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Desserts Hardcover – Oct 25 2011
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About the Author
Martin Brigdale is a well-known British photographer specializing in food. He has photographed many cookbooks in England and the Untied States, including Foods of Greece, The Mediterranean Pantry, Michel Roux Desserts, and French Country Cooking. He is an enthusiastic home cook and loves to travel.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
If you are a beginning professional in the baking industry or are a very advanced home cook/baker looking to expand their technique with classic techniques and variations on classic recipes this is a great book for you. If you are a home baker that is more interested in making cake pops and following Martha Stewart, this book is definitely not for you.
A side note for those complaining about the 'fan-assisted' ovens, claiming such equipment is for restaurants only and all of that . . . convection ovens are readily available on the market and can be found anyplace from your specialty appliance store to Home Depot and Lowe's. Convection just means there are fans to help circulate the air so your product bakes more evenly; if you don't have a convection oven you can still bake any of the recipes in this book, just be aware that you will have to increase the temperature by 25 to 50 degrees depending on your oven.
Michel Roux is, without question, one of the world's best, most accomplished, pastry chefs. He presents "Desserts" as a "fresh look" at the subject with "updated great classics and mouthwatering contemporary recipes, inspired by his travels and designed to suit today's fresher, lighter palate." This is an accurate description of the contents, which span the gamut of desserts (fruit, cremes, souffles, puddings, crepes, ice creams, meringues, pastries, cakes, and chocolates). The recipes have numerous beautiful photographs, including photos illustrating techniques. I have not yet tried the recipes but look forward to doing so. Many look perfect for Spring. Note that in 1997 Roux published another cookbook of the same name, Desserts.
I do think that Amazon's description of this book is inaccurate. It states: "For more complicated techniques, helpful step-by-step photos ensure that even inexperienced home cooks and bakers achieve delicious results." Although a few techniques are illustrated, this cookbook is, by no means, suitable for home cooks and certainly not inexperienced cooks. Michel Roux is no Julia Child.
The recipes assume familiarity with professional techniques. Although volume measurements are given, e.g., cups and tablespoons, metric weights are included and produce far more accurate results. The use of "a scant cup" implies, to me, that Roux never intended the chef/cook to measure rather than weigh ingredients.
Further, recipes use professional ingredients, such as leaf gelatin, seldom used by the home baker, and Roux does not provide suppliers or sources. Note: the Internet is a good resource for buying these uncommon ingredients. A few ingredients, such as clotted cream, probably require substitution by even the professional chef, but the recipes provide no suggestions or advice. As for candied mimosa balls used to decorate the mini croquembouche, I could find only 1 source on the Internet. They are made in Toulouse, France, and sell for $11.00 a quarter ounce!
Big technical problems: the binding and printing. A quality cookbook should not fall apart after a few uses. The publisher has a serious problem with the binding. Also, text should not be written on photos as on page 163. It is illegible.
Overall, if one has the skills and experience to deal with Roux's recipes, I do think that this book presents a delicious array of desserts to please most palates.
Michel Roux is a long-standing and well-respected chef and cookbook writer; that's unquestionable. (In fact, one of the first cookbooks I ever bought for myself was one of his, with his brother.) For all that, I feel like I should be expecting a more accessible book; there's only so far a home chef can go to duplicate the restaurant kitchen, and it feels like Roux isn't quite meeting his readers at that halfway point. The recipes are certainly interesting, ranging widely from poached pears to Génoise cake (curiously anglicized as "Genoese") to kataifi to brownies (the cover shot), so you'll certainly find many exciting ideas for your dinner parties. And there are a few recipes that serve as models for others, and include extra photography. The food photography is as nice as you'd expect from a British-produced cookbook, although the Bodoni-style text font it's printed in is quite strange and a little jarring. Also, something that really jumped out at me -- Roux is a fan of stevia, not only in its artificial sweetener form, but as an herb in its own right. If nothing else, you have to give him points for creativity.
But this is one of those cookbooks where it's not at all clear who the audience is. He uses odd ingredients -- liquid glucose? Don't you have to go to a brew shop for that or something? He seems to use only commercial kitchens for recipe testing, if the odd statement on the masthead is any indication. A lot of these recipes simply shouldn't be attempted by a beginner for those reasons; you'd have to be a reasonably good cook to be sure you know your way around them. Overall, the book reminds me of Charlie Trotter's cooking show -- great for food porn, but any chef that assumes you have duck fat/liquid glucose lying around or readily available doesn't get out of the restaurant nearly enough.
(And yes, there's a significant binding issue with this press run, but if you're reading this a year or three from when I wrote this, it probably won't be an issue in later printings.)
From my perspective, if a book is being created by a professional for use by the general public then part of the process is to adjust recipes for ease of use by the target market. If the adjustments for general use so compromise the integrity of the author or the taste of the recipes then the project should perhaps not be pursued. Perhaps a text book for aspiring professionals would be a better fit.
As noted by other reviewers, the book has construction issues. My book's binding cracked shortly after arrival. I decided to look at my local library's copy of the book to see if it had the same issue. I opened the library book (that step alone was enough to cause my binding to completely crack,) and fully shook it but the binding didn't crack and the pages remained tightly sewn in place. What does this mean? I don't know, and I don't feel comfortable saying at this point, the problem has been resolved.
The book is lavishly illustrated with at least 80 percent of the recipes featuring a full page color photograph of the finished dessert. For some recipes there are step-by-step illustrations which are also useful - for example showing what a French meringue should look like. The paper used is high quality and spills, if wiped up promptly, do not cause damage to the page.
The ink color used throughout the book is mercifully black, but the font size used for recipes is small - I estimate nine point for the ingredients and ten point for the text. Throughout the book some text is smaller than that and some larger. There are a number of pages where the recipe is printed on a colored page which is harder to read.
I prepared the Lemon Cake and baked it in a normal gas oven. It was delicious and indulgent and I will definitely make it again.
Rating the book is difficult because it isn't designed for a home baker and the construction problem, which may or may not already be resolved, is significant. The recipes should be the most important part of the book, and on that basis alone, the excellent Lemon Cake should weigh heavily in a positive review, but problems on many levels cause the book to be user unfriendly.