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3.8 out of 5 stars
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on January 25, 2004
At first I was skeptical of this book, since Hermé is worshipped by the French press as a demi-god. I am glad to say that this is a source of very good, but not great desserts. There are several things I like about this cookbook. All of the recipes were thoroughly tested, and I had no problem with the ones I tried, although some recipes required more than casual talent and there are no warnings about this in the recipes. Most of the recipes are assembly jobs. That is, the components are prepared at least a day before and assembled that day. The garnishes and plating are also completely described and recipes given for them; this way, there is no question of how to serve them. These are mostly professional restaurant desserts that have been successfully adapted to the American kitchen. So, these recipes are suitable for both restaurant and home. There is nothing here that is very difficult, but some are time consuming and have several preliminary steps. Hermé for the most part eschews decorative, architectural structures and focuses on the flavor of the dish.
The chapter "Basic Recipes" contains components used by recipes in the other chapters. It is an interesting collection of recipes, some with curious wrinkles. Some of them, like pâte brisée, meringue or inside-out puff pastry, do not work as well as standard versions. Some, like crème anglaise or pastry cream, are actually better than standard ones because they list actual temperatures rather than a physical description as the end point, meaning that the less experienced will have a good chance of doing them properly. Some recipes, like Lemon Cream, are a lot of extra effort without any discernable improvement. In this chapter, standard French names in addition to the American ones used would have been nice, especially for those who have not had a lot of experience with French patisserie.
The next two chapters, "Fruits, Creams, and Cookies" and "Tarts and Tartlets" are much more interesting. Hermé's use of fresh fruits is particularly impressive, particularly in simple fruit plates and tarts. The little tricks he uses are well worth learning and applying elsewhere, like burning off crème chiboust with a propane torch, adding freshly ground pepper to fresh fruits (I believe he is the one who invented this), or using chopped, drained oranges by itself as a tart filling. Some his tricks, however do not really help; draining or drying fruit produced a nice texture, but they lost their fresh fruit flavor.
The last chapter on cakes was rather ordinary. In particular, I did not really like the flavor of the chocolate cakes. They have all sorts of other flavors added in, and they did not combine well with the chocolate. The combinations are trendy, and many of them are already out of date (book copyright is 1998).
The last chapter is particularly useful: it has explanations of the procedures and equipment used throughout the book. My only complaint here is that marzipan and almond paste certainly are not the same thing, nor are they interchangeable. It is here, buried at the end of the section on measuring, that you discover how flour is measured for the recipes (they use dip and sweep).
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on December 5, 2001
Master pastry chef Pierre Herme has created a delightful book filled with more than enough taste treats to satisfy even the most sated dessert gourmand. On first glance, each recipe appears difficult to construct; each contains a multiple amount of steps most of which require parchment paper and pastry bag utilization--not the standards of most amateur bakers. Not worth the fuss? Au contraire! Pierre's ultimate products are fabulous--the tastes and textures meld together to form not only a tasty finish to any meal, but create perfect confections that are also a feast for the eyes.
The book is divided into 4 main sections: Pierre's basic recipes, Fruits, Creams and Cookies, Tarts and Tartlets and Cakes. A Dictionary of Terms, Techniques, Equipment and Ingredients as well as a Source Guide round out the book. I guarantee that the hands-on experience of creating at least one of these dessert extravaganzas will act as your own personal primer to pastry-making, igniting your passion for the French patisserie and insuring that you purchase all other books by M. Herme. My own interest in the book was cultivated by seeing M. Herme in action on Martha Stewart's kitchen where he piped the beautiful and delicious pear and fig tartlet with such an easy perfection I was astounded. Bought the book the next day and was not sorry!
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on December 2, 2001
I suppose that the only true test of a cookbook is whether or not the recipes work -- and whether or not you want to make them again. On both points this book succeeds brilliantly. Herme and Greenspan have somehow managed to make this master dessert maker's recipes accessible and -- more importantly -- workable for the home baker. The lemon tart in particular is a gem. If you're not afraid of recipes that sometimes call for a lot of steps, and you want to dazzle your friends or family with something extra-special, by all means get this book. The recipes are both fantastic and fool-proof -- and when was the last time you could say that about a dessert book?
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on October 26, 2001
Whenever I have a lot of time on me and want to me a truly impressive dessert, I reach out for this book on my shelf (and yet, I still give it only 3 points, you will see why.)
