The Baking and Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft Hardcover – 2 Apr 2004
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Baking is certainly a "hot" profession right now: baking programs have waiting lists and pastry chefs at the best–known restaurants are gaining celebrity status. Based in Hyde Park, NY, the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) has developed this outstanding, comprehensive reference for students and professionals. Hundreds of pages are devoted to restaurant kitchen management chemical analysis of ingredients, safe handling and storage of products in a professional setting, and professional–scale equipment. There are tables for standard formulas, volume–to–weight conversion, calculating edible portions, and the like. The volume also contains 350 recipes, many of them classic breads and desserts, presented in a professional format that will be unfamiliar to most home cooks. Of similar excellence, Baking Illustrated, from the editors of Cook Illustrated magazine, is a much more user–friendly book for home bakers. Recommended for large collections or academic libraries that support programs in the culinary arts. — Mary Schlueter; Missouri River Regional Lib., Jefferson City, MO ( Library Journal , May 1, 2004)
Having attained a sort of unofficial status as the final arbiter in American cooking, the Culinary Institute of America (that other CIA) brings the proper authority to this encyclopedic work. Surely no single chef or restaurant team would be trusted to cover such a range of subjects, from yeast doughs, quick breads, pies and cookies to confections, decorations and wedding cakes. Unfortunately, this comprehensiveness is matched by a sense of style befitting an encyclopedia, or, perhaps more accurately, a textbook. Sections in the introduction on dressing for safety and managing human resources make it clear that the CIA (and Wiley) intend to sell more than a few copies to students and working chefs. The home cook who skips right to the recipes will sooner or later be frustrated by the professional quantities (the Old–Fashioned Pound Cake recipe produces six two–pound loaves) and measures (when was the last time you doled out your egg yolks by the ounce?). In the more complex recipes, frequent cross references on the ingredient list make it difficult to follow the process as a whole. With these caveats in mind, advanced home cooks will appreciate having this around as a master guidebook that defines the standard methods and fills in the gaps left by others. Libraries will find it useful behind the reference desk to handle tough questions, and bookstores might try marketing the book to local restaurateurs. (Mar.) (Publishers Weekly, March 29, 2004)
From the Back Cover
"[THE CULINARY INSTITUTE OF AMERICA] is the best culinary school in the world."
"A MUST–HAVE BOOK for everyone′s culinary library. Congratulations and thank you to The Culinary Institute of America for creating the ultimate baking and pastry reference."
Executive Pastry Chef, Farallon Restaurant
"PASTRY CHEFS FINALLY HAVE the complete resource they need to achieve excellence in pastry and baking. I am inspired by this artistic work and believe every pastry chef and enthusiast will be as well."
Notter School of Pastry Arts
"EVERY PASTRY CHEF HAS A REFERENCE BOOK he would save first in a fire. This is mine. All the fundamentals are here, but it is not a generic reprint of the past. There is a chef′s secret twist in every recipe."
Pastry Chef, Citarella Restaurant
"The serious baker and confectioner will find an almost inexhaustible source of recipes. Well–thought–out explanations make it possible not only to achieve great results, but to learn in the process as well."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
This does not mean this is a poor book. Only that it is pretty seriously oriented to teaching professional pastry chefs. And, there are ways in which professional chefs do things, which are not and should not be done by the home baker who prepares baked goods for their family and friends. The most obvious symptom of this fact is that most recipes are scaled to make many more pieces than a home baker is likely to want, unless they are baking for a church bake sale.
This also does not mean that the book has no value for the home baker. If you are a serious baker for your own consumption, this book is an excellent reference for just about any pastry preparation of which you can think. Not only will it have authoritative recipes for staple preparations such as batters, Panna cotta, sabayon, crème broulee, caramel, buttercream, chantilly cream, lemon curd, glazes, royal icing, pate brisee, pate a Choux and dozens of other standard recipes, it will have recipes for some preparations for which you may have a difficult time finding any place else. My favorite discovery is a recipe for strudel. I have made strudel with frozen philo dough, but I am not very happy with the result. But, I really like good strudel, so now all I have to do is find a counter large enough to prepare it.
Another serious asset in this book for the home baker is its explanation of why baking processes work the way they do. The explanations are very practical, generally easier to understand than the explanations you may find in a book by Harold McGee. The only puzzle I found in the book's background information is the fact that they said that whole wheat flour has a higher protein content than general purpose flour, yet GP flour must be added to whole wheat to provide enough gluten to produce a good rise from yeast. I suspect the answer is that much of the protein in whole-wheat flour is of a type that simply does not form glutinous strands. But, that has nothing to do with your baking techniques.
As a serious textbook, I would strongly recommend that anyone who is seriously considering a career as a pastry chef read this book from cover to cover, skipping particular recipe details on this first pass. This read will certainly show that professional baking requires a lot of practice and a lot of knowledge and a lot of work.
Getting back to the home baker, I would generally refer to this book whenever I simply could not find a recipe in any other source or a recipe is not working out for me, or I remember preparing something from an issue of Gourmet from three years ago and I forgot the recipe. These are all situations where I would run to this book before consulting anything else. I would also consult this book for tips if I am creating a new recipe and I wish to use a standard streusel topping in the recipe. Once I was more experienced with artisinal breads after going to school with either Peter Reinhart or Nancy Silverton, I would be more than happy to consult this book for the recipe for one of the very many types of breads in the book. It seems to pretty much cover everything from brioche to pretzels.
This book does not have everything, but then, no book on baking has everything. It has no recipes for a Hungarian nut cake or funnel cake or snickerdoodle cookies or Russian Easter bread. But it certainly seems to have just about everything else. It is an especially good resource for pastry plating. If you are a serious entertainer as well as a serious baker, there will be things for you in this book which you may not find elsewhere, even in Martha Stewart's better books.
One thing I would not do is take a recipe from this book to replace a recipe with which I am already happy. The carrot cake recipe in this book is pretty unexciting, as it contains neither pineapple nor `cookie spices' to jazz it up. The buttermilk biscuit recipe is pretty routine too, using both butter and shortening. I made this kind of biscuit for several years, until I tried an all butter recipe (plus White Lily flour) which gives me a much flakier result.
Recommended for the serious baker. Highly recommended for the budding professional. Recipes tend to be a bit more complicated than some, but no more complicated than the best you will see from Sherry Yard or Nancy Silverton.
Current CIA baking instructors are in the process of replacing this book as it's not the best teaching instrument because the science is ignored and factually incorrect at places. All of this from a current student.