A go-to-guide for French sweets? Umm, yes!
I was excited about venturing into this book even before I opened it. I mean, my dreams of becoming a famous pastry chef might never come to pass, but I will always love to bake.
Sure, we’ve seen endless recipes for croissants and meringues, but not like this.
Patisserie: Master the art of French pastry might look like a coffee table book on the outside, but inside this 287-page tome takes a slightly unorthodox approach to showing you how to tackle simple and complex recipes. For example, there are ingredient photographs; illustrations showing how the elements all layer together; a “tricky aspect” tip on most recipes, so you know what to keep an eye out for; and creative variations. The first third of the book is devoted to base recipes; pastries, doughs, cooked sugars, icings and sauces. What follows is parade of pastries incorporating those base recipes, from vacherin, opera cakes and gateaux to macarons and madeleines.
So it’s a French cookbook full of romance and evocative writing, right?
Err, no. It’s not one of those French cookbooks. But I loved it anyway. Technique and organisation is the core of this book. It’s a baker’s manual with a clear design aesthetic and quite a bit of thought given to what you need to know as you work through a recipe.
This is the book to open when you want perfection; when you have a little time on your hands to wow friends (we should add, there are some simpler recipes but most lean more to the show-stopper end of the scale). It's the book you will go back to time again and time again for classics such as shortcrust pastry, caramel sauce and crème anglaise. For the record, this book needs an actual place in your home because it certainly isn’t a throw-around — it’s heavy!
And if you’re not sure you can tackle a croquembouche, religieuse or even the caramel and apple shortbread, don't fret — the step-by-step-guides, technique glossary and dessert cross-section illustrations make it all seem doable.
The authors of this tome — French pastry chef Melanie Dupuis and molecular gastronomy expert and cooking teacher, Anne Cazor — give you insider information on how to perfect delicious desserts. I applaud this book for its clever hand-holding: you'll find useful tips — such as how to check if your pastry is cooked and best-practice icing advice — along with seemingly ingenious ideas like candying citrus and using clothes pegs to hold down the corners of your baking paper (clever, right?).
It’s actually not all French classics.
Classic French desserts are timeless and they have a reputation that is rich, elegant and buttery. This book delivers all the usual suspects — éclairs, croquembouche, mille feuilles, macarons and croissants, we're looking at you — but there are some surprises along the way, including cheesecake and chocolate chip cookies.
The cookies do look good, but my not-so-classic picks are almond praline chocolate rochers (basically homemade Ferrero Rochers), rum baba with boozy syrup and chantilly cream, and a rich, glossy chocolate tart.
I tested the cheesecake and yes! It was all kinds of delicious: very creamy and that pastry? Just divine. The steps made for an easy baking adventure and an even greater finished product.
Guys, leave your diet at the door.
This book is not for the time-poor or dieters. It’s full of butter, sugar and all the trimmings that make French desserts so indulgent. If you're interested in learning, or simply yearning for French sweetness, Patisserie is an ideal cookbook for you. And with almost 100 recipes, there’s definitely plenty to choose from.
Cook the book
Recipes and images from Patisserie by Mélanie Dupuis and Anne Cazor (Hardie Grant, $59.95 hbk).