Friday, December 28, 2007

Pastry books and a New Year's resolution

Well, I hope everyone had an absolutely wonderful Christmas. Here at the Table we were able to finally give everyone the Christmas we had always hoped to give. For the first year in a very long time we were able to get everyone in our family something we were anxious for them to open. I was also able to really bake up some real goodies that everyone enjoyed.

However, all of this baking cookies and individual Oreo Cream Cheese's gave me a bit of an identity crisis. I mean I love baking bread and bread related products, but wow! What a rush when I am putting together various pastry items! The rush of creativity when it all comes together!

So I bring my search to you, loyal reader.
  1. What pastry books or pastry resources guide you?
  2. Which ones have you learned the most from?
  3. Do you have any special resources that would inspire me?
Let me know so I can decide whether I am just drunk from all the baking of Christmas or if I've discovered a new dimension to my baking skills.


jef said...

I'd recommend The Professional Pastry Chef by Bo Friberg. He goes through just about every aspect of baking and pastry in a nice, easy to read format. The recipes are all by weight so you'd have to buy a scale if you don't already have one.

I learned personally from Chef Bo so I may be a little bit biased. :)

Lewis said...

Jef - that is a really good book, I saw it at Barnes and Nobles. Although it is a bit pricey I think I will have to save up for that little treat!

Ann-Marie said...

I'm completely sold on Sherry Yard's "Secrets of Baking". She gives the whys and wherefores plus master recipes and variations, and you can really learn a tremendous amount about making good pastries. (Along with how to fix your mistakes!) Rose Levy Beranbaum's "Pie and Pastry Bible" is a very worthy how-to as well.

P.S.: I got "The Professional Pastry Chef" for Christmas. I'm a little overwhelmed with the size and scope of it, but I'd give a lot to be able to take a class (or two or three) with him.

Lewis said...

Ann-Marie - Thanks for stopping by and giving you ideas! I will look into those books you mentioned.

My frustration with some of the "bibles" are the photos. I saw one bread "bible" and it was REALLY pricey and the illustrations were horrible. They were all hand drawn! I'm sorry but for any book over $30 or $40 I want to see some color photos and lots of them! Another book I looked at was about $35 and simply listed recipe after recipe almost like reading a dictionary. There wasn't a single photo in it!

What is with that anyway? Charging so much for such a poorly written or illustrated book? Hmmm, perhaps a topic to be explored...

Ann-Marie said...

I thoroughly agree with you about wanting photos of everything. The Beranbaum book is sadly lacking in that area, but she does have a lot of information, so I forgive that. Yard's book has lots of photos.

Books with lots of photos get pricey because the printer needs better quality paper to print good photos, which is also heavy paper, and that contributes to shipping costs. Gotta be grateful for bakers who put photos on the web!

Marvin said...

I don't bake much myself, but I think a good book for you to get would be Shirley O'Corriher's "Cookwise". It's a food science cookbook and it provides useful information about baking, although there are other recipes in it as well.

I also highly recommend Alton Brown's "I'm Just Here for More Food". This book is all about baking and shouldn't be confused with his first book "I'm Just Here for the Food". Look for the one that says "More Food" in the title.

Lewis said...

Thank you all for your suggestions! I took a trip to a Borders today armed with a $25 gift card and checked everyones ideas out.

The Professional Pastry Chef looked great but a bit expensive a maybe just a little too much to digest right now. Mostly it was the price though, I will have to save up for that one.

Secrets of Baking by Sherry Yard was a nice book. She had a nice little Family Tree style way of showing how different ingredients are connected. That was cool. $35.

Alton Brown's two books "I'm just here for the food" and "I'm just here for more food" are already in my collection. I credit Alton with my initial interest in food and he also cleared up my thinking on various mixing methods (the muffin method and the biscuit method).

So, in the end it came down to two books:
1. Le Cordon Bleu Dessert Techniques (many colorful step-by-step photos and recipes)
2. Secrets of Baking by Sherry Yard which had good info but no step-by-step photos only end result photos put all together in various stages through the book.

I ended up with Le Cordon Bleu. They were the same price and LCB book just had more of what I am looking for right now. Thank you all for your suggestions and we will see where this takes me!

Feel free to leave further suggestions as you come across them. I have never been known to step away from a good cook or baking book :)

Rene said...

There are two books that I love: Baking Illustrated by the people from Cook's Illustrated magazine and Joy of Cooking '97 ed.

The former is great if you want to learn the technicals of baking cos a commentary accompanying each recipe in the book. The results are really worth the effort to follow their sometimes elaborate instructions (for eg proofing the bread in a slightly warm oven to speed up the process). But please skip the Carrot Cake in this book. I could never figure how they came up with this recipe! Also don't expect many colour photos. Most of the illustrations are hand drawn.

Choose the latter if you just want a source of dependable recipes. As the '97 edition of JOC has quite a few master chef's involvement, I have not been disappointed by a single recipe in this book. The bread and pastry sections were written with the help of people like Peter Reinhart, Alice Medrich and Dorie Greenspan. So instead of getting their individual books, this is a great combo.

Hope this helps!

Julie said...

I tend to buy my books from where they offer used copies from outside vendors. I've always had good luck buying books through outside vendors, too.

As for my own personal references, I rely on the Internet as my resource and my fellow bloggers as my inspiration, though I do run through the Joy of Cooking and Better Homes & Gardens in a pinch.

Christina said...

Baking with Julia is one of my favorites. It has a mix of easy and complex recipes, which I like.

The Bread Book is my favorite for bread, though I use other recipes as well (from the first book, too).

I also like Once Upon a Tart because it's simple, but the recipes are great.