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Books for Pros & Aspiring Pros


lorea
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I'm a pretty good home baker (both sweets and breads) and I'm seriously considering going to culinary school. I'd like to go through an entire pastry book on my own before I apply though because it's a big decision (big job change for me!).

My question is this - if I could choose between the following 3 books (I'm in the limiting goodcook.com club), which one would be best for learning classic French techniques? Lots of pictures would be a huge plus.

- Professional Baking, 3rd Edition by Wayne Gisslen (I read in a previous thread that somebody didn't like this book, but I also heard good things too)

- The Professional Pastry Chef, 4th edition by Bo Friberg

- Sweet Miniatures by Flo Braker (not sure if this is a "teaching" book)

Any assistance would be greatly appreciated!!

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Dessert Circus by Jacques Torres is actually a good book for you to start with. He gives measurements in Grams/ounces, and cups so you don't need to rush out for a scale. The techniques are french. And Technique is important to Jacques - he has said that recipes are nothing without technique. Alot of the recipes in his book (and he includes some guidance for sugar showpieces, chocolate showpieces, and wedding cakes) are the same that are used at the French Culinary Institute and were desserts he served at Le Cirque.

I think that you may find Bo tedious and the recipes too huge to cope with (also really really old) but a good reference

Flo's sweet miniatures has alot of nice recipes but I don't think that will give you a real idea about professional baking. I recently tried several of her recipes for an even and many were quite tasty although some did not behave well.

I would shy away from the big buck Famous French pastry chef books. Great pictures, really exciting for ideas and such, but I think they are tough for non-french speakers, or novices. The Herme Greenspan books might be somewhat useful, but keep in mind recipes are simplified for the home cook.

Overall, I stick by my first recommendation. Dessert Circus is a real gem. It doesn't dumb things down, the recipes are good, and the techniques are pretty well explained.

My first books were Michel Roux Finest Desserts and I Nicolello Complete Pastrywork Techniques. I cannot say that I recommend either, but they are fairly comprehensive. If you are really serious you might track down the Professional Pastry Series (Bilheux) for classic techniques. While you are out looking for books make sure to pick up a good scale and a stand mixer (preferably the 5qt kitchenaid)

You should do a search since there have been very similar questions in the past and the responses to those should be helpful to you.

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Another thing to keep in mind is that making the recipes in these books at home alone in small quantities has almost nothing to do with how most pastry chef work.

Next you should really seek out some of the threads about whether or not you want to, or can afford to quit your job to become a pastry chef.

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?act=ST...l=pastry+school

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?act=ST...l=pastry+school

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?act=ST...l=pastry+school

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?act=ST...f=1&t=15644&hl=

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?act=ST...=72&t=13139&hl=

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?act=ST...=72&t=13197&hl=

Buyer beware, be informed before you sign on any of the many dotted lines..

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Having "had greatness thrust upon me" -- that is, being a cook who was touched by the wand and turned into a "pastry chef" -- I have to say that you should learn the technical stuff first. As Chefette said, you MUST know conversions. Learn the chemistry of leaveners, and sugar, and gluten, and gelatin, and all those things that we lay people know nothing about. If you know the science behind baking and other aspects of desserts, then you have what you need to be a good pastry chef.

Gisslen does not give you enough of that information; I don't know about the other books. Look at CookWise by Shirley Corriher; Harold McGee's books; Understanding Baking by Amendola and Rees. If you are already proficient at home with the "touch" then you need to learn how to deal with vast quantities of ingredients, and how to do perfect work when a zillion people are yelling at you. This cannot be learned from a book.

If you read up on the chemistry, you will probably be way ahead of most school programs. But the advantage to going to school is the practice you get, and the contacts you make with the instructors. I firmly believe that the creative part is totally up to the practitioner, but without a good technical grounding and physical practice, you just can't do good work in pastry. I hope this doesn't discourage you. Doing pastry professionally is completely different from baking brownies at home; if you really want to do it, you can learn what you need to. :biggrin:

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Another question to ask yourself when looking for books (or a school), is what kind of pastry you want to do? Do you like baking bread, croissants and danish? Fancy cakes, individual pastries, and cookies like from a pastry shop? Restaurant-style plated desserts? Ice cream and sorbet? Chocolate and/or sugar candies?

