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162 of 163 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For the serious cook
After reading all the other reviewers who either gushed over or maligned this book, I felt compelled to give yet another opinion which I hope will clarify the polarized opinions on this cookbook.
First, if you are looking to find a cookbook on comfort food or "the-way-Mom-used-to-make-it-desert" for your next family gathering, DON'T GET THIS ONE. Also, if...
Published on November 4, 2003 by Lisa M Hsu

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64 of 70 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars some recipes work; some don't; be prepared to make expensive mistakes
This is a long review, in which I relate in detail my experience with one basic recipe which illustrates my overall impression of the book. Sometimes the method is unusual and produces fantastic results but ONLY AFTER you've made the first, experimental batch that might go to waste. I want to preface the review by saying that I have been baking for years, am familiar with...
Published on March 23, 2009 by Tanya Petrova


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162 of 163 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For the serious cook, November 4, 2003
By 
Lisa M Hsu (Dix Hills, NY United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Desserts by Pierre Herme (Hardcover)
After reading all the other reviewers who either gushed over or maligned this book, I felt compelled to give yet another opinion which I hope will clarify the polarized opinions on this cookbook.
First, if you are looking to find a cookbook on comfort food or "the-way-Mom-used-to-make-it-desert" for your next family gathering, DON'T GET THIS ONE. Also, if you're on a frugal budget or a time crunch, again, LOOK ELSWHERE. This is one of the GREATEST patisserie chefs in the world. And he gives us in his cookbook all the extravagance, style, taste and showmanship that title carries. The recipes are expensive, time consuming and sometimes tricky. They contain specialty ingredients and use specialty tools. Any substitutions based on economy or convenience will probably result in failure.
On the other hand, if you long to create something really extraordinary and impressive and have the time and pocketbook to match don't hesitate to get this. Although some ingredients are special, they are not so hard to obtain. If you can read and write, you can cook from this. Both experienced and beginner cooks. I can't account for a previous reviewer who complained about confusing directions. All I can say about that is some people don't bother reading directions thoroughly, make a mess, and then blame the directions. I have baked time and again from this book, from the simple and delicious coconut pound cake to the spectacular and complex "Melody," and never a glitch in the preparation. I have to tell my guests that I made it. They always just assume its created by a professional chef and ask me for his number.
So there you have it. Know yourself before you decide to spend the money on this one. Definetely for the serious cook only.
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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Seemingly Difficult Recipes in Reality Easy and Delicious, December 5, 2001
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This review is from: Desserts by Pierre Herme (Hardcover)
Master pastry chef Pierre Herme has created a delightful book filled with more than enough taste treats to satisfy even the most sated dessert gourmand. On first glance, each recipe appears difficult to construct; each contains a multiple amount of steps most of which require parchment paper and pastry bag utilization--not the standards of most amateur bakers. Not worth the fuss? Au contraire! Pierre's ultimate products are fabulous--the tastes and textures meld together to form not only a tasty finish to any meal, but create perfect confections that are also a feast for the eyes.
The book is divided into 4 main sections: Pierre's basic recipes, Fruits, Creams and Cookies, Tarts and Tartlets and Cakes. A Dictionary of Terms, Techniques, Equipment and Ingredients as well as a Source Guide round out the book. I guarantee that the hands-on experience of creating at least one of these dessert extravaganzas will act as your own personal primer to pastry-making, igniting your passion for the French patisserie and insuring that you purchase all other books by M. Herme. My own interest in the book was cultivated by seeing M. Herme in action on Martha Stewart's kitchen where he piped the beautiful and delicious pear and fig tartlet with such an easy perfection I was astounded. Bought the book the next day and was not sorry!
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64 of 70 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars some recipes work; some don't; be prepared to make expensive mistakes, March 23, 2009
This review is from: Desserts by Pierre Herme (Hardcover)
This is a long review, in which I relate in detail my experience with one basic recipe which illustrates my overall impression of the book. Sometimes the method is unusual and produces fantastic results but ONLY AFTER you've made the first, experimental batch that might go to waste. I want to preface the review by saying that I have been baking for years, am familiar with all the basic techniques and have experience making complicated cakes and pastries that require multiple steps. And while some things I am better at (nut meringue anyone? the prefect choux paste?) than others (oh, not another curdled custard @@#%$), the one thing I am truly good at is following the instructions, to the letter. SO here goes:

This book is not for a beginner. If you don't have any other books on baking in your collection, don't make this the first one because some recipes need to be compared with those in other books.

