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Perfect your cupcakes and pastries with the best baking cookbooks

Pastry

Richard Bertinet, Ebury Press, £20

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Pastry – the achilles heel of many confident cooks. For those paralysed by the fear of soggy-bottomed pies and brittle tart cases, Richard Bertinet comes to rescue. Just like in his first book ‘Dough’ (which focused on breadmaking), the Bath-based cookery-school owner wants to shatter the myth that baking is for those blessed with natural talent.

The book concentrates on four pastry types: salted, sweet, puff and choux. In the first chapter the basics for each pastry are introduced. Step-by-step photographs illustrate these fundamental recipes, and break down the process into simple steps.

Throughout the book Bertinet provides expert guidance to novice bakers. He explains the concept of blind baking (baking pastry cases without a filling), gives precise details of how many pastry tins a portion of dough will fill (indicating exact portions of different-sized tins), and gives guidance as to how to get to know your oven.

A tip concerning shortcrust pastry is not to rub the butter into the flour base until it resembles breadcrumbs (as most recipes will tell you), but to stop once the shards of butter are the size of your little fingernail. Bertinet’s reasoning is that by not overworking the dough, you create a lighter pastry.

Once these individual pastry types are mastered, Bertinet continues with classic French and British recipes and plays with variations on the basic pastries. Sweet pastry can be flavoured with chocolate to form the base for a cherry tart, while caraway seeds are added to a salty pastry base in a duck pie recipe. The recipe for the hot-water crust pastry, traditionally used in a pork pie, was easy to follow: it was spread out over 10 pages and nearly all steps were explained in one single sentence and illustrated with a photo. If only Bertinet had better measured the salt quantity. The pastry ended up with a bland taste, a real shame considering the pie crust was crisp and baked to perfection.

Bertinet’s recipes include chocolate éclairs, fruit tartlets, quiches and Cornish pasties  – all of which you’ll want to eat right off the page thanks to the book’s mouthwatering photography. If you’re after a beginner’s guide to pastry, this is it.

Anne Faber, Time Out London Issue 2188 July 26-August 1

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