Fine French Desserts: Essential Recipes and Techniques (Anglais) Relié – 6 novembre 2013
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Flammarion is a great French publisher so there is nothing to complain about in this book regarding wonderful photography, typeface, indexing and the like. The English translation is fine and the recipes communicate well. What is on offer is the work of several contemporary French dessert chefs over a fairly complete range of specialties. For the most part, they stick to the 'classics.' like Pithiviers, Paris-Brest, fine fruit tarts (with 'sweet pastry' crusts) and the like. I have to say that the recipe for cherry clafouti here beats the one in Julia Child for toothsome results.
My biggest disappointment was that I expected DVD discs to come with the text to demonstrate techniques and to help me improve my game. Alas, video is 'available' and even more so for computer-literate, cellphone operating modern people. There is some sort of icon (QR) code to scan into properly equipped electronic readers. The rest of us have to make a bit more effort to type in IP addresses and to download and save video footage to PC--frankly, my favorite platform for viewing this type of educational material. I did that, finding 20 brief, voiceless video clips, edited to show the main stages in the realization of some of the recipes. To use them one needs already to know what one is looking for. Aside from the introductory music and the final credits with each clip, visual instruction occupies about 1 minute to seventy seconds of time.
In my experience, cookery books may be usefully categorized as 'cosy' texts with background essays that I find highly interesting and informative and 'culinary arts' texts which lack (mostly) the reassuring information and 'context' for the recipes provided. This book (mostly) lacks the former features and, for readers of my bent, correspondingly lacks interest. An introductory section on equipment and tools would also have been useful. Some of the dessert disciplines require special silicone forms or sheets. One needs 'typical' gear such as a good digital scale, candy thermometer, digital thermometer, pastry bag and set of tips and, once in a while, a mist sprayer. One or two recipes even call for edible printed paper, a 'new' thing in presentation and plating. Still, one can make plenty of these recipes without resorting to special equipment or materials. Recipes use a star system for rating 'difficulty' and most do not rise above two stars--moderately easy.
What buyers do get is a generous offering organized in three major parts: Techniques (for doughs and batters; sponges, bases and petit fours; creams, mousses and dessert fillings; icings, frostings and cake decorations; confectionary, jams and candy decorations; working with chocolate (usefully informative), iced desserts and cooking techniques. Recipes are organized into hot desserts, cold desserts, layered desserts, classic pastries (a fine chapter), loaf cakes and cookies (ditto), tarts and iced desserts (well worth a read.) A practical guide and Appendices of information and advice, a glossary of techniques and terms and a video index round out the package. However, there are little more than 100 recipes in the book...a good number for an instructional text but not enough for a 'cook's tour' of the subject.
Against the many 'positives' one must also weigh the large (not lap friendly) size of the book and its fairly large price. I guess I won't be giving it to anyone on any of my gifts lists: Holidays, Weddings; whatever.