And what style are you most attracted to/comfortable with - homey and rustic, sleek and modern, or extra fancy and decorative?

I think your best bet will be to look at books that specialize in the areas you're interested in, even if what you're thinking now is you want to "do it all".

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i know that a lot of people don't like the nick malgieri books, but he has one called perfect pastry, which i can't find nowadays. anyway it was approachable for the home chef with techniques and basic ingredients which you could easily work through to learn all the general doughs, fillings, etc.

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i know that a lot of people don't like the nick malgieri books, but he has one called perfect pastry, which i can't find nowadays. anyway it was approachable for the home chef with techniques and basic ingredients which you could easily work through to learn all the general doughs, fillings, etc.

I like this book a lot and refer to it actually. It has an exhaustive description on all things pastry. It doesn't really go into plated dessert or the fine items, but nails down technique. It does have pictures in pertinent areas (i.e. pastry cream steps and creme anglaise etc).

Edited by PastryLady (log)

Debra Diller

"Sweet dreams are made of this" - Eurithmics

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Thanks so much for the advice!

I'm always learning so much from this message board. :raz:

Also, I'm mainly interested in restaurant-style plated desserts, as well as breads/croissants/pastries. And I'm definitely interested in moving towards weighing ingredients - but it's so hard to find books have weight measurements (except for my European books).

Edited by lorea (log)
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lorea,

I am kind of in a similar situation and have been going through a number of books. You should consider Paula Figoni's How Baking Works: Exploring the Fundamentals of Baking Science. No recipes, but very informative and more focused than Cookwise. I also am going through Sherry Yard's The Secret's of Baking, and I think you might like it as well (though for some reason it only has volume measurements -- still worthwhile though). I would second (or third Dessert Circus). I also really like Cindy Mushet's Dessert's: Meditarranean Flavors, California Style, which I think Steve Klc mentioned in another thread.

Tony

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Thanks so much for the advice! 

I'm always learning so much from this message board.  :raz:

Also, I'm mainly interested in restaurant-style plated desserts, as well as breads/croissants/pastries.  And I'm definitely interested in moving towards weighing ingredients - but it's so hard to find books have weight measurements (except for my European books).

if you're interested in plated presentations, the series of books published by the Pastry Art and Design team "Grand Finales" are interesting to look at. mostly, I find that they are not really "do-able" or practicle, but at the very least they can give inspiration for what you can aspire toward. lots of pretty pictures. it is a series of three books. by now they are a little outdated, but like i said, they are something to give you a starting point and an idea of what's out there.

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  • 2 years later...

Hi everyone,

Been reading your posts and learning a great deal from it. The demos, discussions and pictures are really great. I have learnt a great deal over the past months just by reading from this forum.

I am wondering if any of you could advise which one of the professional range of baking books (Bo Friberg, CIA, Wayne Gisslen) you would recommend a home baker trying to move on to the next level. Which are the ones more self explanatory, clear and easy to follow from a home baker's point of view. Please tell me of any other I should be considering too..

Many thanks. :smile:

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Others may have other opinions, but I have the three books that you list and just finished school. IMO, the Gisslen book has more detail in terms of "how to". I go to that book first. The other two I go to when I want more ideas of how to combine the parts.

Before I started school, I had the CIA book. (Didn't go to that school, and my school used the Gisslen book). While I learned a lot I didn't find as many answers to "why didn't it work".

Another book I like is Understanding Baking by Amendola. Helps with the "why didn't it work" part.

I'm interested in seeing the opinions of those much more experienced than me as well... Always wanting to add to my collection!

Cheryl, The Sweet Side
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LindaL,

i think it would help the others on eGullet if you were to state your specific desired area of learning. though those books cover a great deal of information, you might be better served to purchase a different book specifically for bread baking or a different book specifically aimed at cake/dessert baking.

i'm a professional pastry chef and barely cracked open the gisslen book which was used in my cooking school (older edition). i have an older edition of friberg and barely used it either (bought before i attended culinary school). do not even have the CIA book.

this does not discredit their information at all...i'm just saying that those books didn't help me a ton, either before, during or after culinary school. neither do i use them as references.

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Thanks, SweetSide and Alanamoana.