Case in point: BUTTER CREAM
I bought special European butter and fresh eggs from the local farm. I followed instructions to the letter even though one part of the recipe really went against my instincts and previous experience with butter cream: the amount of sugar. The recipe calls for 3 CUPS OF SUGAR for 7 EGG Yolks and about a POUND OF BUTTER. Now, 3 cups sounded way too much for the amount of other ingredients but I went ahead anyway. Well it turned out that 7 yolks cannot absorb this much sugar syrup, and instead of acquiring the lovely marshmallow texture while being beaten and cooling with the syrup, they turn into dry powdery mixture. Even though they did not look right, I went ahead and added all the crazily expensive butter to it. In the end, the cream looked all right, but the texture was all wrong: it left a powdery trace on the tongue as if it was made with confectioner's sugar. And even aside from the texture imperfections, the cream was just TOO SWEET.
The cream could not be used. It was a waste of time and money.

I looked in Baking with Julia to check the proportions. And of course: 2 CUPS OF SUGAR for 16 yolks and 2 POUNDS of BUTTER - LESS SUGAR for TWICE the quantity of other ingredients.

In the end I made the butter cream with 1.5 cups of sugar (and water amount reduced accordingly) and then it was lovely. The technique - adding butter to the yolks and beating with a whisk instead of paddle attachment - produces a superbly light and satiny cream.

Another point about the butter cream. The temperature for the sugar syrup is given at 145F. Be ware, the syrup begins to caramelize at 140 F. At 145 it is almost at hard ball stage and cannot be incorporated into the yolks. Again, checking in Baking with Julia, you'll find that the syrup is ready at 139 F, which really is the perfect point.

Bottom line for this recipe: fantastic method but the proportions are definitely not right.

The lemon cream, on the other hand, is SUPREME. I've read the reviews where people complained about it being like lemon butter, but I suspect that they did not follow through with the crucial step of mixing it in a blender. Or maybe they did not follow the temperature instructions. If you do follow the instructions, the result is sublime. I could just eat the whole thing right out of the blender. It sets beautifully in the fridge.

Another great tip from the book: mixing several types of cream together to produce a divinely light filling. I mixed some of the lemon cream with the adjusted butter cream and then folded in some whipped heavy cream - TO DIE FOR.

But don't grow too confident. Try the coconut cake. Yes, it is fabulous. But the amount of milk did not work for me: too much. The cake had to bake for almost two hours ( I even bought an oven thermometer after this to make sure my oven is well calibrated; it is) and still did not bake through (although it still tasted delicious). I will make the recipe again, but will add less milk. Again, if you check similar recipes in other books, you will see that they use less liquid.

BOTTOM LINE: You need experience before attempting recipes from this book. Some of the recipes may not come out right on the first try, but if you tweak them, the result might be out of this world. But the learning experience might cost you a lot of time and money. Some recipes contain curious glitches. Do not follow all the recipes blindly. Use your common sense, previous experience and another trusty source. With these reservations in mind, I believe the book is worth the money. Even if not all the recipes work on first attempt, the innovative techniques and combinations of flavors are well worth the expense and time ( and the inevitable mistakes).

UPDATE: One of recipes I've used again and again from this book is The Perfect Tart Dough. It makes a large quantity, but you can freeze what you don't use; it is going to be as good 2 months later from the freezer as on the first day. This is absolutely the BEST tart dough i've ever tasted. It is tender; crumbly; takes any kind of filling without getting soggy; use it pre-baked or as is according to recipes.
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38 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A sucessful rendering of a great artist's work., November 26, 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Desserts by Pierre Herme (Hardcover)
I was surprised to see a reader's diasppointment with a book I love. Desserts by Pierre Herme is an accurate and faithful rendering of the work of France's most celebreated pastry chef by an author well accustomed to translating the work of professionals into consumer terms. And despite the reader's disappointment with the lack of weights provided for the ingredients, the recipes work well -- I know, since I have tried many of them.
About measuring: There are accurate and inaccurate methods of measuring, both by weight and volume. The right way to measure by volume is to gently spoon dry ingredients into a dry measure cup ans level off with the back of a knife or spatula. The right way to measure by weight is to use an accurate scale. Many scales made for home use are not particularly sensetive and will yeild no better results than by volume measure. To say nothing of the fact that every day, millions of people follow volume-measure recipes with good results -- what's the problem?
Some authors do include weights for ingredients -- I did so in my first book, Perfect Pastry -- I no longer do, because I don't consider it important. Neither does Maida Heatter -- is there a more successful and accuracy-based author than Maida? I don't think so.

