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ABC of baking


pattimw
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I'm glad Steve laid out his stuff, I'm interested in the Yard book, and even more, his thoughts on the 'Cake Bible' were what I rather clumsily was trying to describe in my post way back there.

I need communication from a book. I want to connect to the chef. The Balaguer book blew me away because the way it's written makes you excited to try his stuff AND his philosophy of how things work, from the chemistry involved to how you can make your bakeshop/pastry department more efficient is a stunner. You can't help but pick up how knocked out this guy is that he get's to do pastry every day.

And the next book I buy is going to be the Bill Yosses book!

2317/5000

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The Roux Brothers on Pastry is an excellent book - one of my best loved, pure pastry books. But - I'm just not sure it's for a beginner. Their instruction is clear and concise, but I think that I would have been very intimidated by it had I not already had some instruction behind me, and a teacher to guide me.

Does anyone else have Finest Desserts by Michel Roux or French Pastry by Yves Thuries? Of the two I prefer Michel Roux's book, but I certainly learned a lot about classic, perfect, precise french pastry technique and design from the Thuries book. Helped me immensely to survive a pastry course with a very tempermental and demanding Belgian CMPC.

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That's how the first Roux book hooked me way back when and you just don't see quality books published like that anymore--it's too easy and profitable to churn out FoodTV celebrity-driven fluff with few pictures. But in a sense you've made my case for that book for beginners--you do open that book and you do say to yourself "I want to aspire to that." You feel the essence, the value of that book. The problem with most other books is that they aren't inspirational. That now old Roux book undeniably is. It is a must purchase--and while we may disagree whether it should be in the first group of books for a beginner or the second--I sense most of us agree it should still be in the mix.

I have Finest Desserts, the other Roux dessert book, and I still open it now and then. It's perfectly fine, I'm happy it is on my shelf but it posseses nowhere near the consummate magic of the first Roux book (for me.) The Thuries books (for me) have always served as very dated historical reference points only--were they ever fresh?--someplace to check a baba recipe against Ducasse and other sources to see how and why he did it, etc. Very straightforward, very stuck-in-time and archival. (A subscription to Thuries magazine is a much better investment.)

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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I have Finest Desserts, the other Roux dessert book, and I still open it now and then.  It's perfectly fine, I'm happy it is on my shelf but it posseses nowhere near the consummate magic of the first Roux book.  The Thuries books (for me) have always served as very dated historical reference points only--were they ever fresh?--someplace to check a baba recipe against Ducasse and other sources to see how and why he did it, etc.  Very straightforward, very stuck-in-time and archival. (A subscription to Thuries magazine is a much better investment.)

Absolutely agree. Finest Desserts was the first Roux pastry book I ever owned - I got it primarily because I already had New Classic Cuisine by Albert and Michel Roux. But I fell in love with it the minute I opened it. Then I went back and got their Pastry book because I enjoyed the others so much.

Thuries IS dated - absolutely. I have a real love/hate relationship with it. I was required to purchase it in order to attend a series of higher-level french pastry courses (with said Belgian Master PC), but then only used it in those courses as "reference" material on the classics. We never used the formulas, but he insisted that we use the book to model our own creations. What made me so angry was that it was a very, very expensive book, and when you are in culinary school you really don't have $150 to waste on a book you aren't going to get a lot of use out of.

I mention it only because, while dated in formulas, it's an excellent book if you want to begin at the beginning and learn how classic french pastry items are composed and assembled, and what the differences between the classics are; the difference between Sacher and Success, etc. IF you are interested in that sort of thing.

Other than as a reference, I haven't used the thing, and probably never will. But I still do pull it out when I hear a term I'm not familiar with or when my memory fails. :cool:

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I could have been a little clearer--I do think there is value in at least a few of those expensive Thuries volumes. I bought them of my own free will but then I buy pretty much every book. Roux and Thuries earned their "MOF" in the same year--1976--you can tell from their work they both came from that classic era where you couldn't even call yourself "pastry chef" until you could nail patisserie, vienoisserie, ice creams, chocolate and sugar artistry, etc. You had to be complete. Their written works have two distinct aims however--with Thuries following that old French approach to write solely for the professionals and to be revered by other professionals but unknown to the public and Roux writing for pros AND home cooks while maintaining very high standards.