This book is a great book for people who are looking to make exotic tasting, good looking desserts and have a lot of time to spend as cooking them can be quite time consuming (One dessert usually calls for more than 1 recipe). The recipes usually yield very good and nice looking results (some are really really yummy! e.g. autumn meringue cake, chocolate banana tart). I agree with a couple of the previous reviewers, however, that somes of the recipes are probably somehow not well tested for cooking at home(too much butter and too little salt, e.g. Never try lemon cream. It is definitely like lemon butter!). Another downfall of the book (which I takes 1 point off for) is it is quite hard to follow. The cooking steps are explained in details but words are too much cramped together. If 1 step in here could be numbered such that it could be seperated into 4-5 steps, it would have been much easier to follow. The books have nice cooking techniques, glossary at the end and have really nice pictures.
In conclusions, this cook book is not for a novice but it can definitely give you an inspiration! But be careful not to bring your desert to a party if you haven't made it before. The recipes that work, work really great but you don't want to feed your crowd with the ones that don't work well.
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on April 9, 2001
Like many books by famous restaurant chefs, this isn't a terribly practical cookbook for the home cook. Especially on dessert menus, many restaurants emphasize presentation as much as the quality of the food. Elaborate architectural wonders comprised of many different parts - pastry, pastry cream, cookies, fresh fruit and multiple sauces all in the same dessert - are the norm. This book is a good example of that. The pictures are beautiful and inspiring to look at, but these aren't recipes that most home cooks would want to conquer. When we cook at home we want something lush and creamy and chocolatey that satisfies our craving for comfort food. We're usually not concerned with creating a stunning visual presentation. Furthermore, this book suffers from another common problem with chef cookbooks: the recipes were originally designed to make large quantities for restaurants and the conversion to a home-sized portion is sloppy. Too frequently you'll find that the recipes call for too much butter or not enough salt. If you have a chance, take a look at the pictures in this book, but don't bother adding it to your collection.
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on October 6, 2000
One absolutely fabulous recipe here, which is the coconut loaf cake. The cookies are ho-hum.The Olive oil cake was terrible and the lemon cream, which is used in a tart as well as several other recipes is more like a lemon butter. Many of the other recipes are extremely time consuming to make so I can't say I've tried them. I think you'd be better off with Francois Payard's book.
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on April 14, 2000
Herme's book has a lot of delicious-sounding recipes for pastry, but it just seems too complicated. One particularly yummy-sounding recipe contains apples cooked with butter and sugar for 10 hours and combined with cinnamon pastry, genoise, and (I think) a bavarian cream filling. I think I'll wait until I can get to Fauchon in Paris to try his creations, though. Also, there aren't pictures for every dessert, which is a little annoying when the recipes are so involved. Still, if you like to spend hours creating a dessert based on 5 other recipes, you might want to buy this book! I would recommend Simply Sensational Desserts or The Village Baker's Wife over this.
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on March 30, 2000
Book covers: basics (genoise, meringue, puff pastry, ladyfingers, tart dough, cinnamon dough, + some fillings), fruit desserts (includes chocolate creams, ice cream, lemon crepes, tuiles, cookies), tarts (includes lemon tart, apple galette, rice tart w/fruit, lots of stuff with pears, orange tarts) , cakes (includes easy ones like lemon loafs, chocolate cakes, then moving on to fancy ones), and some explanation of terms, techniques, equipment and ingredients.
I own 8 baking books The pictures are really nice. The other thing that stands out about this book is the exotic nature of some of the recipes - a rice tart? Mascarpone/blueberry/ladyfinger cake? Herme uses a lot of exotic fruits such as passion fruit, figs, and currants (which are hard to get here in parts of the USA). In doing so, I think this book shows you a lot of things that other don't. I feel the level of the book is for somewhere slightly above beginner. There are some easy recipes in this book and some very time consuming ones as well so there is a big range there. Overall, the strengths of this book are the great photography, innovative recipes, and new ways that the reader will look at designing desserts. Even if you have a lot of baking books already, this one will help you see things in a new way. On the other hand, if it's the ONLY dessert book you own, I'm not sure it will help you see baking in a systematic orderly way as "Baking with Julia" is or one of the cake or pie/pastry bibles.
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on May 19, 1999
a former pastry chef on Martha's vinyard who would order dessert first before the entre, I raced to the kitchen to make the coconut loaf and the raspberry genoise. Was truly rewarded with delicous results, good tips for successful sally larhette
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on March 4, 1999
Certainly this is a lovely book. However many of the recipes are nothing new (crepes, loaf cakes,pastry dough, genoise) or consist of adding an ubiquitous lemon cream to the crepes,pastry, etc. It does not compare in interest and clarity of exlanations with, for instance, Alice Medrich's "Cocolat". Overall, I was disappointed.
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