Top positive review
56 people found this helpful
For home bakers who loves pushing the envelope
on February 8, 2009
I am an experienced home baker who loves pushing the envelope and trying out new, complicated recipes. In my opinion, that is the type of baker who will enjoy this book the most.
I've made a couple things out of the book, and I've had no problem with the directions. While the recipes often call for ingredients that may not be available in smaller markets, those ingredients, with few exceptions, are not "weird." By that I mean that the overwhelming majority of Iuzzini's recipes do not fall into the realm of molecular gastronomy, thereby requiring foaming dispensers and other chemical agents. A small number of them do, but most do not, which is something that I appreciate because I'm cooking for a small family, and not a restaurant. One of the problems I've had with a few other "chef" books is that you really need to invest a tidy sum of money in chemical agents to make full use of the recipes in those books, and professional pastry books produce HUGE quantities of desserts, requiring you to do a lot of math to scale things down. Iuzzini's book does not suffer from either of those problems.
Each major dessert is comprised of 4 mini dessert portions - you can either make one of them, or using the book as a guide, prepare all 4. The instructions are very clear and include both metric and standard US measurements, although he highly recommends that you invest in a scale. The author gives oven temperatures for both a standard oven and a convection oven. When he calls for chocolate, he notes his preference in detail, for example, he doesn't just say 40% cacao, he will say "preferably Valrhona Jivara 40% cacao." There are some recipes that fall into the realm of "molecular gastronomy," but those are only a small percentage of the book. When you do need some exotic ingredient, Iuzzini gives you the mail order sources for them. He also provides building block recipes (for example, regular and chocolate brioche) to use in his recipes, or you can use them in other desserts, if you choose. When he can, he offers suggestions in the "Make it Simple" sidebars that enable a home cook to simplify the recipe.
The layout and quality of the book are great. Glossy pages, photos for every finished dessert, easy-to-read layout, and a font that won't give you eyestrain. The book is divided by seasons and chocolate, so the main chapters are Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring,and Chocolate, with the Building Blocks chapter at the end.
If you are not an adventurous baker, then recipes like Corn Panna Cotta and Beet Parfait may turn you off, but remember that each one of those recipes is designed to be ONE component in a four part dessert. If you don't care for that, you can always make something like the Malted-Chocolate Rice Pudding, or the Chocolate Filled Passion Souffle Tarts (really good), or Cream Cheese Ice Cream.
This is a book that can take your baking and food presentation to a new level. I really enjoyed it.