Back in 2011, I reviewed William Curley’s book Couture Chocolate, a beautiful tome packed with inspirational and indulgent chocolate recipes. It’s fair to say that Couture Chocolate is one of my favourite chocolate books, but if it has one flaw, it’s that it’s very technical.
Even with clear and precise instructions, I found the recipes challenging, and the results of my efforts – while tasty – never looked quite like William’s. As if they wood.
With that in mind, I was keen to see how William – together with wife Suzue – would broach the notoriously technical subject of patisserie in their new book.
From the outset, this book is just as beautiful as Couture Chocolate, with photos illustrating the step-by-step process of creating your pastry masterpiece, next to mouthwatering illustrations of the finished product. But there’s much more to Patisserie than that.
The book examines both the long history of patisserie and pastry making, as well as taking a look at some of the chefs who have influenced William & Suzue.
There is a chapter dedicated to the basics, looking individually at an array of ingredients, with photos, storage information and use cases. Kitchen equipment and utensils are explained in similar detail. A lot of thought has been put into explaining every detail, from how to store your yuzu to what kind of peanuts to buy. Nothing is left to chance.
The recipes take a similar ground-up approach, starting with the most basic pastry, sponge and meringue recipes. You’ll learn how to work with each of the basic ingredients, how to work with chocolate, make caramels and an array of other foundation topics.
The real patisserie recipes don’t start until almost half way through this 340 page book, and the same attention to detail is applied to each and every one. With recipes for everything from cakes and tarts to macarons and gateaux (not to mention entremets, petit fours, possets and eclairs), beautiful, clear photography illustrates each step of the process, and instruction refer back to the foundation recipes where required.
It’s an inspirational book that has me excited to try some of the recipes myself. But at the back of my mind, I know I’m never going to be a pastry chef and my patisserie is never going to look quite like William & Suzue’s. A book – even one as wonderful as this – is ever going to be a substitute for formal training.
That’s not going to stop me trying though.