Happy French Friday!
Today I’m sharing a book for all those sweet tooth Francophile readers out there – Molly Wilkinson’s French Pastry Made Simple.
Molly (check out her website here) graduated from the pastry programme of Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. Originally from Dallas, Molly moved to Paris in 2013 to follow her passion for baking. She ended up meeting “the Frenchman” and currently lives in Versailles where she offers pastry classes (online and in-person when permitted). French Pastry Made Simple is her first cookbook.
About the book:
Beautiful, authentic French pastry is easier than it looks! Molly Wilkinson, a Texas transplant running sold-out pastry workshops in Versailles, was trained at Le Cordon Bleu, but takes a refreshingly relaxed approach to pastry. Readers won’t find long, fussy recipes and tricky techniques here. With Molly’s recipes, anyone can get delicious, impressive results without sweating the details. Readers can follow her easy methods and foolproof tips and tricks, to amaze their friends and family with spectacular bakery-worthy creations.
Molly covers the basics, with time-saving recipes like her magically flaky 30-minute puff pastry and her perfect, fail-safe pastry cream, and then moves on to ganache, caramel, meringue and more. Readers can use their new skills to make classics like Eclairs, Mille Feuille and Tarte Tatin or try their hand at showstoppers like Mixed Berry Macaron Cake and Bûche de Noël. Shortcuts cut down on steps, but never flavor. With Molly’s quintessential recipes and laid-back approach, it’s easy to skip the bakery and whip up these irresistible desserts with confidence, humor and “je ne sais quoi.”
If you follow Molly on Instagram, you’ll be familiar with her style – classically French and gorgeous and you might think you would never be able to to recreate these dishes. In French Pastry Made Simple Molly breaks down French pastries into a few base recipes that you build onto to recreate pâtisserie-worthy desserts with less fuss that you would expect.
The book is divided into chapters reflecting those French pastry basics: Pâte Sucrée (sweet shortrcust pastry), Crème Pâtissière (pastry cream), Ganache au Chocolat (chocolate ganache), Crème au Citron (lemon curd), Pâte à Choux (choux pastry), Génoise et Jocande (sponge cake), Light-as-Feather Mousse, Pâte Feuillété (puff pastry), Caramel and Meringue. From the base recipes, Molly adds on, so, for example, your Pastry Cream can be used in a flan, a fraisier cake and a mixed berry tart.
I love this idea that you can master a few “recettes de base” (base recipes) and use them to create many different dishes. As someone who knows a little bit about a French pastry myself 😉 I think this is an excellent list of things to work on if you are really interested in mastering French pastry, or at least a few classic recipes.
Photography, by Joann Pai, is exquisite and the food styling and plating are simply beautiful. Everything *looks* fancy but don’t let that put you off – Molly is an experienced teacher and in her words (and sometimes step-by-step images), clearly explains each step of the recipes.
Recipes are written paragraph-style (as opposed to numbered lists) and so I recommend reading through the entire recipe before you start to make sure you know what’s supposed to happen in what order. Many of the recipes are multi-step and include multiple recipes (for example, the tart recipes might include “1/2 recipe of pâte sucrée” as part of the ingredients so that’s another recipe you need to take into account in terms of timing etc.) so it’s really important that you are aware of all the steps as sometimes timing things with pastry can be tricky.
The book design is beautiful – very elegant to match the food – but one thing I’d change is the font – a lot of the writing is in pale pastel colours and it quite small (having been through publishing a book the same size as this, I know the struggle to fit all the words in!). If you have old eyes like mine, you might need to take a second or third look to check you’ve read things right (especially the fractions in the quantities). I’d also have loved to see more step-by-step images as I DO think this type of food lends itself to a little more visual hand holding! The step-by step images that are included (the pastries, for example) are super helpful and there are a lot of recipes with many steps (not complicated, just a lot) that would benefit from this type of treatment. Again, I know the struggle of trying to fit #allthethings into the pages!
I appreciated the information included in the front matter of the book as will folks who are keen to get baking. Molly says:
Pastry certainly does not have to be difficult and can be achieved with very minimal tools in the kitchen. A couple of key pieces of equipment make it that much easier, and and using delicious ingredients will bring the flavor over the top with these fabulous French recipes.
There is a list of “must have” equipment – pans and tins and a “pastry tool kit” (yesss – first and MOST IMPORTANT is a baking scale!). I love that Molly explains all the various items and why you need them, when to use them and how. There’s a comprehensive section about using piping bags and tips (hint: these are not just used for piping frosting!) which is a really great resource even if you’re using another book and the sizing of the tip/ bag isn’t clear – there’s a great chart telling you which size piping tip to use (in different brands) – so helpful! Molly walks you through using a pastry bag (again, photos here would have been great but her descriptions are pretty thorough!). Throughout the book there are excellent tips and tricks in the sidebars to help guide you to success and in the meringue chapter (as well as walking you through both Italian and French meringue) there is a super comprehensive section with useful info about what to look for when a recipe calls for a specific type of “peak” and also what to do when you don’t quite get it right. There’s SO much information in here that each time I open the book I find something new!!
This is a beautiful book that is an excellent “primer” on French pastry that serious bakers will want to get their teeth stuck into. For those who prefer to look and not bake, this is a gorgeous coffee table book that will have you dreaming of your next trip to France. Highly recommended for sweet tooth Francophiles and bakers alike!
Buy “French Pastry Made Simple” for yourself!
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 for 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!
MY BOOK! In the French kitchen with kids is out now! Click here for details and how to order!