on January 1, 2003
There is much more to French Patisseries than what I found on this book. The choice of recipes is poor, the lack of photos is a turn-off. Some of the recipes are very elaborate for the average reader and a picture of the finished product could have been an extra help. One thing I dislike about some cookbooks and this is one, is describing mouthwatering dishes or desserts, in this case, and not including the recipe.
on March 1, 2004
If you cannot go to Paris, then buy this book and bring some of Paris to you.
Greenspan (Baking with Julia) has done it again - another book that deciphers and presents some complicated recipes into approachable masterpieces. The recipes work (at least the ones I've tried), and I have foisted them on some of my French friends, some of whom immediately identified it and the shop the recipe came from (Earl Grey Madeleines, from Mariage Frères, for example). That constitutes success.
The book is organized cleverly, with the simpler recipes in the front, and more and more complex recipes as you work your way through. Though Greenspan does not say she is doing this by design, it is clearly the case. After each recipe, she has some tips and suggestions she calls "An American in Paris," in which she tells you things she does to make the recipe more in her own style, as an American living in Paris.
This is not a primer on French pastry, however, and you will learn little about technique; although there are many classic desserts in this book, it is not comprehensive, by any means. But that does not lessen its value.
There are some nice touches at the end of the book, too. Places to buy ingredients that might be hard to find, and of course, addresses and contact information for all the pastry shops that contributed to the book. Get out your Paris street map and start planning your next trip...
on January 3, 2003
I don't know how Ms. Greenspan charmed these renowned bakers into giving her their treasured recipes. Her descriptions of the bakeries are so evocative that photographs are not needed; all you need is your imagination. If you are interested in food or on your way to Paris, you should read this book. When you return from Paris after having tasted all those wonderful pastries and breads, you'll be able to relive the experience again in your own kitchen. There are a variety of recipes given, most basic enough for the average home baker, some requiring a little more effort. A sweet book indeed.
on December 27, 2003
I love France, their cutlure, and their food. This book gives little stories about how and where the foods originated from and I absolutely love the book. The recipes are easy to follow and everything French comes out perfect. If you love French food, culture, and France in general, and if you like sweets, you'll love this cookbook!!!
on May 1, 2004
Contemplating recipes in this new book from Dorie Greenspan, subtitled 'Great Desserts from the City's Best Pastry Shops' is much like shopping for antiques in that furniture whose style and construction have survived either decades or centuries of wear and changes in taste is almost invariably of a higher quality than last month's great new thing. You don't even have the disadvantage of having to pay a premium price, as Ms. Greenspan's book list price is lower than many books containing mostly new recipes original with the author and her support team.
Ms. Greenspan is not only reporting recipes from what she believes are the greatest patisseries in Paris, she is telling us from which shops these recipes come, and where these shops are located. Happily, some of these shops even have satellites in New York City. Yum.
All of these recipes are classics. The Madeleine cookie is so important and so well known that Ms. Greenspan gives us three recipes from three different shops. Apparently, there are so many different recipes for Madeleines, she could have assembled a book from them alone.
Cookies are the subject of the first chapter. Following chapters cover cakes, tarts, 'pastries and small treats', and 'grand gateaux'. The 'pastries and small treats' chapter includes such standards as Crème Brulee, Chocolate Mousse, Chocolate Bread Pudding, Ali-Babas (similar to baba au rhum), Tiger Tea Cakes, Soft Apple Cakes, Whipped Cream-Filled Meringues, Coffee Eclairs, Strawberry and Orange Flower Water Marshmallows, and Hot Chocolate. The 'grand gateaux' chapter includes pastries such as Bacchus (raisin filled cake plus ganache and glaze), Opera Cake, Chocolate-Thyme Cake, Chocolate Temptation (ooh la la dessert), Blanc-manger (a very, very old French version of panna cotta), King's Cake (traditional after Christmas), Mille-Feuille (Napoleon), and Gate Saint-Honore. Decedent doesn't even begin to these homages to butter, cream, sugar, and eggs.
The final chapter of 'Base Recipes' contains just a few important pantry staples. Even though they look very familiar and are probably in the repertoire of every experienced pastry chef, they deserve a look, as they may be a bit different than what you are used to. The recipe for pate sucree, for example, includes almonds and vanilla, things which are not commonly in American sweet tart dough recipes.
The recipes in this book are the main attraction, but they are not the only charm. There are lots of headnotes, asides, and sidebars on the recipes, the shops and their bakers who contributed the recipes, and the French take on classic ingredients such as butter, salt, vanilla, water, and eggs. A take on fleur de sel worth repeating is Dori's comparing it to extra virgin olive oil, the most desirable first yield from the olive oil harvest. The stories on the shops make me wish I was more in tune with French pastry when I was in Paris many, many years ago. Even the addresses of shops on streets such as the Boulevard Haussman and the place de la Madeleine bring back fond memories of time spent in Paris.
The final charm offered by the book is the collection of watercolors done by Florine Asch which decorate the text, the end pages, and the cover.
I am not at all surprised that the description of the recipes is quite clear and should be not at all difficult for an American amateur baker. Although all European professional bakers measure everything strictly by metric weight, the author has converted everything to the teaspoons and cups and English weight units. Many recipes make sensible use of a food processor for mixing dough. In spite of this all, do not be surprised that many recipes are two or more pages long. The result is more than worth the effort. Each recipe concludes with a supremely considerate note on how to best keep each result and for how long. Each recipe also includes a paragraph labelled 'An American in Paris' on variations and options for serving.
Ms. Greenspan's credentials for writing this book are impeccible. This is her eighth book on pastry. Her previous books have included collaborations with Pierre Herme, Daniel Boulud, and the great Julia Child. It is quite appropriate that the book was suggested by the author of 'The Paris Cookbook', Ms. Patricia Wells. Much credit to Ms. Wells for instigating this very happy result.
Highly recommended for both recipes and warm evocation of a sweet aspect of Paris.