Grand Livre de Cuisine: Alain Ducasse’s Desserts and Pastries
by Alain Ducasse, Frédéric Robert
Publisher: Editions Alain Ducasse, Country: FR
ISBN: 9782848440538, Year: 2009
Link to publisher’s page or site
This review is the personal opinion of the reviewer.

Overview

In an era when pastry chefs are whisking unpronounceable ingredients into batters, creating neon floating effervescent micro cookie espumas, this collection of Alain Ducasse recipes anchors pastry artists with solid and glorious fundamentals. With little fuss or fanfare Ducasse Pastry Chef, Frédéric Robert, offers 250 fine-tuned dessert and pastry recipes that are a sure success. But this volume is not for everyone. A solid foundation in pastry arts is necessary. And that sparse, focused writing style is what I find most appealing. Reading three page recipes for cookies wears on my patience, and here, we find recipes that take lines, not pages, but they assume you know your basics.

Full review

Alain Ducasse, the prolific restaurateur, business mogul, and author, gained fame for his Provençal cooking. From his rustic roots, Ducasse expanded his restaurant kingdom to include numerous ventures known by food lovers across the globe: Adour, Benoit, Mix, and Spoon. He holds the honor of having restaurants earning three stars in three different cities, and his Alain Ducasse restaurant in Le Parc earned three stars just eight months into operation. Throughout most of this success, Frédéric Robert served at the helm of the pastry and bread operations. These are two men who bring unparalleled talent and expertise to such a book.

The Alain Ducasse edition (May 1, 2009, EU) provides the translation (and smaller format) to the original 2002 French edition. Gone is the coffee table format and about half of the cover price. What remains is a textbook style and sized book that is meant to be pulled off the shelf and used in the kitchen.

When I order a new cookbook I sit like a dog at the window waiting with intense anticipation for the postal carrier to arrive. There are few things that bring me so much joy (new pastry forms are the only thing I anticipate more). And so I have great expectations and much emotional investment before my package ever arrives. When this book arrived, and I began ripping the cardboard away to reveal that new book smell, my emotional needs were not let down. My fingers raced through 567 glossy pages, nearly every one covered in color photos. My eyes whizzed through recipes that were well formatted and easy to read – recipes I could read in seconds and have complete understanding of what was required. But as I read through the book the second time, and prepared a few of the recipes (Caramel: Variations, Macaroon with Baked Sugar, and Cherry Clafoutis) I found the book rather cold and un-inspirational.

I don’t know if any other book in my vast collection has a format that I enjoy more or find more useful, but this book just doesn’t grab me in 2009. The book has a strong focus on fruits, and a very nice section on breads (as well as plated desserts, classic desserts, petits-fours, confections, and entrements), but it is not a work to push you toward new frontiers. This is not to suggest that the book isn’t of the highest quality. I found the recipes solid and exact, and for that alone this book makes a great resource. But for the cook who wants to learn something new, this may not be the right book.

With that caveat, for anyone looking for a broad reference source, this is a great option. Page after page is filled with classic and modernized recipes – the type that you might enjoy at any fancy restaurant. I was please to see few hard-to-find ingredients, a fact that means a lot in this era of molecular gastronomy inspired pastry. In fact, besides some fresh fruit, there was only one ingredient in the entire book that I didn’t already have (and I should have, so I bought it immediately – it was fondant).

Seven years have passed since its original French release. The book stands the test of time for its quality, accuracy and usefulness. But, the experience required to be successful with this book would necessitate that the owner already have other outstanding reference books and recipes. This contradiction makes for a difficult review. An outstanding book, but probably not necessary for those who are ready to use it. Time will tell if I begin to pull this off my shelf when looking for a recipe, or if I’ll reach for familiar favorites. For now, I’ll be sure my intern has something worthwhile to read in his free time.

This is an original review for The Gastronomer’s Bookshelf.
Main rating: 4. Recommended – good
Visual appeal: Beautiful
Suitability as a gift: If the person is really interested
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Grand Livre de Cuisine: Alain Ducasse's Desserts and Pastries, Alain Ducasse | 2009 | FR, 2.0 out of 5 based on 2 ratings

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