I never found Thuries all that helpful looking back--I'm glad I had it in a reference sense--but for that amount of money I was more glad I bought (and still always recommended) that 4 volume Professional French Pastry Series for "beginning pros" over the Thuries. When I was back in similar shoes as you studying under that Belgian--and I was learning from someone who himself learned from that 1976 classic French vocational school model--it was the 4 volumes of the Professional French Pastry Series which I returned to time and time again. Those 4 volumes still stand the test of time and I find I turn to those books and not Thuries for reference.

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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By the way, I have a hardback first edition of StarsDesserts in great shape I'd gladly sell to a fellow eGulleteer. Why wait for a re-issue? PM me with your bid. I had no idea of its value.

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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I have Finest Desserts and The Roux Brothers On Patisserie, but I wasn't aware of a earilier book. Would someone please mention the title of it?

I've been sitting on the fence with Claudia's book. Part of me wants to buy it, but as of yet I haven't. I don't work on either coast nor do I work in a high end restaurant. I don't question her influence, simplicity is always stylish (and it doesn't hurt being physically beautiful either to further your career in a concrete jungle). But I can't sell her work. I think it's rather heavy on frozen items and short on baking (which is harder to do, I think her book fails there and is lazy).

I don't know it seemed to me that you were pretty good at fitting chefs into boxes Steve :laugh: . I'm guilty too. I think there's only a couple books we all could agree on as having excellent content and inspirational value, but they'd never be consider a beginers books.

I find as much value in Deslauniers, Braker, Medrich, Silverton, RLB even Mrs. Fields books as I do in all the others that have been mentioned (and not yet mentioned). I own some Betty Crocker too. Inspiration comes from with-in, how your thinking- as you view even the ordinary. I have my days were nothing inspires me and days when good old Pillsbury turns on my light bulb. That's why I collect a wide range of books and you can see how chefs build upon others work.

Some of my older books from the 30's to the 50's have some really good teaching sections for beginners. They're the first contemporary american writing on baking and I can think of many books that haven't improved on this (like the Regan Daily Book). This leads me to start threads asking peoples opinions on specific books and specific recipes with-in....because no one book has it all. I've made recipes out of the Roux brothers book that I thought fell short and ones out of Deslauniers that were pretty darn good.

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interesting post steve. a couple of points:

1) you're absolutely right about the claudia fleming book and i should have said something about it. i gave it a rave review when it came out last year. that and lindsay shere's old "chez panisse desserts" are the books i turn to most often these days.

2) i think it's important to remember that most books (not the ones you buy necessarily, or even the ones that get talked about on this site) are published for amateurs, not for professional chefs. i would be very surprised (actually, disheartened), if there were very many cookbooks you learned something from. on the other hand, it's obviously a huge mistake to assume everyone buying a cookbook has your level of expertise. rose beranbaum's book is probably a good example. most pros i know kind of sneer at the cake bible for being full of high ratio recipes. but as you've seen on this thread, there are a lot of home cooks who swear by it.

3) that said, i am curious about your comment re: nancy silverton, flo braker, et al, being out of fashion. food and fashion is interesting ... frequently maddening. while i admire the desire to keep pressing forward and trying new things (as long as they don't involve foams .. at least as most chefs use them), i also believe that the highest compliment any dish (dessert or not) can receive is not "wow, i never thought of that" but "wow, that's delicious". ideally, it would be both. the two chefs whose desserts i most admire probably fall at opposite ends of the spectrum. michel richard is always finding new ways to explore texture and flavor. when i ate at citronelle this winter, he had a dessert called jolie pomme that was a ball of green apple sorbet studded with vertical "fins" of apple slices that had been candied and dried to the texture of thin sheets of glass. there were enough of them that it almost looked like a hologram of an apple with a solid sorbet core. amazing. and delicious. on the other hand, i don't think i'll ever have anything that tastes better than one of nancy silverton's freeform peach tarts. nothing inventive going on there--a dough that's kind of a rough puff, a mound of sliced peaches--but each element is perfect and the overall effect is to make you appreciate a very common dessert in a new way.

i may be going out on a limb here (as usual), but fashion needs to reinvent itself every season to move product, of course, but also because it is by its very nature not very satisfying. our connection to our clothes are temporal. food on the other hand, we eengage on a very visceral level. of course, this is from a guy who has spent 20 years writing about food and still wears jeans. so take it for that for what its worth.

