Top critical review
34 people found this helpful
Approach with caution!
on 23 January 2012
This is a great size, has wonderful photos, and is in general a class act I'd recommend to anyone [Update 4.12: maybe not?]. However, I had to supplement the instructions on the choux pastry with some Internet research because the instructions were misleading. And since then, I've taken a look at other instructions within and note they're all written in the same way, so here's my warning:
In outlining a specific stage of preparation, I'd expect a professional to describe the desired state of the mixture first, and follow that with the approximate time required to reach that state, NOT vice-versa. With the choux pastry recipe, the stove-top mixing stage is outlined thus: "... stir continuously for about 1 minute to dry out the paste, then ...". For me, a novice at making choux pastry, this meant that appropriately dry or not, after about one minute of stirring, I started to be concerned about taking the mixture off the heat, and probably pulled it at a minute and a half or so. The bottom line being, of course, that for whatever reasons having to do with the specifics of my kitchen versus Mr. Roux's, the mixture was NOT dry enough, and my pastries failed. I would have approached it differently had the recipe been phrased "stir continuously until the paste appears quite dry -- a minute or more".
Fine, I had the misfortune of the choux pastry recipe being the very first recipe I tried from this book and as it turns out, that drying stage is crucial to the success of choux. Happily, the second recipe I tried was the pate brisee & potato pie and they were unbelievably delicious, so I'm far from having lost faith in this book, but I do approach the instructions with a wary eye.
Of course English is not Mr. Roux's first language so the very slight difference in meaning might have escaped him (but shouldn't have escaped his editor). Either way, just a friendly warning to other users!
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Further note 18 April 2012:
Note the one-star review by 'Helen' with which I completely agree. I've now had another recipe turn out remarkably poorly thanks to questionable instructions. Specifically, I'd caution readers to avoid his lemon meringue pie at all costs: I'm about to throw out half of the one I made for Easter, it was that bad (and we're not counting what I threw from my guests' plates). Comparing it with a recipe I've known all my life, I find that while Mr. Roux's calls for 225 gms of sugar versus 333 in my more traditional recipe, the amount of lemon juice he calls for* is more than THREE times as much, that is, 208 gms versus 64 grams! And, yes, especially after adding in the generous amount of rind, it is a mouth-puckering experience indeed. (* Note: unprofessionally enough, I thought, he calls for the juice of 8 lemons rather than a more precise amount. My 8 lemons of what I thought were average size, equalled 208 gms)
However, it's the amount of corn starch/flour that's the real killer: although my two recipes call for the same amount of water, he calls for 75 gms of corn flour whereas my tried-and-true (why, oh why did I try a new recipe?) calls for only 45. As one would expect, his results in an unpleasantly rubbery, unyielding consistency -- even with the additional liquid provided by the lemon juice.
This will be the last Roux book I'll purchase for the simple reason that I just don't feel I can trust the recipes, and ingredients and time are too expensive to risk wasting. Pity, because these books are very attractive and the recipes are appealing. To be noted, by the way: the photography by Martin Brigdale is first-rate, really lovely, and almost makes purchasing these worthwhile, however, the bottom line is that it's all about the recipes.