35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on June 7, 2000
When I get ready to bake something, I generally consult this book first. It is organized well and provides all the basic techniques (as well as some advanced ones), that I need for probably 75 percent of the baking projects I do. Even if I don't use Nick's recipes I use the techniques that are in the book. The techniques are explained well, with good pictures to support the text (or vice versa). I also can make my own creations built on the building blocks in this book. I even take the ideas, recipes, or flavor combinations from other sources and modify them so they use Nick's techniques or proportions or components.
98 percent of everything I've tried from this book has worked and tasted good (usually very good or excellent). This is a cookbook classic.
44 of 48 people found the following review helpful
Nick Malgieri is one of the two or three most commonly referenced baking writers in modern American books on pastry (what the French call patisserie, as opposed to bread baking or boulangerie). The others by my informal survey are probably Maida Heatter and Flo Braker, with Lindsey Shere a close third or fourth. Before reading this book, `Perfect Pastry', I was at a loss to see the basis for his influence. His more recent book `How to Bake' is a great book of recipes for cakes, cookies, pies, tarts, bread, pizzas, muffins, and the like, and I use it as my `go to first' book when I want to try something new, and I have never been disappointed by the recipes I found therein. But the book is nothing but recipes. There are none of the whys and wherefores I always rate so highly in books such as the outstanding `The Secrets of Baking' by Sherry Yard. In `Perfect Pastry', I have found much which justifies the high regard in which Nick Malgieri is held by his colleagues.
Before I can intelligently rank this book, it is important to spell out where it fits into the world of books on patisserie. There are at least two different scales along which a pastry book may fall. The extremes of the first scale range from `strictly recipes', which you will find in books by Gale Gand and David Lebowitz to very high in teaching and explanation content as in this book and Sherry Yard's `The Secrets of Baking'.
The second scale ranges from highly specific content such as `cookies', `cakes', `pies', `fruit desserts', `chocolate', or even `cupcakes' to very general books. `Perfect Pastry' is intermediate between the general and the specific, as it covers pies, tarts, cake sponges, cake decorating, and cake filling, but it does not cover much about cookies.
Malgieri's concentration on pastry, cake sponges, and cake icings and fillings in this volume is a very, very good thing, as he covers this subject and allied matters such as ingredients to a depth I simply have not seen elsewhere. This book comes in a very close second to Sherry Yard's book as my favorite source of instruction on pastry. Yard's book may win by a nose because it is more fun to read and some explanations have a greater depth than you will find in `Perfect Pastry'. On the other hand, Malgieri's book covers a somewhat broader scope. His discussion of ingredients such as fruits and nuts alone is worth the price of admission. The third excellent pastry book I have recently reviewed is Flo Braker's `The Simple Art of Perfect Baking', which shares many of the excellent qualities found in `Perfect Pastry' with which it shares the distinction of being recently reissued with new editions. Malgieri, Braker, and Yard all approach pastry with some variation on the `master recipe' approach.
It is instructive to see how each of them teaches genoise. Malgieri takes the most general approach when he classifies genoise as one of the several different kinds of sponges that may be built into cakes. Braker separates cakes into butter and sponge cakes. Yard presents genoise as one of her basic master recipes, as a model for the general technique of foaming. No three recipes are the same. Malgieri's plain genoise is the simplest and least rich, with no butter, but slightly more sugar than Braker. Yard provides an option to use from two to eight ounces of butter. All use cake flour. Both Yard and Malgieri give weights for all major solid ingredients in English units. Braker gives weights for the same ingredients in metric units. My opinion on this is that if you are just starting out to weigh baking ingredients, go metric. It is much easier to scale recipes up or down using metric measurements. In their descriptions of the basic genoise method, all three are slightly different, but Braker and Malgieri's methods are more similar to one another than they are to Yard's description, although I am certain that all three methods will produce superior results. Braker's method is the wordiest, covering details on how to sift dry ingredients and crack open eggs. She is also the most helpful in giving you notes to be well prepared to execute the procedure in an effective manner. Malgieri's description covers baking in both round layer pans and in sheet pans, very important for genoise, as one of it's principle uses is in rolled desserts such as jelly rolls and Yule logs. Malgieri gives the most precise instructions on how to detect if the baking is done for both round and sheet pans.
Sherry Yard gives only four (4) applications, with some variations, of genoise rounds or sheets. Braker and Malgieri both give about 23 different variations. There is a fair amount of overlap, as both cover the usual chocolate and fruit applications, but there are also differences. If your heart is set on making a Yule Log, then you will need Malgieri's book. The organization of the recipes is somewhat different. Braker has all 23 together in a single chapter, while Malgieri's appear to be intermixed with other types of sponge cakes.
If you want an excellent book for learning a lot of different pastry techniques at a very reasonable price, get `Perfect Pastry' by Nick Malgieri in paperback. If you want a lot of well-esplained recipes for many of the same pastries, get Flo Braker's book. If you want a really good read about understanding pastry making, plus excellent recipes, get Sherry Yard's book. If you are a compulsive baking book collector, please get all three.
It is evident that of the three authors, Malgieri is the professional teacher. His book is the best text for baking techniques, Braker gives the best standalone recipes, and Yard is the deepest and most fun to read.
`Perfect Pastry' is highly recommended.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on April 3, 2002
Nick Malgieri has done it again. I have nearly all his cookbooks and they are all winners. In "Perfect Pastry," he gives not only superb, basic recipes (and some that are not so basic), but he concentrates on imparting his many years of experience to the reader via techniques and calm, sure guidance.
Having trouble making flaky piecrust? Malgieri calms you down and gives you the tools to start fresh. Want a fresh spin on a brioche? Malgieri has them here in spades. I haven't tried every single recipe in the book, but I've made many of them and have yet to be disappointed.
What really shines through here is Malgieri's intelligence and his people skills. It's clear that his experience as a pastry teacher at Peter Kump's cooking school in Manhattan gives him a voice of authority and a sense of purpose and confidence. He is a master at relaying information in a manner that is not only clear and concise, but that makes it sound--well, not easy, perhaps, but definitely doable. This kitchen classic is aimed at every cook from beginner to professional chef. If you enjoy baking, you could hardly ask for a better book of recipes or a better culinary reference on the topic.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on January 27, 2010
This book is for people with extensive exposure to pastries and know what the end product should look like. Although there are tiny drawings and B&W photos of the steps in the preparation process, there are no pictures of the finished products.
I am looking for new recipes to try and without a visual image of the end result, I don't know if it would appeal to me. Fortunately, I have other illustrated cake and pastry cookbooks that have similar recipes and I can refer to both as a reference. Malgieri has some useful tips on techniques and corrective measures if it's not working out the way it should. The extensive description of ingredients and the qualities of the different varieties helps you understand how it affects the end result and guides you to shop correctly.
Some ingredients that were easily available at supermarkets in the past are now hard to find. Due to the mass market gravitating to processed and prepared foods, the demand for quality baking ingredients has diminished. You will have to seek out specialty food stores in your area or search for online suppliers.
For experienced bakers, this book is a valuable reference. For those who do not bake frequently, you will need an illustrated book to complement this one.