Nick Malgieri
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not your grandmother's cook book..., November 8, 2006
By 
Jason Rabin (Toronto, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Desserts by Pierre Herme (Hardcover)
I have read the other reviews and I will say that I agree with much of what has been said. This book is not for the casual baker. This is not for people who cut corners, make substitutions, and try to get things done quickly. The recipes are tough and involved, some of them requiring the completion of a half dozen or more separate components, each of which would easily amount to its own recipe in your typical baking book.

So if you want a challenge, this book is for you. Having baked most of the recipes in this book, I can say that Pierre's recipes are extremely reliable; if you follow the directions fastidiously, they will work. While you may not necessarily create something as gorgeous as what appears in the pictures, you will get more than your share of oohhhs and ahhhs. And some of the recipes are just sublime. I highly recommend the chocolate mousse dome, especially for the novice bakers. This is one of the few recipes that will almost always turn out just like in the picture, is fairly hard to screw up (comparatively speaking) and is just great for chocolate lovers. Another really nice one is the Philadelphia Almond Cheese Cake... not really a true cheesecake, but sure to please everyone.

My only complaint (and I echo what others have said) is the omission of mass measurements. Volume measurements (or "American measurements") are quite frankly, dumb. They are inaccurate and more difficult and time consuming than just doing things properly by mass. Volume is not an alternative method to mass; it's just wrong, if you ask me.

That being said, I found the recipes very reliable, in spite of the volume measurements. Even the base recipes, like Genoise, vanilla buttercream, and pastry cream, are recipes I routinely use as the building blocks for many of my cakes, even though I have many other alternative versions of the same recipes from other books. These just work really well.

