In the past, I have never been super attracted to pastry and sweets books. But now that I am in culinary school and considering going into the Baking & Pastry side of the program, I figured it would be a good time to check one out, and this one looked very good from the preview.
That, and I am in love with the fact that it actually teaches people how to COOK the food and not just gives them a recipe for it. It shows them how to make it, and why they do the things they do – and for a successful recipe, with something as temperamental as most desserts – that is so, so important. If you don’t understand why you are doing a certain step, what’s to stop you from trying to skip it to save time?
Okay, this is a huge book. And it’s such a solid book, which as a collector I like, but also as someone who COOKS from the books, I like. I want a book which will resist some water and which will not start to crack around the binding if I keep it open for too long.
It also has very high-quality pages, which I adore for the same reasons as above. But I also adore them because they are gorgeous! This whole book is beautiful. Everything from the glossy dessert sauces, to the creams, to the piped meringues makes me want to make it. I just want to go over to Johnny Iuzzini’s house and eat everything that comes out of his kitchen.
I think one of the things that I appreciated most about this book was that it gives you several different types of recipes in each category (puddings, ice creams, cakes, muffins, nuts, brittles, creme brûlées, etc.), but more than that, each one had a lot of different types of flavors. In the ice cream section there are things like ginger spice, malted milk chocolate, and the bitter orange which I mentioned above.
I love that in all of the recipe sections there is a part that explains the recipe, and then it gives you the “mother recipe”, and then it gives you the variations. Like Italian, French, and Swiss Meringues are explained. Not only how to make each, but where you would know them from, and what the differences are and what they should be used for. And like the differences between cakes made with oil and cakes made with butter.
I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am about the macaron section. I love those little cookies ever since trying them at a local bakery after romanticizing them for years, but I’ve always heard that they are very temperamental.
I do appreciate the unexpected fact that there WERE recipes for buttermilk biscuits, focaccia, and spiced nuts in a book named “Sugar Rush”. But also, the sweet recipes are not missed with an entire section titled “Fresh Yeast Doughnuts”. The pictures of these are completely drool-worthy. Not that the rest of the book is not.
Finally, I was happy to see recipes for things that I would have never thought of making on my own (not just didn’t know how, but wouldn’t have thought of) – such as, Candied Citrus Peel and Jamaican Christmas Cake. I think that while a book full of these types of recipes is not appealing to the masses, a book with a few peppered in here and there is actually a selling point.
I like this book a lot, I think it will be an indispensable book in my culinary school repertoire. And for a collector, the content and the photos cannot be beat.
The writing itself, while good, was very, very cheesy in a lot of ways. For example, comparing sabayon to a “blanket of fresh snow on the roof of a house”. I totally understand the classy and almost sensual style of writing (he even says certain flavors are sexy at times) but sometimes it gets just a tad too gooey for me.
But that being said, some of the stories in the book were very charming. Like how he thought a tray of broiling oranges at a restaurant was ruined, only to have the pastry chef yell at him since it was part of the special. Or how his friends made fun of him for making them desserts.
I think it’s very clear that he put himself into the book, and it was really nice to see such a personal book (albeit cheesy at times) from an author who is a restaurant pastry chef and not a blogger. It’s rare for me to run across those books which are written by industry professionals and still remain personal, and also keep the balance between home cooks and professional cooks to an acceptable level.
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.