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As a former pastry chef, what I value most in a pastry book -- pro or amateur -- is good taste.

I'm not talking about recipes that taste good. I'm interested in seeing someone with a style I admire. Claudia Flemming and Nancy Silverton are great but they have nothing on French pastry chefs such as Pierre Herme and even Yves Thuries, the king of the croquembouche. I think the beginner should leaf through good pastry books, even professional pastry books, to understand the difference between something that is done in good taste and something that isn't (no offense to Mr. Malgieri, but I have never seen anything even remotely artistic in his books).

Silverton has terrific taste but many of her recipes are expensive and overly complicated. As teaching books, I think they fall short. Nonetheless, she has a lot of great ideas. The Roux Brothers also have great taste and their books are teaching books because there are plenty of technique pictures along with the recipes.

If you want a glaring example of why trendy pastry books are a waste of time, check out Thuries' plated dessert book from 1989, Joel Bellouet's Entremets et Desserts sur Assiette book or the first books released by the Pastry Arts and Design people. Those towering desserts are so passé it hurts.

Classics are the only way to go when learning pastry, and when well executed, classic French pastry is still hard to beat. But I see little interest in American pastry books filled with layer cakes, squares, cookies and such. I could make all that stuff with ease before I got to pastry school. Where's the challenge there?

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:biggrin: Wow - this post has really gotten interesting now.

And the previous posts leads me to a new question - what inspires us to create a dessert? You see a photo of something, you have a sudden urge for something that tastes like your childhood, you smell incredibly ripe peaches at a farmers market?

Lesley, I pm'ed you - did you get it? I've never used that feature here before so I don't even know if I did it right... :blink:

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  • 2 weeks later...

I know this discussion has spiraled into something else, but i wanted to just say that I decided to go with "Baking with Julia" - I ordered it from newbookscheap.com (for all you cookbook addicts, this is THE place to get cheap cookbooks - Baking with Julia was $15.00).

Looks very comprehensive and the recipes are clear, with a great glossary at the front. I do not have a stand up mixer, though, and many of the bread recipes call for a mixer with a dough attachment. what to do?

Can I use my handheld? It only has the beaters and a paddle, but i will say, for a handheld, it is pretty powerful.

I'm sure i can hand knead, but how do I modify the recipe as such?

Believe me, a kitchenaid is on the Christmas list, although at $300, it may be my only gift. :unsure:

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I have a slightly different, if related, problem than pattimw. I am awash in books and don't know what to do with them. I'm a fairly decent mid-level amateur cook, but I haven't done pastry or baking to speak of. I am very interested in learning, however, and I've decided to make this my project for next year. I've now come into quite a few books, but I'm not sure how to proceed in a systematic way. I've got the following:

Friberg, the two volumes on pastry

Walter, Great Pies and Tarts; and Great Cakes

Ramsey, Just Desserts

Silverton, Desserts; and Pastries

Child, Baking with Julia

Leach, Sweet Seasons

Braker, Sweet Miniatures

Rodgers, The Baker's Dozen

Berl, Classic Art of Viennese Pastry

Stewart, Pies and Tarts

RLB, Cake Bible; and Pie and Tart Bible

Greenspan, Paris Sweets

Herme, Desserts and Chocolate Desserts

Payard, Simply Sensational Desserts

Shere, Chez Panisse Desserts

Roux, The Roux Brothers on Patisserie

Bergin, Spago Chocolate

Gand, Just a Bite

Gonzalez, Art of Chocolate

Malgieri, all of them

Yosse, Dessert for Dummies

Rubin, Book of Tarts

Fleming, Desserts of Grammercy Tavern

(And no, I did not buy all of these new!)

