This is part of my Summer Reads series where I’ll be reviewing a series of “not just cookbooks”. With a few exceptions!
Today’s “Summer Read” is also a “Summer Activity” for this strangest of all summers! Whilst I don’t typically review cookbooks in this series, today’s offering is a little bit of an exception since many children are home for the summer due to activities/ camps being cancelled. I am always asked what sorts of books I recommend for people wanting to cook with their kids at home and today’s selection is a lovely little bit of French culture AND food (so, you know, right up my alley!).
From the publisher:
How do croissants get their flaky layers? What is the difference between pastry cream and Bavarian cream? What is genoise cake? Can millefeuilles really be made in a home kitchen? For anyone who has asked themselves about the secrets of French pastry, Bake Like a French Pastry Chef holds these answers and many more.
Created by the Parisian cookie masters Michel et Augustin, this comprehensive guide starts from the batters, doughs, and creams that form the building blocks of French pastry and includes complete recipes for everything from brioche to mousse-filled cakes. Step-by-step instructions, more than 700 photographs and illustrations, and down-to-earth troubleshooting tips will give readers the confidence and know-how to achieve pastry perfection. For beginners and aficionados, francophiles and pastry lovers, this charming and playful manual covers the core techniques and recipes taught in pastry schools worldwide.
Apart from the fact that I adore Michel et Augustin cookies I was immediately drawn to this book by its “look”. It’s unmistakably French (it’s got illustrations which I LOVE and which I wish I’d been allowed more of in my own book – it’s very common in French cookbooks to have drawings as well as/ instead of photos – this has both) and at first glance it looks like it might be a book for kids. In fact, though it will definitely appeal to older/ more experienced children, it’s actually a cookbook created as a way to study for the CAP (a professional pastry certificat in France that is very challenging to pass), written by Michel and Augustin’s team, all of whom are certified pastry chefs.
A book written and tested by a team of pastry chefs? Sounds like a recipe for some food geekiness to me (and I mean that in the nicest possible way!). The book is well-organised although looking at it, it’s definitely got a “notebook” vibe. You know those textbooks you scribbled notes in before you had a laptop? Well this reminds me very much of that type of thing. It’s bright and colourful, and FULL of information – one tip I would have from the get-go is to really READ the recipe (in fact this is one of the authors’ recommendations too – “immerse yourself in the recipe” – and really make sure you are reading EVERYTHING. There is SO much information there – from tips and tricks to technical information – and it’s all there for a reason. All the information that has been included comes from a “How do we write this recipe/ share this information so that the reader is successful?” point-of-view. It’s the sort of information you’d pick up during an in-person class. I’ve used the book as a reference when I’m asked a question about pastry/ baking. As well as the notes, there are also incredibly helpful images and photos to guide you through each step of the recipes.
Recipes include all the pastry basics you’d expect: Génoise, Pâte à Choux, Pâte Sablée, Pâte Sucrée, Pâte Brisée, Puff Pastry, Viennoiseries (brioche, croissants etc..) and different applications of those base pastry recipes. There’s also a whole section on Entremets (multi-layered mousse/cake desserts). As you’d expect in a “text book” there’s an excellent Essentials section (equipment) at the start and a very thorough section at the back that covers a myriad of topics (from discussing the pastry certification itself – sounds intense! – to hygiene and safety, a fabulously detailed glossary and templates to help you recreate the recipes). Here you will also find a very technical but accessible section talking about ingredients which, if you are located outside France, you’ll need to pay particular attention to – our butter, flour, milk and cream are all different from country to country so it’s a section that’s bookmarked for me when I can’t remember what T45 flour is in a French recipe (it’s cake and pastry flour for us here in Canada), for example. Lots of information if you want it but the recipes explain everything so well you might not need it. As I said, this is food geekiness at it’s best!
Love French pastries? Can’t get to France? Need a Covid-summer project? This is the book for you. And even in a non Covid-summer, if you are really into the science of baking and love French pastries, this will be one to keep handy when you’re baking and not just from this book!
Please note: This post contains affiliate links. I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. This post also contains affiliate links from The Book Depository. This means that if you click over and purchase something, I will receive a very small percentage of the purchase price (at no extra cost to you). Thank you in advance!
Like this post? Get blog posts delivered to your inbox! Sign up here!
monthly newsletter signup!
MY BOOK! In the French kitchen with kids is out now! Click here for details and how to order!