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on December 28, 2012
As a self-taught chef, I am constantly on the lookout for books that will expand my training. Traditionally, books published by culinary schools have been written to accompany classroom instruction making them poor tools for independent learners. Francisco Migoya of the Culinary Institute of America takes a different approach to his books and his latest is certainly a winner for serious students of pastry.

Francisco Migoya is a professor at the Culinary Institute of America and previously has worked with Thomas Keller at French Laundry and Bouchon. In 2008 he released his highly acclaimed Frozen Desserts, which was followed with Modern Café in 2009 - another well received book. Now Migoya has released yet another girthy book that just oozes the knowledge that he's accumulated since Modern Café.

There's no stinginess of information with Migoya. With over 525 pages, covering: Basic elements, Pre-desserts, Plated desserts, Dessert buffets, Passed-around desserts, Cakes and Petits Fours, each section starts with a gorgeous photograph of the final dessert and assembly instructions. Following these, Migoya then breaks down each dessert with the individual recipes. While some basic knowledge is needed, Migoya doesn't assume that you know proper batter folding techniques or what tempering is. Clearly a first semester student in his class could have success with this book as well as a well-seasoned chef looking for new ideas.

The book is not without its flaws, although I find these to be far less noticeable than most pastry books. The publisher has separated the recipes from the photos and assembly directions. So if you want to see how to make the Salted Peanut Butter Ice Cream with Raising Jelly Veil on page 206, you will need to turn to page 257 to find the recipes. And likewise, if you're not fully awake you may even miss the transition from Toasted Milk Panna Cotta that starts on page 254 and continues right up against the Salted Peanut Butter Ice Cream on 257 separated only by a small logo and photo behind the recipe title. A designer was trying to be a bit too clever or efficient with space and made the organization more challenging than it needed to be. The other flaw is that Migoya has quite a few unique serving dishes, molds and ingredients, which the reader is referred to discover in a Resources section. There were a few items that I could not find in the Resources despite quite a bit of research - please tell me where to get the fillable tubes! But again, these two flaws are insignificant in comparison to the quality of the book.

If you're not convinced that $40US isn't a good investment, consider a few of the recipes:

*Bacon ice cream, Quebec maple syrup-flavored kataifi, brown butter panna cotta & burning hay scent
*Warm pandan leaf-infused caramelized cream, black sesame genoa bread, hibiscus glaze & popcorn shoots
*White miso pot de crème, green tea génoise crumbs, kumquat marmalade, kumquat jelly

Some of the 200+ recipes are exotic but not so far out there that they're irrelevant. Most are common flavors prepared in the most modern and proven of techniques. I appreciate his ability to explain preparations for well-equipped kitchens but also for more humble kitchens - there are very few recipes that you can't make at home.

Migoya continues to prove himself as one of the top pastry chefs in the country and certainly one of the top pastry educators anywhere. Elements of Dessert is worth far more than its price, and certainly exceeds a much larger stack of books that sit on my shelf collecting dust.
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on March 6, 2013
If you want to go beyond desserts targeted for the home cook like brownies, pies and cakes (not that there is anything wrong with those) this is the book to add to your collection. It is geared towards the professionals or the very ambitious and curious home cooks who want to know how the pros do it. Migoya gives us a fantastic insight into how the professionals think of, source, compose and create modern desserts. Even if we do not attempt any of the desserts from start to finish (I did try a couple already with great success), there is a lot to learn here about the restaurant pastry kitchen and the process of creating a proper dessert using multiple basic building blocks.
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on February 5, 2015
I own many, many cookbooks - maybe 50 or so just on baking. I am very passionate about cooking. Only recently have I become obsessed with presentation. I received this book just a few days ago and admit that I have not made anything from it. But I have been browsing for hours. First, if you are not a foodie and are too frustrated by recipes that use hard to find items (for instance, just picking a few random pages I have come across the following ingredients - gellan gum, low acyl or elderflower liquer or beet powder or wormwood schnappps essense or edible lacquer or sliver green luster dust) then this book (despite the fact that it provides resources for some of the items) will probably only be of interest to you for the purposes of dreaming and aesthetics. I have other books that contain ingredients impossible for the common cook to find (see all of Thomas Keller's books - seriously single source cheese from a dairy farmer on the other side of the country is a wonderful notion but impractical). Second, the contents are beyond beautiful - presentation and photography might be worth the price of a very good used book even if you were never going to cook. Third, the desserts presented make my mouth water just reading their names. One example is maple tapioca/vanilla panna cotta.or caramelized chocolate puff pastry. Fourth, I love that the author/publisher has taken the time to put all measurements in metric and US measurements. A few years ago I began cooking by weight rather than volume. The results differ and weight is a much better measurement for consistency. Get a precision scale - relatively cheap (especially if you are investing in expensive ingredients) and very easy to use. Eventually I may be one of the few non-science based Americans who prefers the metric system. Fifth, for those of who have more ambition than experience, there are 105 pages in the Chapter "Basic Elements." This chapter explains ingredients and how they work and techniques with hints. It also provides information about complementary tastes (a la The Taste Bible). The instructions are clear and have sufficient photos for you to learn. There are also tips and explanations in the other chapters. I cannot wait to try out some of the recipes but even if they are not my cup of tea when I have made them, the book has satisfied every other requirement I have for a cook book.
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on July 13, 2014
You will want to put this cookbook on your coffee table to impress your foodie friends. The pictures are an incredible showcase of the modernist ingenuity of the recipes.

