This is an impressive collection of high quality desserts and pastries. My enthusiasm, however, is tempered by the frequently incomplete recipe procedures. In their attempt to adapt these famous patisserie dishes to the American kitchen, they seem to have simplified the recipes by simply leaving out a lot of vital instructions and information. Deficiencies not withstanding, this is an amazing collection of 201 recipes. In the end, I highly recommend this book for professionals or the enthusiastic amateur pastry chef, but the average person messing around in his kitchen at home should avoid this book.
Lenotre is a legendary pastry chef in France, and this book is a collection of his recipes. The dishes are relatively simple (but not always easy to execute); however, the flavors and designs are mostly classic and well thought out. After considering this book, one can rightly see why Lenotre became famous. Some of the more uncommon recipes that are very worthwhile: Friands, Savoy Sponge Cake, Basque Cake, and Raisin Buns. Even though the instructions are frequently problematic, they are worth the effort it takes to correct them, because the desserts are truly wonderful. The book presents an impressive array of different desserts and pastries using only a few basic doughs and creams. The end of the book has 5 series of pictures on making and forming various doughs.
Each recipe has estimated preparation times, needed utensils, and a difficulty rating in addition to the usual recipe, all of which is greatly appreciated and a big help. This will ensure that you are properly prepared for each recipe. Also unusual but extremely useful are the freezing, refrigeration, and thawing instructions that are included with most recipes. Also please note that on page 36 is a picture of properly baked croissants; the color is very dark brown, compared to Americans, who usually under-bake them. Unfortunately, the instructions are rarely complete. Many steps are usually omitted, and some steps are not adequately explained. This is not a problem to an experienced baker who can fill in the missing bits, but will cause the neophyte no end to trouble, meaning a good likelihood of failure.
The most significant problems are in the first 2 chapters on doughs, batters, creams and syrups. Very few of these recipes can be done successful by the beginner just by following the supplied instructions. This is a shame, as the recipes in the rest of the book use these as a base. For the more experienced, I suggest that the recipes in the rest of the book be used, but use standard professional recipes for such things as pastry cream, meringue, and the like. The flan on page 217 has bubbles on the sides (a sign that it was baked at too high a temperature). The fritter recipe does not have a temperature for the oil. The page reference on page 297 is wrong (should be 296). The chocolate soufflé on page 234 is the only recipe I tried that failed.
This book has the following chapters: Basic Recipes for Doughs and Batters; Basic Recipes for Creams and Syrups; Breakfast and Coffee Cakes; Large Cakes and Desserts; Pies and Tarts; Little Pastries; Hot Desserts-Omelettes and Soufflés; Cold Desserts-Charlottes and Stewed Fruit; Petits Fours and Cookies.