Well I am just a weekend baker with not much experience. I have been doing regular, one layer cakes like banana, carrot, pound cake, cheesecakes, chocolate cake, some cookies and breads etc. Results I have been getting are ok but now I want to try the more “complicated”, multi layered cakes and also pastries. I have not got my hands on puff pastry yet but the choux puffs that I have tried needs improvement. There is definitely a whole lot I have and want to learn. Perhaps professional baking books would be too ambitious for now?

I do not live in the US and buying western cookbooks over here is very expensive. Our bookstores are not well stocked and we do not have libraries that have good cookbooks. I usually order books on line, sight unseen. Although reviews on Amazon have been helpful, I think I should get second opinion from passionate bakers on EG. Any opinion you can give would be greatly appreciated.

Have been using Nick Malgirie's How to Bake and his Chocolate book, Baking Illustrated by CI and Maida Heatter's Great Desserts. They are all good in a certain way but I want to brush up on techniques too. I guess like SweetSide said I want to learn the science about baking on top of having good recipes.

I have just ordered the Desserts and Chocolate book from Pierre Hermes and Dorie Greenspan and also the Cake Bible. I see these being referred to all the time in the forum. Please tell me of others meanwhile I will be checking on the one SweetSide mentioned which I have not heard before. Again, thanks for sharing.

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The ones you have ordered are all very good. If you can get your hands on it, get Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook. I really like this one.

Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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I think the "King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion" would be worth the investment. It deals a lot with bread but also cookies, cakes, batters, etc. I like it because as a general reference, it defines a lot of things and talks about technique working from simple to more complicated recipes. It probably echos a lot of what is talked about in Gisslen and Friberg, though.

It doesn't, however, have many color photographs which I love to have in cookbooks. It is good to get an idea of what your finished product should look like!

Since books can become addictive (see the cookbook thread in General Food Topics!), buy one or two and practice first...I say this since for you they aren't as accesible or inexpensive. I do like Malgieri's books. He had one called: "Perfect Pastry". I don't think it is in print anymore but the chapter headings are:

Creams, Custards, Mousses and Meringues

Pate a Choux

Pastry Doughs

Tarts, Pies and other Pastry Dough Desserts

Puff Pastry

Cake Layers

Cakes

Decorating

I really learned a lot from this book on the basic doughs. There are a lot of photos of the processes. I just looked it up and it is available in paperback on Amazon through a third party merchant. Just a good basic reference.

Good luck with your baking!

edited to add:

see how the list could just go on and on?!

Edited by alanamoana (log)
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Thanks all for the heads up. The King Arthur and Martha’s new book are definitely on my list now.

Alanamoana,

Does the recipes in King Arthur require their products? I will not be able to get my hands on any of their products here. I have a cookbook that calls for certain cake mixed or even specific brands of cake mixes.

Aidensnd

At the moment my local bookstore has both volumes of Bo Friberg’s books and CIA but not Wayne Gisslen’s :angry: . But I think I will wait for Wayne Gisslen’s. I believe a few others in EG share the same opinion on his work too. Does the book have good amount of illustrations in it? (Drawings, color pictures?) Also is it scaled for home consumption? I am almost running out of people to share my stuff with plus I sometimes wonder if people are really delighted with my stuff :unsure: All the more reason to improve :smile:

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Thanks all for the heads up. The King Arthur and Martha’s new book are definitely on my list now.

Alanamoana,

Does the recipes in King Arthur require their products? I will not be able to get my hands on any of their products here. I have a cookbook that calls for certain cake mixed or even specific brands of cake mixes.

Aidensnd

At the moment my local bookstore has both volumes of Bo Friberg’s  books and CIA but not Wayne Gisslen’s :angry: . But I think I will wait for Wayne Gisslen’s. I believe a few others in EG share the same opinion on his work too. Does the book have good amount of illustrations in it? (Drawings, color pictures?) Also is it scaled for home consumption? I am almost running out of people to share my stuff with plus I sometimes wonder if people are really delighted with my stuff :unsure: All the more reason to improve :smile:

I'm not the two you address, but...

I have the KA book and like it a lot. Good variety. And no, it does not require their products. It is a scratch baking book, so no mixes are involved in any of the recipes that I can think of. And the ingredients are listed just as "ap flour" or "bread flour", not as King Arthur Bread Flour.

As for the Gisslen book -- it does have a good number of pictures and the recipes don't produce ungodly amounts of stuff. In fact, for class (and there were only 3 of us in class) we often had to double and triple recipes to get enough of the component for our production.

