Pastry in Europe: 2009, aka The Big Pink Book is Big. Glossy. Pricey. It reminds me of a Hermè cookbook or possibly Alinea, but it is neither. However, this is a good book, and so the question becomes, “For whom is this book best suited?”
PIE is a self-published product of Culibooks Inc., which has been around since 1996. Their most well known magazines are Culinaire Saisonnier and Pâtisserie & Desserts. At 255 pages with glossy color photos on nearly ever page, there is plenty of eye candy. At $119.95US on Amazon the book moves out of the price range of most frugal bakers. I have been told that the book can be purchased for only $67 (Chocolate World) if bought in Euros (plane ticket to Europe not included).
Pastry in Europe 2009 feels like one of those hard-bound glossy books you find in finer hotel rooms that is seeking to serve the Edward Behr (Art of Eating) audience. By that I mean, we have a beautiful, densely packed book full of wonderful material, and not just recipes, but articles about culture, people, technique, yet they are abbreviated articles that leave you wanting more. As an example, there is a nice discussion of cactus fig (prickly pear tuna in my parlance), but I was left with more questions than answers: “What are they using them for?” “The picture of liquor on the side page – is that a cactus fig liquor? “Where can I get more information about the producers?”
The idea behind those glossy hotel books is to get a tourist to go shopping or eating at a restaurant – PIE is not a shilling book. I read the book more as a celebration of what’s on the minds of European pastry chefs right now. So the abbreviated article format doesn’t work for me. I would prefer a more Behr-esque treatment where we get in-depth on the subjects, and recognizing my comments about the photos (which please don’t misconstrue my comments as the photos are very beautiful), I would suggest that the audience could do with a less expensive, less flashy, more informative book.
So then who should buy this book? If you have knocked out some killer mousse or chocolate bon bons, and have a fairly solid grasp of the concept and techniques, and you have a varied interest in pastries (not just one item such as gelato), and you won’t be frustrated when the 2010 edition comes out leaving your 2009 edition feeling a bit dated, then grab the book. It is unique, informative and well…quite interesting to me. I am enjoying it.
The book was worth the investment for me as someone who is constantly seeking new techniques, ideas and flavor combinations, although it certainly won’t get the mileage of my Hermè or Amernick books or my Art of Eating magazine.