Being a pastry chef is the most wonderful job in the world if you have passion, determination and a touch of talent, plus patience and a lot of knowledge. But if the first four of them come naturally, the last one comes only by reading, reading and when you though you’ve learnt enough, read even more.. and then take all you’ve read to the kitchen and put it to a test, experiment with various recipes, tweak them if needed or change them completely. And enjoy the process because as cliché as it sounds, it’s not the destination that matters, but the path there! And it’s such a fun and rewarding path!
I’ve always loved reading, ever since I was a kid. Romance, novels, poetry, you name it.. but once I discovered my passion for baking and desserts, my reading focused a lot on baking books, booklets, tutorials and magazines that connect to baking and pastry chefs. And I managed to gather an entire collection of ebooks or hardcover books that I still read when I have the time. Because there nothing more relaxing to me than reading various recipes, comparing them, taking notes, reading about baking techniques and making sure all this knowledge is well cemented in my brain. Only then comes the trial part which is fun and often challenging.
This list includes my all-time favorite essential baking books and I totally recommend them to both novices and experts. They’re not cheap books, but trust me, the work behind such a book is enormous and the knowledge found between these pages is priceless.
1. The Professional Pastry Chef: Fundamentals of Baking and Pastry, 4th Edition – a favorite of many pastry chefs and passionate home bakers worldwide, this book covers a wide range of basic baking and pastry techniques and it offers guidance on the preparation and presentation of numerous desserts: breads, cakes, cookies, tarts, croissants, Danish pastries, mousses, souffles, ice creams, sauces, syrups and fillings, as well as crackers, flatbreads and rolls.
2. The Advanced Professional Pastry Chef – this book is a comprehensive guide to sophisticated pastries that are served in the best restaurants around the world and it offers 650 recipes that reveal new and contemporary baking techniques, all up to date with the new pastry trends and equipments.
3. On Baking (3rd Edition) – offers an easy to read and understand approach to baking and pastry basics and it includes dozens of comprehensive and illustrative pictures. Food hygiene, pastry basics and advanced pastry work are just a few of the chapters of this book.
4. Baking and Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft – praised by pastry chefs and bakers around the world, this book is the ultimate guide to baking. It covers a wide range of pastries and desserts, from quick breads, pastry doughs, breakfast pastries, pies, cakes, frozen desserts, custards, souffles and chocolate, as well as plated desserts, special occasion cakes, wedding cakes, savory pastries and cake decoration techniques.
5. Advanced Bread and Pastry – this book focuses more on bread making and pastries, as well as viennoiserie. Both recipes and techniques are accompanied by beautiful photographs so it’s an easy to read book, amazing for professional bakers, but also for those who are barely taking their first step in this domain, as long as they don’t let themselves be overwhelmed by the amount of information.
6. Professional Baking 6th Edition with Professional Baking Method Card Package Set – this is probably the first book I bought and read and I was totally mesmerized by every single piece of information there, so much that I took notes and read it a couple of times from start to finish. It’s amazing for novices and professionals because it offers easy to understand and follow instructions for each recipe and it covers a wide range of baking techniques and recipes, from cakes and tarts to pies, cookies and advanced pastry work.
7. The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Pastry Arts – this book covers the basics that every aspiring pastry chef should know. Based on the internationally lauded curriculum developed by master pâtissier Jacques Torres for New York’s French Culinary Institute, the book includes recipes for tarts, cream puffs, puff pastry, custards and creams, breads, cakes and petits fours.
8. The Elements of Dessert – for those of you passionate about plated desserts, here’s a book that covers just that. The book’s description says: “Chef Migoya begins with the essential elements of contemporary desserts – like mousses, doughs, and ganaches – showing pastry chefs and students how to master those building blocks before molding and incorporating them into creative finished desserts. He then explores in detail pre-desserts, plated desserts, dessert buffets, passed desserts, cakes, and petits fours. Throughout, gorgeous and instructive photography displays steps, techniques, and finished items. The more than 200 recipes and variations collected here cover virtually every technique, concept, and type of dessert, giving professionals and home cooks a complete education in modern desserts.” I don’t have this book yet, but I can’t wait to get my hands on it.
9. How Baking Works: Exploring the Fundamentals of Baking Science – I love this book for its explanations and connections between baking and science. It makes an interesting read and it will clarify many of the chemical reactions that happen during the baking process or various baking techniques. In the end, baking is a sort of chemistry and understanding this will make you a better pastry chef or baker.
10. Baking: From My Home to Yours – Dorie Greenspan needs no introduction. She has written recipes for various famous pastry chefs, from Pierre Herme to David Lebovitz and this book focuses on the same comprehensive and easy to follow style of writing recipes.
11. Pierre Hermé Pastries (Revised Edition) – Pierre Herme is, well, Pierre Herme, the Picasso of Pastry and one of the most famous pastry chefs in the world. And his books are simply amazing, although I would consider many of his recipes aimed to professional pastry chefs. The amount of information and baking techniques in his books may be overwhelming for a home baker, but with patience and passion, you can definitely crack his code and fall in love with his desserts.
If you have more books that are worthy to be on this list, leave me a comment and I will add them to the list.
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