Depending upon where you are, www.ecookbooks.com has it for only $45 with free shipping...

Cheryl, The Sweet Side
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Perfect Pastry was one of the first baking books I owned and I also learned a lot from it. I'd also recommend Bernabaum's Pie and Pastry Bible, which covers puff pastry, croissants, danish and I think choux dough as well as tart and pie doughs.

Edited by rickster (log)
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In addition to books, you should also consider some of the other online sources of information that can be very helpful (in addition to eG!)

Pastry Wiz includes links to other sites, discussion forums, supplies, books and etc.

Baking 911

And do check in at Joy Of Baking.com in addition to the excellent recipes, there is a message board where you can ask specific questions about a specific recipe and get helpful answers.

I have made the almond sponge cake and apple scone cake recently and was very impressed. joyofbaking cakes

If you need to know the name of a particular tool or utensil or ??? this is a good site through which to wanderPastry Chef.com.

The books recommended above are all excellent. I have a great many books on baking, going back many years.

One I also like, which is fairly inexpensive is Gail Sher's "From a Baker's Kitchen" Professional baking in the home kitchen. One of the 10 best baking books in 1984. She gives some excellent advice on how to achieve professional bread quality in a home kitchen.

I have been using her recipe for Monkey Bread for many years.From a Baker's Kitchen

Edited by andiesenji (log)

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Thanks, Sweetside for clearing that up for me. I am very new at baking and EG so I am very excited to get specific replies to my questions. I have been ordering from Amazon and Jessica's Biscuit so I am curious to check out Ecookbooks.

By the way is there a forum about baking books that you know of? I was actually looking for such a foum when I stumbled upon EG. What a find!

Edited by LindaL (log)
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In addition to books, you should also consider some of the other online sources of information that can be very helpful (in addition to eG!)

Pastry Wiz includes links to other sites, discussion forums, supplies, books and etc.

Baking 911

And do check in at Joy Of Baking.com in addition to the excellent recipes, there is a message board where you can ask specific questions about a specific recipe and get helpful answers.

I have made the almond sponge cake and apple scone cake recently and was very impressed. joyofbaking cakes

If  you need to know the name of a particular tool or utensil or ??? this is a good site through which to wanderPastry Chef.com

The books recommended above are all excellent.  I have a great many books on baking, going back many years.

One I also like, which is fairly inexpensive is Gail Sher's "From a Baker's Kitchen"  Professional baking in the home kitchen. One of the 10 best baking books in 1984.  She gives some excellent advice on how to achieve professional bread quality in a home kitchen. 

I have been using her recipe for Monkey Bread for many years.From a Baker's Kitchen

Hi Andiesenji,

Great information, these will be very useful! The four books I ordered are here so I'm sure I will need Pastry Chef.com for clarifications on utensils and tools etc. I also love making breads although I have found them to be more time consuming. I have Reinhart's Apprentice book which I have found to be useful but there is always room for more so will be checking out on Gail Sher's book.

I think I am developing an addiction to buying cookbooks, I don't seem to have enough, its a good thing I do cook from some of them ! :laugh:

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Perfect Pastry was one of the first baking books I owned and I also learned a lot from it. I'd also recommend Bernabaum's Pie and Pastry Bible, which covers puff pastry, croissants, danish and I think choux dough as well as tart and pie doughs.

Nick's books seem to work for me. I do not think his books give a lot of details on the "whys" but most of his recipes that I have tried worked. I have 4 of his books but I am missing Perfect Pastry. It sort of went out of print right after I developed my cookbook addiction.

Anyone has opinions on Nick's latest book - Baker's Tour?

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Thanks, Sweetside for clearing that up for me. I am very new at baking and EG so I am very excited to get specific replies to my questions. I have been ordering from Amazon and Jessica's Biscuit so I am curious to check out Ecookbooks.

By the way is there a forum about baking books that you know of? I was actually looking for such a foum when I stumbled upon EG. What a find!

Ah, if you've found Jessica's Biscuit, you've already found ecookbooks.com... One and the same.

Don't know about a forum on books, but there are threads on eGullet where people are baking from a single book and comparing results / recipes, etc. Just do a search on a particular book.

Welcome to Cookbooks Anonymous... :laugh:

Cheryl, The Sweet Side
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