So to sum up: if you have baked your share of brownies, lemon meringue pies, and chcolate chip cookies, and are ready to move on to something more challenging, and for that matter, just plain more fun and interesting, you're going to have a blast with this book.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Here's a baking book you can USE, December 7, 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Desserts by Pierre Herme (Hardcover)
I've been a professional food writer for 15 years, beginning as collaborator on Desserts by Nancy Silverton, written while Nancy was dessert chef at Spago. I'm a competent home baker, and I have little patience for recipes that are overly complex or don't work. What pleasantly surprised me about Pierre Herme's book is how many truly simple, do-able recipes are included, and how well-written they were. I guess it shouldn't be a surprise: Julia Child, the queen of the do-able recipe (whether simple or complex) chose writer Dorie Greenspan to work with her on Baking with Julia. Also the design and photography are stunning.
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Restaurant Desserts, January 25, 2004
By 
jerry i h (Berkeley, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Desserts by Pierre Herme (Hardcover)
At first I was skeptical of this book, since Hermé is worshipped by the French press as a demi-god. I am glad to say that this is a source of very good, but not great desserts. There are several things I like about this cookbook. All of the recipes were thoroughly tested, and I had no problem with the ones I tried, although some recipes required more than casual talent and there are no warnings about this in the recipes. Most of the recipes are assembly jobs. That is, the components are prepared at least a day before and assembled that day. The garnishes and plating are also completely described and recipes given for them; this way, there is no question of how to serve them. These are mostly professional restaurant desserts that have been successfully adapted to the American kitchen. So, these recipes are suitable for both restaurant and home. There is nothing here that is very difficult, but some are time consuming and have several preliminary steps. Hermé for the most part eschews decorative, architectural structures and focuses on the flavor of the dish.
The chapter "Basic Recipes" contains components used by recipes in the other chapters. It is an interesting collection of recipes, some with curious wrinkles. Some of them, like pâte brisée, meringue or inside-out puff pastry, do not work as well as standard versions. Some, like crème anglaise or pastry cream, are actually better than standard ones because they list actual temperatures rather than a physical description as the end point, meaning that the less experienced will have a good chance of doing them properly. Some recipes, like Lemon Cream, are a lot of extra effort without any discernable improvement. In this chapter, standard French names in addition to the American ones used would have been nice, especially for those who have not had a lot of experience with French patisserie.
The next two chapters, "Fruits, Creams, and Cookies" and "Tarts and Tartlets" are much more interesting. Hermé's use of fresh fruits is particularly impressive, particularly in simple fruit plates and tarts. The little tricks he uses are well worth learning and applying elsewhere, like burning off crème chiboust with a propane torch, adding freshly ground pepper to fresh fruits (I believe he is the one who invented this), or using chopped, drained oranges by itself as a tart filling. Some his tricks, however do not really help; draining or drying fruit produced a nice texture, but they lost their fresh fruit flavor.
The last chapter on cakes was rather ordinary. In particular, I did not really like the flavor of the chocolate cakes. They have all sorts of other flavors added in, and they did not combine well with the chocolate. The combinations are trendy, and many of them are already out of date (book copyright is 1998).
The last chapter is particularly useful: it has explanations of the procedures and equipment used throughout the book. My only complaint here is that marzipan and almond paste certainly are not the same thing, nor are they interchangeable. It is here, buried at the end of the section on measuring, that you discover how flour is measured for the recipes (they use dip and sweep).
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars beautiful pictures, original desserts, March 30, 2000
By 
Eric J. Wu (cambridge, ma USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Desserts by Pierre Herme (Hardcover)
Book covers: basics (genoise, meringue, puff pastry, ladyfingers, tart dough, cinnamon dough, + some fillings), fruit desserts (includes chocolate creams, ice cream, lemon crepes, tuiles, cookies), tarts (includes lemon tart, apple galette, rice tart w/fruit, lots of stuff with pears, orange tarts) , cakes (includes easy ones like lemon loafs, chocolate cakes, then moving on to fancy ones), and some explanation of terms, techniques, equipment and ingredients.
I own 8 baking books The pictures are really nice. The other thing that stands out about this book is the exotic nature of some of the recipes - a rice tart? Mascarpone/blueberry/ladyfinger cake? Herme uses a lot of exotic fruits such as passion fruit, figs, and currants (which are hard to get here in parts of the USA). In doing so, I think this book shows you a lot of things that other don't. I feel the level of the book is for somewhere slightly above beginner. There are some easy recipes in this book and some very time consuming ones as well so there is a big range there. Overall, the strengths of this book are the great photography, innovative recipes, and new ways that the reader will look at designing desserts. Even if you have a lot of baking books already, this one will help you see things in a new way. On the other hand, if it's the ONLY dessert book you own, I'm not sure it will help you see baking in a systematic orderly way as "Baking with Julia" is or one of the cake or pie/pastry bibles.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dazzle your friends, December 2, 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Desserts by Pierre Herme (Hardcover)
I suppose that the only true test of a cookbook is whether or not the recipes work -- and whether or not you want to make them again. On both points this book succeeds brilliantly. Herme and Greenspan have somehow managed to make this master dessert maker's recipes accessible and -- more importantly -- workable for the home baker. The lemon tart in particular is a gem. If you're not afraid of recipes that sometimes call for a lot of steps, and you want to dazzle your friends or family with something extra-special, by all means get this book. The recipes are both fantastic and fool-proof -- and when was the last time you could say that about a dessert book?
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A valuable book for unusual and delicious desserts, December 15, 1998
By 
Dori "W" (New York, NY) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Desserts by Pierre Herme (Hardcover)
As a home baker with moderate skills, I have found Desserts by Pierre Herme to be a really valuable addition to my library. I have actually made desserts that I thought were out of my reach...and have made them with little difficulty due to the excellent instructions of writer Dorie Greenspan. In fact, this book has actually rejuvenated my interest in baking. I NEVER thought that I could make Herme's Dome cake ..or better yet, the Autumn Meringue Cake, which combines two favorites of meringue and chocolate mousse, is fabulous to taste and gorgeous to look at. I could go on and on...the lemon loaf cake is unreal. This book is a MUST HAVE! There is something for everyone at every level of expertise. As for me, I'm going to bake my way through this book much the way I cooked through Julia Child's books a long time ago. e-mail doriweis@aol.com Doris from Manhattan
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Desserts by Pierre Herme
Desserts by Pierre Herme by Dorie Greenspan (Hardcover - November 2, 1998)
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