I also have Herme's Patisserie, and the Bau and Boulanger books, which are frankly the most interesting and informative (and expensive), but a little intimidating for me to think about executing. My goal is to be able to execute out of these three books by the end of next year.

I am, as I said, unsure where to begin. I have signed up for a 20 lesson continuing education pastry class starting in January at the local cooking school (L'Academie in DC). I thought I might get a head start and try to teach myself the basics over the X-mas holidays. I've been trying (unsuccessfully) to get a copy of Lesley C's book to do this, or I thought I might wait for the Yard book mentioned earlier in the thread. I could just wait until January, but I kind of wanted to start trying to nail down some basics earlier. I don't like the idea of just jumping in without a coherent plan and I don't know which of the above books is lousy and which ones are great -- and Lord knows they contradict each other quite a bit. There don't seem to be any courses yet in the e-gullet culinary institute (I'm saving bread for another year -- one white whale at a time).

Also, I obviously have no technique, hence my interest in Lesley's book or the Yard book; the Friberg books would also be an option, but they didn't really set me on fire when I went through them.

Do any of those who have taught pastry have any ideas on this? I am loathe to just jump in and start "trying things." It's not in my personality to not have a plan and I also have limited time due to my day job. Just trying to pick up this particular craft at a decent amateur level is going to be an enormous investment of my rather limited free time; something I definately want to do, but not in an inefficient way. I really don't want to try ten different genoise recipes right now to see which one works for me, (though I realize someday I may want to do that). Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Tony

Tony

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Well, you've got a nice collection going. I've never taught anyone but myself, so others will probably have better ideas....but I'll try. Some of your books are more sophisciated/current/advanced then others. I believe at starting with the beginning and learning all the basics before you jump forward into the more sophisicated work (even though some of it is "simple work"). I would have you set aside these books for later: Bau, Herme' Patisserie, Fleming, Leach, Roux. I'd throw out the Malgieri books, sorry it's my opinion. Then I'd tell you to use these books to begin your journey: Julia's, Walters, Silvertons, Greenspan, Payard, Rodgers, Herme's chocolate book, Rbl's books, Bergin and Frieberg.

Even though you see tons of recipes in these books they do break down into catagories. The obvious being cakes, pies, tarts, ice cream, cookies, candy, etc....but with each catagory there can be several sub-catagories. Like with cakes you have, high-fat that use a creaming method, low-fat that are egg foam cakes. In the sub-catagory you'll have several sub-sets (I hope that's what you call them). In the low-fat catagory you have sponge cakes, angel food, chiffon...

Friebergs books should help you figure out the major catagories and sub-catagories in the Table of Contents. If I recall correctly even his huge books miss some catagories (like he doesn't go into great detail on mousses (he does bavarians I believe)), you might realize this and add more sub-sets to your list then he has in his contents. That's great if you can identify more.

Do you know enough about desserts to identify the major catagories? If so, you wanted to make a quick touch on many topics to grab a basic into then- I'd make myself a list of those catagories. Find 1 recipe out of your 'beginnig list' (I choose above) book collection for each that interest you into baking them. Write them down. Then go thru and find your sub catagories like I mentioned eariler with cakes. Pick 1 butter cake, 1 chiffon, etc. write those choices down as your sub-set catagories.

Then you'll will have made yourself a table of contents. I'd work it in one major catagory at a time and not bounce around for now. Make every style of cake then make every style of cookie, etc...

When your making these items your learning that each has it's own method or technique. The Bakers Dozen book will give you a breif over view of some catagories. RLB will give you almost too detailed of a over view but she's very scientific and exact. Then of course each recipe has it's own set of instructions to follow (this is how you begin to learn the basic methods). As you make each recipe you can cross reference the method and ingredient proportions other similar items in your books and see what the "average" is. Friebergs book probably lists a table that shows you this...it's good to learn.

If you started doing like I reccomend and worked at it every day it would take you quite a while to touch on each base. But after you've done that exercise you'll then be more prepared to learn more from the more advanced books you own. Just making 1 item from each catagory only scratches the surface, then you go on to make 6 different butter cakes to see/learn /taste the subtle differences. Then you see how these more advanced chefs like Herme and Bau are brilliant.

