Pâtisserie is a beautiful cookbook, but not for casual bakers

Pâtisserie, by William and Suzue Curley, is a 2014 cookbook that offers around 100 authentic French patisserie recipes. I would recommend this book if people are looking to bake authentic French pâtisserie, willing to invest large amounts of time and money, or if they are simply looking for a good coffee table book. However, I do not recommend this book if one wants to bake for fun because these recipes are time-consuming and the need for specific molds and ingredients is expensive.

The book starts with a history of how the authors discovered their passion for baking and transitions into the evolution of pâtisserie, going back from ancient civilizations to significant people, places, and innovations that allowed pâtisserie to evolve into its current state.

With the need for accuracy in baking and the numerous elements in each French patisserie, one-third of this cookbook describes the essential ingredients, tools, techniques, and basic recipes in detail. Therefore, the actual recipes do not appear until page 138, where the authors present their recipes in seven chapters covering Pastries & Leavened Specialties, Petits Gâteaux, Entremets, Macarons, Verrines, Baked Cakes, and Petits Fours.

Each recipe is accompanied by a short introduction talking about its history, beautiful full-page photos of the final product, and abundant smaller instructional photos on the side to help with the process of assembling. The beautiful full-page photographs make the book aesthetically pleasing and a perfect choice as a coffee table book.

Most of the recipes have more than five elements. The ingredients section of each recipe lists the names of the elements and redirects the readers to the basic recipes instead of listing all the ingredients. Likewise, the methods on the recipe page mainly describe the process of assembling, and readers will need to flip to other pages to find the actual preparation steps. This makes baking much harder and confusing as constant switching of pages is required, but the methods are incredibly accurate.

Compared to the methods, the quantities made in each recipe are much less accurate. For example, in the chapter for macarons, I had halved the recipe, wanting to make 9 macarons, but still ended up with 18 final products (photo to left).

I have been baking my way through this book with recipes such as the Frasier, Pavlova, Gâteau Mille-feuille, Raspberry Chocolate Macaron, and more. And the complexity of these recipes is evident. The Frasier contains the most elements, but I believe it is the most delicious with flavors of strawberries and other berries spread throughout the whole cake through fresh fruits, jam, and glaze.

The Gâteau Mille-feuille (photo to the right) is the most time-consuming as the pastry requires more than five hours and needs to be set overnight.

If one doesn’t have as much time but wants to try baking patisseries, Pavlova (photo below) is the best choice as it only contains three elements and takes about two hours.

Photographs: From the author’s own baking.

Comments are closed.