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This is without doubt the largest, most informative, most inclusive bread and pastry book in existence. Just imagine the 'Professional French pastry series' and the 'Special and decorative breads series' in one huge tome.The book does not have 880 pages as stated in the description, but 1043 including the indexes.
Mr Suas has created a comprehensive, easy to follow textbook for advanced baking and pastry. The book uses the French tradition in baking/pastry apprenticeship and includes both American and French products. Mind that this is not a coffee table book but a student's guide to advanced baking/pastry. So the author approaches the reader as a teacher would approach the student. There are explanations for every single detail and at the end of each chapter there are questions. A word of caution; this is a book strictly for professionals. One cannot just open it and start measuring cups and spoons to make a cake. Anyone lesser than an apprentice will probably get lost in the plethora of information. So if you are not a professional or a very knowlegable amateur, don't blow your money.
The book starts with a history of bread and pastry making and is divided into three main sections: Bread, Vienoisserie and Pastry. Each section is then subdivided into many others. The chapters are:
PART 1: INTRODUCTION
b) Food safety
PART 2: BREAD
a) Baking process and dough mixing
c) Advanced flour technology and dough conditioners
d) Alternative baking processes
e) Bread formulas
PART 3: VIENNOISERIE
PART 4: PASTRY
b) Quick breads
c) Pastry dough
d) Pies and tarts
e) Cake mixing and baking
f) Syrups,creams,custards,egg foams,icings
h) Classic and modern cake assembly
i) Petit-fours and confections
j) Frozen desserts
k) Plated desserts
l) Advanced decoration
There are photos throughout, including procedures and most of the products, the paper is glossy, and there are tables with information interspersed between the text. All formulas are given in Metric, Baker's percentage, US decimal, and Lbs and Oz. Also there are instructions to sites in the internet where one can expand on what is in the book and get additional information. These are throughout the book and in all the sections.
In the bread section, all the different breadmaking procedures are discussed, including the straight dough method, retarded dough method and sourdough method. This is the only book I know that in some products uses two different sourdoughs to produce a bread. Another innovation is the inclusion of a whole program for breadmaking on a professional scale, with days and times for each procedure spanning several days. There is also an extensive discussion on par-baked goods which are being favored lately by many bakers.
Bread products include: Baguettes, ciabatta, San Francisco sourbread, challah, rye breads, naan, tortilla, pita, pan de los muertos and many other European and American breads.
The Viennoiserie section is one of the most comprehensive and inclusive and can be only compared to the ones in the 'Traditional and decorative breads'. All the known products are here, including croissants, danish, kugelhopf, brioche, panettone. Different methods are given for the production of the same product eg retarded croissant, sourdough croissant etc.
The pastry section is larger than the bread one by 200 pages. The theory is divided between the chapters, as each family of products has its own technology and science, besides the basic science that goes for all pastry.
There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of products in this section. Most of the classics are here, as well as modern pastries. Too many to mention.
On the downside. Some recipes (not many) use shortening, a blasphemy against both health and taste. I also noticed a few typographical errors in some of the recipes and the temperatures, eg 375F is given as 96C in one recipe, while it should be 196C.
These faults though, are a drop in an ocean of excellence.
To conclude, at this low price this book is a give away. Just think that for the same money you can only get one tome of the 'French pastry series' with 200 pages and here you get more than a thousand pages.
Top quality, top price, the best money can buy.