HTH, I can't wait to read how others would advise.

Edited by Sinclair (log)
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Quote Tony: "I am loathe to just jump in and start "trying things." "

Well, I would see that as a basic problem. Technique is the key, understanding impact and combination of ingredients, reactions, flavors, textures next key, recipes are pretty much reminders and notes to yourself. Jumping in a nd "just trying things" is where all the fun starts. I guess your 20 lessons should help you along the way with this.

Also, I wouldn't put too much stock in the Just a Bite book. I was not too impressed with the results of several of the recipes that I tried out to test the book. A couple were so bad I had to throw them away.

Edited by chefette (log)
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Nancy Silverton's Desserts is a book I tell all beginners to purchase. Chez Panisse Desserts is also a great book. I don't recommend French books for beginners- they are often confused by the measurements. Many French desserts are very one dimensional (and pretty boring to a modern palate). I always try to establish some sort of tie to a persons life (what your mother or grandmother may have baked). Fine dining relates to such few people. America has a huge baking past. This is not France- though I did go to school there. Learning to make a good pie is a good first step. Learning to make a chiffon cake is another step. I would much rather use chiffon then genoise (though eventually you should know the difference).

Claudia Fleming's book is good; I think of it as Nancy Silverton 2002. New York was finally ready for the kind of desserts that Nancy had been doing for years.

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Many French desserts are very one dimensional (and pretty boring to a modern palate).

:shock: One dimensional? Boring? You have got to be kidding.

What, are brownies suddenly the height of sophistication? Pl-ease. :hmmm:

Did someone mention brownies? :shock:

Lesley, concurring or not, everyone's got an opinion and a right to it! :biggrin::wink:

KarenS -- great to meet you! I love Nancy Silverton. Solid stuff.

PastryLady -- Re-reading Malgieri seems like a good idea. I think I have a few of his books. Time to make use of that kitchen now that the heat of Summer seems to be coming to a close and I can once again venture to turn up the oven!

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My opinion- Paris Brest, boring- St Honore, boring. Charlottes with striped cake sides, gelatinized- frozen puree mousse with a gelatin/ frozen puree mirror-boring.

I love French technique in Pastry and many French things (and I love France). There is also room for American pastry and creativity in this field. All French pastry is not sacred. Pierre Herme understands this (rice krispies, humor).All fine dining does not bow to France. I really don't care for genoise either.

Brownies? That is not logic is it? (or what was being discussed).

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A basic familiarity with techniques and why things happen is what I'm trying to get an understanding of. Brownies are probably the extent of my baking skills right now. It seems to me that even a lot of the "beginner" books, while they stage recipes in increasing levels of difficulty, don't necessarily explain why things do or don't happen (RLB is kind of an exception), nor do they have pictures to guide you through a technique (say like Pepin's technique book). Malgieri's How to Bake kind of lays things out in an easiest to hardest structure, though that may not always be the best way to learn, but his books don't seem to be well-liked by some of the more knowledgeable members here. Hence my interest in Lesley's book or the Yard book when it comes out. I'm not worried about jumping in, I just don't like jumping in without a plan and I like to see and know why. I've had similar questions before about beginning chocolate books when I was starting to play around with making truffles at home; Bau was in many ways the most informative (ganache discussion, etc.)

Tony

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SanFran88 - I didn't see "On Food and Cooking" by Harold McGee on your list. While it's certainly not a pastry book in the strictest sense, I would consider it essential reading and reference if you want to really understand what is happening in a recipe and with ingredients. The chapters on milk and dairy; eggs; bread, doughs and batters; and sugars, chocolates and confectionery will be of particular interest.

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For those of you interested, Jessica's Biscuit (eCookbooks, see link below) has Herme's Chocolate book for 50% off ($20).

"Some people see a sheet of seaweed and want to be wrapped in it. I want to see it around a piece of fish."-- William Grimes

"People are bastard-coated bastards, with bastard filling." - Dr. Cox on Scrubs

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