As a self-taught chef, I am constantly on the lookout for books that will expand my training. Traditionally, books published by culinary schools have been written to accompany classroom instruction making them poor tools for independent learners. Francisco Migoya of the Culinary Institute of America takes a different approach to his books and his latest is certainly a winner for serious students of pastry.
Francisco Migoya is a professor at the Culinary Institute of America and previously has worked with Thomas Keller at French Laundry and Bouchon. In 2008 he released his highly acclaimed Frozen Desserts, which was followed with Modern Café in 2009 - another well received book. Now Migoya has released yet another girthy book that just oozes the knowledge that he's accumulated since Modern Café.
There's no stinginess of information with Migoya. With over 525 pages, covering: Basic elements, Pre-desserts, Plated desserts, Dessert buffets, Passed-around desserts, Cakes and Petits Fours, each section starts with a gorgeous photograph of the final dessert and assembly instructions. Following these, Migoya then breaks down each dessert with the individual recipes. While some basic knowledge is needed, Migoya doesn't assume that you know proper batter folding techniques or what tempering is. Clearly a first semester student in his class could have success with this book as well as a well-seasoned chef looking for new ideas.
The book is not without its flaws, although I find these to be far less noticeable than most pastry books. The publisher has separated the recipes from the photos and assembly directions. So if you want to see how to make the Salted Peanut Butter Ice Cream with Raising Jelly Veil on page 206, you will need to turn to page 257 to find the recipes. And likewise, if you're not fully awake you may even miss the transition from Toasted Milk Panna Cotta that starts on page 254 and continues right up against the Salted Peanut Butter Ice Cream on 257 separated only by a small logo and photo behind the recipe title. A designer was trying to be a bit too clever or efficient with space and made the organization more challenging than it needed to be. The other flaw is that Migoya has quite a few unique serving dishes, molds and ingredients, which the reader is referred to discover in a Resources section. There were a few items that I could not find in the Resources despite quite a bit of research - please tell me where to get the fillable tubes! But again, these two flaws are insignificant in comparison to the quality of the book.
If you're not convinced that $40US isn't a good investment, consider a few of the recipes:
*Bacon ice cream, Quebec maple syrup-flavored kataifi, brown butter panna cotta & burning hay scent
*Warm pandan leaf-infused caramelized cream, black sesame genoa bread, hibiscus glaze & popcorn shoots
*White miso pot de crème, green tea génoise crumbs, kumquat marmalade, kumquat jelly
Some of the 200+ recipes are exotic but not so far out there that they're irrelevant. Most are common flavors prepared in the most modern and proven of techniques. I appreciate his ability to explain preparations for well-equipped kitchens but also for more humble kitchens - there are very few recipes that you can't make at home.
Migoya continues to prove himself as one of the top pastry chefs in the country and certainly one of the top pastry educators anywhere. Elements of Dessert is worth far more than its price, and certainly exceeds a much larger stack of books that sit on my shelf collecting dust.