Indulge: 100 Perfect Desserts (Anglais) Relié – 1 janvier 2010
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Because the recipes in this book have such a wide range of difficulty, "Indulge" would best be enjoyed by someone with a solid foundation of culinary knowledge and a desire to greatly improve their skill. Anyone who can bake, cook and meringue their way through the entirety of this book will find themselves in possession of a wealth of invaluable know-how. The only caveat I would offer is this: unless you are already an accomplished baker/cook, many of the recipes will be daunting. I have yet to master Clark's recipe for Turkish Delight, which though I've followed it to the letter three times, has ended in complete disaster on every occasion. When this happens I find myself thinking about those "Star Trek" moments when Bones would turn to Jim and say something like "I'm a doctor Jim, not a pilot!" Well, in my case I'm a baker not a candy maker, and I'm completely fine working through the learning curve. One of these days I will master the magic of Turkish delight! In the meantime I have my dumph noodle, honey madeleines, and many other scrumptious treats to keep me company.
Chapters include: Biscuits and Cookies; Cakes; Pastry; Meringues; Custards and Creams; Desserts, Mousses and Jellies; Puddings; Ices and Petits Fours. A "Suppliers" index is also included at the back of the book.
Some other recipes: Lemon Posset, Battenburg Cake, Spiced Pumpkin Custard with Orange Infused Granola, Apple Strudel (check out Great Coffee Cakes, by Carole Walter for even better rolling instructions, or Desserts by the Yard by Sherry Yard). I list some of the recipes because I think it's important that someone looking for a homey, every day baking book with recipes for quickbreads, American layer cakes, etc., should pick another book. If you want interesting, old European recipes, plus some innovative desserts, this is the book for you.
Two more observations: the author is English, I believe, so some of her terminology can be confusing to Americans, but the publisher provides a helpful "translation" index at the front of the book. Finally, a number of ingredients are going to be hard to find if you don't live near a major city, so you will have to order them via the internet (examples: gelatin sheets, hibiscus flowers).
This book continues the line of good British pastry books like the ones by Gary Rhodes, Gordon Ramsey and others.
The recipes are in both Metric and Imperial and the temperatures in both Celsius and Fahrenheit.
Recipes range from simple to elaborate and they include gingerbread cake, orange pistachio syrup cake, battenburg, bakewell tart, lemon tart, jalousie, meringues, creme caramel, mousses including a baked chocolate mousse, jellies puddings and ice cream among many others. I find the best section of the book to be the Cookie/Biscuit chapter. I particularly like the shortbread recipe.
This book would do for an amateur baker but not all recipes are approachable.
Most of the recipes are for restaurant not pastry shop desserts.
The author gives sufficient intructions at the beggining of each chapter and of each recipe to facilitate any user. There are tips on the side of every recipe, with extra instructions, suggestions or variations.
The decoration of the finished products is a marriage between British conservatism and French modernism, that is it's not as bad as the British and not as good as the French, but it is good none the less.
Many of the combinations are too weird for my taste eg 'Spiced pumpkin custard with orange infused granola', but that's just my taste and this is my review.
One thing that put me off a bit is the general atmosphere of elevating the author, that makes itself felt throughout the book. To quote the backcover flap, describing the author: "...where she established herself as one of the world's greatest pastry chefs." In the continent, you can get pastry chefs of this level a dime a dozen.
All in all, this is a good book and I am not sorry that I bought it.
Having "been there, done that" for so many notable gastronomic places, she decided strike out on her own and head back to the U.K. for her own chance at ownership and even harder work by wearing one more hat as proprieter.
But during her employ at "The French Laundry", Ms. Clark produced this voluminous book of sweet tastes and temptations, in 2007. It has been worth the wait, to be sure. This is such a full book of information, that I have used it as a reference guide for baking details, hints, and directions; she seems to have left nothing to chance to spoil your efforts.
In my opinion, I have found that pastry books fall into two marvelous categories: "Average Joe" or "Fancy Pants"; I didn't think I could find one that fell in between, a "marriage" of sorts. This effort has, and it has done so beautifully. At the same time, I have to admit that for me, some of the desserts were a bit too sophisticated, though not a negative thing.
The physical appearance and presentation style of the book was impressive for me. Heavy and voluminous, she spared nothing in giving 100 beautiful and beckoning desserts. The pages are a dark cream-colored paired with mostly cranberry partners. A recipe ribbon is included (don't ask me why but that is such a draw for me; it seems to shout out "fancy" and I shout right back "thank you!"). As an added note, on the information page prior to the "Contents" section, there is a descriptive note about the text and its typeface; another "fancy" shout out.
