged on prepared sheet pans and you are told precisely where to place them. I advise you not swerve from this direction. All of this technical hand-holding will not be lost, but instead, make you a better, more accomplished baker and allow you to implement the procedures elsewhere.
Deep within Bouchon Bakery, “Devil’s Food Cake” appears in the same section as “Palet d’Or.”  “Lemon Meringue Tarts” appear a page before “ Spiced Caramel Chiboust with Hazelnut Streusel and Peaches.” In “Basics,” look out for the likes of “Chocolate Glaze,” a flurry of pastry creams, and “Caramel Jam.” The jam is a thick, somewhat creamy substance–not a jam proper, but more like a condiment deployed within a recipe (a small amount is poured over mixed nuts in the “Caramel Nut Tart”). The fact that “Caramel Jam” appears in “Basics” should give the reader/baker some idea about the level of excellence Bouchon Bakery sets forth. You’ll acquire knowledge, be challenged (a positive) and, finally, have something remarkable on the cooling rack. (One last, and critical, shopping note: Buy a nest of strainers. You’ll need them.)