Infiniment
by Pierre Hermé
Publisher: Agnès Viénot Éditions, Country: FR
ISBN: 9782353260867, Year: 2010
Link to publisher’s page or site
This review is the personal opinion of the reviewer.

Overview

Infiniment is a wonderful addition to Pierre Hermé’s growing bibliography, with more than 100 never-before-published recipes of breakfast treats, appetizers, tarts, cakes, sundaes, and plated desserts. However, the art direction takes an approach different from his previous works, with photographs of abstract representations of the desserts instead of helpful images of the desserts themselves. Nevertheless, the sheer breadth and imagination of the recipes is sure to please any fan of modern pastry.

Full review

Structure of the book

The book has 107 recipes in 13 chapters:
Granola (plain and Ispahan)
Yoghurt (10 variations, including Envie and Ispahan)
Hot Chocolate (9 variations, including Infiniment Vanille and Mogador)
Waffles, Crepes, and a Sandwich (3 crepe recipes, Sandwich Ispahan, and a recipe each for waffles, French toast, and pancakes)
Spreads (4 recipes, including Pâte a Tartiner Chloé and Plenitude)
Scones (3 recipes)
Cakes (4 recipes for tea cakes, including Matcha and Yuzu Cake and Cake Sarah)
Sundaes (8 recipes, including Coupe Infiniment Café and Satine)
Fruit Salads (6 recipes)
Tarts (2 base recipes and 14 variations, including Tarte Infiniment Vanille and Tarte Victoria)
Gâteaux (8 classic and signature recipes, including Arabella, Éclair Infiniment Caramel, Paris-Brest, and 2000 Feuilles)
Desserts (13 recipes, including Carré Blanc, Tiramisu, and other plated desserts)
Appetizers (17 recipes for spiced nuts, gougères, and allumettes)

About the author

Pierre Hermé, once called “The Picasso of Pastry” by Vogue USA, is one of Paris’s most celebrated patissiers. He apprenticed under Gaston Lenôtre and moved on to famed patisseries Fauchon and Ladurée before starting his own brand. He is the author of several pastry books in French, and in the US he has released two books in English: Desserts by Pierre Herme and Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme (both co-authored with Dorie Greenspan).

WORD OF WARNING: The following is a review of a book published in the French language. Currently, there are no plans to release the book in English.

How is this book interesting/special/new/useful?

If you’ve been following Pierre Hermé’s bibliography, then there would be little need to convince you to buy Infiniment. However, the book is more than a mere extension of his previous works- it has a unique theme of its own. This book marks the first time Hermé has written about strictly breakfast fare and savory appetizers. If you’ve ever thought that the usual sad yogurt parfait deserves a little more style, why not dress it up with a cassis and currant compote as for the Yaourt Envie, or lychees and raspberries as for the Yaourt Ispahan? If you desire something with a little more oomph than plain Nutella, why not make one of four varieties of pâte à tartiner? Infiniment has a café feel to the recipe selection, with less emphasis on entremets and more on plated fare. Not a single macaron is found in the book. The recipes maintain the level of complexity that will be familiar to fans of Hermé. For each of the sundaes, there is a recipe for a unique flavor of ice cream with a carefully selected assembly of accompaniments that will excite even the most jaded dessert-lover. For example, the Coupe Glacée Garance is composed of caramelized cinnamon ice cream, raspberry sorbet, cinnamon streusel, fig sauce, and whipped cream. With the exception of the two base recipes for tart crusts and puff pastry, there is no jumping back and forth between sections for individual components.

The book is written with the ambitious (and, at times, affluent) home chef in mind. Few items of special equipment are needed (in fact, the only entremets in the book are to be assembled in an 18cm salad bowl lined with plastic wrap). Serving sizes are appropriate for a party of six to eight people. Hermé doesn’t disappoint with the limits to which he pushes the reader – for the Allumettes Pistache, an otherwise simple appetizer, he includes a recipe for pistachio puff pastry (pistachio paste is mixed into the butter block). For the truly adventurous, he offers plated desserts from sweet risotto with black truffles to spaghettini cooked in strawberry juice with crushed strawberries, strawberry sorbet, and mascarpone crème (a component that curiously finds its way into many of the recipes).

What problems/flaws are there?

It seems superficial to judge a cookbook by the quality of its photography, especially when the recipes are as imaginative and sought-after as Pierre Hermé’s. Even if it had absolutely no images, it would still be worth its weight in gold. Nevertheless, the book does come with about a hundred pages of full-page, sparse typography interspersed with photographs that are, for the most part, not necessarily of the desserts themselves, but of artfully arranged components in a manner that is unfortunately too self-consciously abstract to be taken seriously as coffee-table book-art. Or, at least, that is the feeling that one gets from paging through the first half of the book, right after “Why?”. Anyone who has seen Pierre Hermé’s display case will realize that the desserts themselves are art. After that vision, a picture of a splash of chocolate or a carrot stabbing an orange just seems like a waste of space. Very often, readers rifling through the book looking for inspiration will focus on the dessert they believe will amaze their guests, and these pictures don’t give a sense of direction. Worst of all, it provides almost no instruction to the reader who wishes to recreate an entremet or plated dessert. It would have been better to let go of the pretense and slash the book’s price in half, offering only the second half of the book without any images.

The recipes are written with the intermediate home pastry chef in mind, as it relies on very sparsely written instructions (quite an adjustment for those used to Dorie Greenspan’s adaptations of his methods for the books she’s co-written), but the vaguest Hermé gets is when he asks you to add something to caramel that is “caramelized halfway.” Otherwise, the instructions are refreshingly straightforward. However, despite the inclusion of nappage and mirroir recipes for finishing some of the entremets, professional pastry chefs will probably be disappointed by the watered-down approach to assembly (only his previous work, PH10, contained unaltered recipes for all the components as they are made in the shop). For non-EU readers, on rare occasions ingredients might be very difficult to source, such as poudre à flan (instant flan powder, not quite approximated by instant pudding mix), nappage pour tarte (a sachet of clear pastry glaze), or fondant patissier (commercial pouring fondant).

Who might enjoy/use this book most?

The book will be of most interest to the die-hard home pastry chef, café owners looking for inspiration, and of course, any fan of Pierre Hermé’s.

This is an original review for The Gastronomer’s Bookshelf.
Main rating: 3. Recommended – some flaws
Visual appeal: Okay
Suitability as a gift: Likely to be strongly appreciated
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