The photography is pristine, clear, and styled without too many of the usual food styling props that you might see in magazines and such. You get the dessert. Period. I like that very much in my "fancy pants" books, thank you. Though I am one for as many photo's as possible in a cookbook, not all the recipes are accompanied by photos. But in defense of that, for those who enjoy this type of baking, you need to be pretty comfortable in the kitchen already. I do not feel that this is a beginners level book, but I wouldn't discourage someone if they enjoy this venue.
Which brings me to the next point: the book gives both metric and Imperial weights (U.K. measures). I have learned that scaling your ingredients makes them become far better and trusted friends when it comes to desserts. Therefore any book that gives you both, also gives you far better chances of success. Example: US = 1 teas/UK = 5ml. Though they might seem that they should be the same, when you weight them out, there can be just the slightest difference in the amounts that can produce a different taste or different texture.
Ms. Clark also includes "Claire's Notes" in most recipes which are little hints and suggestions that can add or subtract actions, alter flavors, or change steps dependent on an altered outcome, or just give generic information.
Rather than give all 100 recipes, I would like to present scattered recipes from each section, some of which I have already tried with great success. Many of the categories are short with just a handful of recipes. Each section begins with "The Secrets of Success" which is a mini-tutorial of sorts for that area.
FOREWARD: by "The French Laundry" owner/chef Thomas Keller
INTRODUCTION: This was a thoroughly enjoyable, brief autobiography of sorts detailing some of the lessons learned during her growing years in the pastry field. I particularly like her sentence. "if you're going to cry, do it in private"; basically if you're going to play with the big dogs, you gotta work on that thick skin as you become a team player.
NOTES for AMERICAN READERS: This speaks of the need for scales when baking, and a glossary of American/British terms that are used in the book; it is printed on a mustard-colored page for quick visual access .
BISCUITS and COOKIES: Oatmeal, Pecan, and Raisin Cookies (pretend that they're totally healthy while you drink these with a glass of cold milk), Frascati Biscuits (almost like Biscotti). French Macaroons (of course!), Amaretti (a great gluten-free cookie: I added pinenuts/pignoli).
CAKES: Carrot Cake (this was outstanding in that it has a very, very sophisticated, adult/grown-up taste to it, not like the usual sugar-laden carrot cakes. I noted in another review regarding the amount of baking powder used and yes, it does measure out to a scant 2 tablespoons). Frosted Banana Cake, Sachertorte, Lemon Cake, Battenburg Cake (very beautiful when served as there are 4 alternating squares of 2-color batter), Chocolate Fudge Brownies.
PASTRY: Puff Pastry, Warm Chocolate and Raspberry Tarts, Tart Tatin, Lemon Tart, Old-Fashioned Eccles Cakes, Apple/Cinnamon/Sultana Strudel (this was incredible; the raisins/sultana's were so plump and juicy and the apple just the right texture enveloped in a perfect dough), Cream Puffs, and Eclairs (I used a yellow custard and not the chocolate pastry cream; for me, eclairs HAVE to have custard).
MERINGUES: Lemon Meringue (different in presentation from the typical American version).
CUSTARDS and CREAMS: Creme Caramel,Creme Brulee (outstanding).
DESSERTS, MOUSSES, and JELLIES: Baked Vanilla Cheesecake, Baked Chocolate Mousse, Opera Cake (my next cake when I have a lot of time; an exquisite presentation).
PUDDINGS: Hot Chocolate Souffles, Apple & Cinnamon Charlotte.
ICES: Vanilla Ice Cream, Strawberry Ice Cream.
PETIT FOURS: Langues de Chat, Honey Madeleines, Verjus-Plumped Raisin Financiers, Almond Roches, Coffee & Walnut Fudge, Marshmallows & Hot Chocolate.
If you enjoy a challenge, as well as some upscale desserts, you will thoroughly enjoy this book. She placed much effort into explaining details of baking in which a solid baking foundation must be built upon. Using that knowledge will help you in presenting the same delicious offerings that are within these pages. Peace.
Full of real knowledge and inspiration. For me it's also important that the author is the experienced pastry chef and reading this book you feel that she exactly knows what she talks about. And - not like many other authors - she wants to share her knowledge with you.
Recipes are clearly explained. Simple (like shortbread), and more difficult like creme brulee or difficult like Opera. It's a book not for beginner, rather for someone who has some experiences in baking.
And also this book is just beautiful - with modern pictures and nice colours.