When I was given Pâtisserie by William and Suzue Curley to review, I was excited. It is simply a beautiful book. The photography is lush, the instructions seemed clear, and it was evident from the no-holds-barred complexity of the preparations that the Curleys are masters of the art. I immediately marked a dozen recipes I wanted to try. These are the categories from which I could choose.
• The Basics
• The Foundation
• The Pâtisserie
• Pastries and Leavened Specialities
• Petits Gâteaux
• Baked Cakes
• Petits Fours
The Basics section is an extensive glossary of pâtisserie terms and fundamental techniques ranging from the common (eggs) and making caramel, to the obscure (isomalt sugar and spraying chocolate). Even those with substantial kitchen experience may find useful information here.
The Foundation covers those all-important building blocks of sweet cuisine from a classic French approach: Pâte Brisse, Pâte Sucrée, Pâte Feuilletée, Pâte á Choux, Brioche, Genoise, Italian Meringue, French Meringue, Swiss Meringue, Créme Pâtisserie, Créme au Beurre, Créme Anglaise, Dark Chocolate Mousse, Confit Fruit, Sea Salt Caramel, and many others. Most have an interesting, if brief, introduction that provides some of the history each. To me, these 95 pages are gold. For chefs who like to create their own desserts, these recipes will provide a very sound foundation on which to build masterpieces.
Then we come to the main attraction: The Pâtisserie through Macarons. These are the creations that demonstrate the skill which earned William Curley the title of Master of Culinary Arts 2013. Here is also reason it has taken me a long time to review this book. These are difficult preparations. Some can be conquered easily, but most require a significant investment of time and concentration. True, the Tarte Alsacienne (an apple tart originating in the Alsace region of France) is my favorite and it is quite approachable. However, the stunning Fraise de Bois & Sudachi Teardrop that graces the cover requires a total of 45 ingredients and spans 19 pictures of steps.
If a home cook has the ambition to take on some of these gorgeous preparations, more power to you. However, you should expect to buy several specialty molds, pans, or tools for each one. I know what you are thinking, “I can improvise.” Not if you want it to work. Believe me. All of the recipes I tried where I did not follow the instructions exactly varied from qualified success to unmitigated failure. The Curleys know what they are doing; if you want to truly recreate one of their recipes, trust that they have reasons behind each step.
Pâtisserie by William and Suzue Curley is not a book for everyone. However, if you desire a solid grounding in classic French pâtisserie that will allow you to create your own desserts, this book has my hearty recommendation. This is how I will primarily use it. Likewise, if you are a capable cook who wants complete dessert recipes that will cause awe and jealousy, this may be your book. However, expect to spend many hours and dollars. A third option is to buy this book simply to display it prominently. It is a beauty, and my mouth starts watering every time I look through it. – by Spencer George, RFT Contributor, Latigo Ranch, Kremmling, Colorado, Photos by Hannah George, Latigo Ranch