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Eye candy but not good candy instruction
on March 9, 2012
The book's narrative seems honest and thoughtful and the photography is very appealing. It gives you the impression that the author is "leveling" with you.I find that the Sources she recommends are very good although known by professionals and serious aficionados (Pastry Chef Central, Baristaproshop, nutsonline, flavorbank), unfortunately they are scattered throughout the book, so every time you want to recall a certain website address you have to skim the whole thing.
The approach is original but overly ambitious. The author attempts to go over all the stages of cooked sugar; and since that is no small task,some recipes had to suffer. There are some recipes in which she is very thorough (macarons is one of them, you can also check out her demo on Vimeo)and others in which you wish she had elaborate a good deal more, like the praline recipe. Her one paragraph instructions simply doesn't cut it. If you are interested in confections (candy, chocolate et.al.) you can check out the volume on confections by the Culinary Institute of America (from the "at Home" Series), there you'll learn the technique, and it doesn't take that much space, but it definitely takes longer than a couple of paragraphs. The gummies are another example of a recipe that lacks detail(she also mentions gelatine gummies in the text but only gives a recipe for pectin gummies), again you can find better instruction in the CIA's volume.
At some point the author mentions that listing a "number" of eggs as opposed to a weight in the ingredients list is very inaccurate (I believe there is no debate on that)but then she uses "number" on her recipes. One other thing is that the author mentions the Sugarbaby website for pictures of the candies not illustrated in the book (and more demos) but the illustrations there are not very different from what you can find in the book and I find that the website is very neglected, very few posts throughout the year.
In short, I have found inspiration for preparing many confections from this book, but the actual baking procedures I have found elsewhere. If you want good instruction in the art of "cooking with sugar" and do not care for the stories and photography this is not a book for you. And anyway, if you like stories and eye candy you can have plenty from her blog Confections of a Closet Master Baker, the recipes I have tried from the there are good and creative and many of the stories there are recycled stories from her books.
Some people recommend this book because you laugh out loud and get interesting stories (and you might laugh out loud by the coffee table) but if you want to laugh out loud you can buy a novel, not a cookbook. You want a cookbook to work, you will not be laughing out loud when the recipes fail to deliver (in the kitchen, where it matters).