The layout of the book is very well thought out. You must be prepared to invest in ingredients and equipment to make the majority of the recipes in this book.

A suitable amount of background is recommended before attempting the recipes found later in the book and this background is provided in Chapter 1. Do not skip this chapter! The first chapter provides an extensive explanation of preparation and cooking methods (for example: tempering chocolate), an overview of flavor and texture profiles of ingredients, and even considerations in menu composition.

Subsequent chapters contain recipes and photographs grouped by the type of setting under which the dessert would be served (such as plated, in a buffet, cakes, etc.). The ingredient amounts in the recipes are weight based so at the very least you must have a kitchen scale.

In the end of the book is a list of on-line resources where unique ingredients or tools can be purchased which I found very helpful.

I'd recommend this book to anyone who has an appreciation of culinary artistry, and strongly recommend this book to chefs who enjoy modernist cooking.
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on June 9, 2013
The book is amazing. I bought it for myself and then bought another as a gift for my pastry instructor. It has really challenged me to go beyond the basics. The chef I bought the other copy for also thought it was a fantastic addition to his collection. I already tried one of the recipes and it turned out better than I expected. The only difficult part was having to go to different pages to get the full recipe. This is definitely not a book for beginners.
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on August 31, 2013
Authoritative, beautifully presented, it is a definitive text for all aspiring chefs, either professional or eager amateur. Full of amazing recipes with clear instructions and illuminating background information. It isn't just a recipe book; once you have studied this book you will have a grasp of the essential scientific and aesthetic principles behind cooking desserts.
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on February 14, 2014
This is a master book for professionals and not for the faint of heart. The first 100 - 150 page of the book is a solid foundation into the world of Baking and Pastry.

Two of my favorite cakes can be converted into a "soup", which can be made into a dessert sauce - Devils Food Cake and Red Velvet Cake.

Its a MUST HAVE for pastry professionals.
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on September 16, 2014
I bought this book hoping to learn more about pastries and baking, especially after reading that this book was better than the CIA pastry book. I purchased it with high hopes, and while it is very pretty with all the pictures of the delicate deserts made by a master pastry chef, it wasn't really what I had hoped for. It does have some good information about the different icings and pastry creams, but it also gets into chocolates and some pretty high tech recipes that I don't think I would ever venture to try, especially trying to hunt down some of the ingredients.
Instead of a book I could hope to use to improve my baking skills, I feel that I bit off more than I can chew, and I am a pretty adventurous baker. I would recommend the Pastry Chef by Bo Friberg. This is a huge book, and while it doesn't offer as many color photos as the Elements of Dessert, it is an awesome reference book for some classic pastries, breads and cakes and cookies.
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on February 2, 2015
Beautiful book. Bought for a pastry chef and he was impressed. Many glossy photos and lots of instruction. Recipes give bakers' percentages, which is very helpful. Inspiring recipes, composition, and flavor combinations.
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on June 19, 2015
The book IS amazing. The desserts are just...wow. BUT (and this is a big but) it's completely impractical for 99.9% of the world of pastry. It's not based in the reality of what people want to eat, or the reality of what a typical restaurant (even a high end restaurant) is able to produce.
It's definitely a cool book, I just don't see any kind of practical application which is what I really want I'm this type of book.
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