Pastry in Europe 2011
by Joost van Roosmalen
Publisher: Culibooks, Inc., Country: BE
ISBN: 9789490021030, Edition: First, Year: 2011
Link to publisher’s page or site
This review is the personal opinion of the reviewer.

Overview

A glaring pink book seeking the spotlight, giving us the whirlwind European tour from Michelin restaurants to back-alley holiday fairs, Pastry in Europe 2011 provides a snapshot of the state of pastry across the diverse continent. You’ll be delighted with the cutting edge ingredients, old-school techniques, and the slew of chefs sharing what they’re doing right now. While the 2011 book has made greater strides than its two predecessors, it has yet to take center stage.

Full review

Pastry in Europe 2011 is the third installment in the PIE series released by CuliBooks, Inc. and edited by Joost van Roosmalen. The unmistakable pink book seems to be gaining momentum as a yearbook of sorts, documenting the wide array of works encompassed within the field of pastry.

The strength of PIE is its ability to document numerous facets of pastry with enough depth to satisfy, while leaving your appetite whetted. The 2011 edition covers topics such as Cuberdon candies and San Martino cakes, which while most likely known within their home regions, are not known even among many well-trained pastry chefs. These books are for pastry professionals with their minimalist recipes and oft-rare ingredients, but the book is accessible for anyone seeking eye candy, and certainly usable as a cookbook for more advanced cooks.

Each edition has included a variety of producers of items that are related to pastry, of which the alcoholic drink producers have been of notable interest. In PIE 2011 we are given a glimpse at Muscat de Frontignan, which I desperately tried to purchase in the United States, but in vain. However, I wasn’t put off by the obscurity of this and other ingredients because the hard-to-find items are the best challenges and something that pulls PIE away from more universally marketed books.

PIE also offers interesting essays on techniques that are rising in the field such as the use of microwave ovens. While not a new concept since many modern kitchens have been making their 60-second cakes for years, the essay covers other techniques and recipes such as puffed tuiles and fruit chips. Unfortunately, after just three editions some material seems repetitive such as the article on cotton candy (UK: candy floss) which had been previously covered in 2009. That flaw is forgiven since not everyone will have past editions, and the material includes new recipes and uses.

The content is not all geared toward star-driven modernist restaurants. Two sections of the current edition focus on festival foods and another on the classic Belgian waffle. It is refreshing to see these recipes, and certain chefs may find these more traditional recipes sneaking back onto their modern menus. What’s old is new again.

Van Roosmalen seems to be feeling comfortable enough in the third installment to explore conceptual matter such as the progress of grain to flour to bread, or the section on eggs which is rich with interesting recipes and techniques. Van Roosmalen has also made a number of improvements over previous editions. The book now includes an Index (which seems to be more of a Table of Contents in North American parlance), and concludes with an Historical Index, which, while scant, is still a welcome addition. And lastly the photography seems to have been stepped up in 2011: previous editions have had a mix of luscious food porn photography alongside blurred pixelated images. The current edition is all professional quality photography.

The PIE series continues to have its weaknesses, many of which have been on the pages from day one. The book continues to need a true detailed Table of Contents and Index. While some European books exclude these features, any book seeking serious consideration in a global market needs them. I cannot state how many times I have wanted to find a recipe in a past edition only to have to flip through page after page looking. Tables of Contents and Indexes are not luxuries but necessities especially in books that are used as reference.

The recipe format also continues to be problematic. I have always assumed that the paragraph form (instead of lists) was used to conserve space, but smaller type and cleaner formatting is preferable in a book intended to be used. If this is to be a cookbook rather than just a coffee table book then the publisher must make a change.

Of lesser concern is the inclusion of uncaptioned photos. A whole section on Basque pastry is included that shows unidentified items leaving me curious, but without enough information to do research to find out what the picture displays.

And finally, unofficial advertising seems to be creeping its way onto the pages. The 2010 edition had a story on Koppert Cress which felt natural, but the current edition has a new article on the same company. While interesting, with a number of new recipes, it now feels like an ad. This isn’t a distraction but I would prefer the editor simply state that the book is sponsored in part by Koppert Cress, Dobla and Mol d’Art, and then provide a suppliers section in the back of the book.

Each of the past two years I debated whether I would buy the current edition. The inaugural edition, flaws and all, excited me enough to buy the 2010 edition. The 2010 edition, while strong in content, became more of an annoyance with its flaws remaining unfixed. I almost did not buy the 2011 edition because I assumed the flaws would remain (and I was proven correct). There are plenty of outlets for exciting pastry recipes, background story and personalities, and PIE is just one of those. I encourage you to buy Pastry in Europe 2011, but be wary of PIE 2012 if the flaws continue to go unfixed.

This is an original review for The Gastronomer’s Bookshelf.
Main rating: 4. Recommended – good
Visual appeal: Attractive
Suitability as a gift: Quite nice
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