Why learn how to make French pastries?
The easy answer is: if you like to eat them, then learn to make them.
Learn from a master like Will Torrent, who demystifies even the most difficult pastry recipe. “Patisserie is all about technique, precision and elegance,” he writes in Patisserie At Home ( Ryland Peters 2013). Those are three qualities that all of us could use in practically everything we do.
The better answer for why we should learn to make French pastries is that it teaches us to follow technique with precision and to appreciate elegance.
After a foreword by Heston Blumenthal and an introduction by the author, the first chapter is on Basic Technique – everything from Pate a Sable Breton (p. 15) to Crème Patisserie (p. 25). Croissants get seven photographs by Jonathan Gregson. Once you have mastered these recipes – or at least have the courage to try them out, turn to any recipe in the rest of the book. Try your hand at Almond and Cherry Meringues (p. 43) when cherry season starts, or make pretty little Raspberry and Rose Millefeuilles (p. 56) with Pate Feuilletee and Crème Diplomate. Since it is strawberry season, then try the luscious Tarte aux Fraises (p. 76) with a swirl of sliced berries under apricot jam hiding that Crème Patisserie.
Then miniaturize everything in a chapter on Petits Fours
‘Petit four’, meaning ‘at a low oven temperature’, gave its name to the miniature treats of the eighteenth century which needed gentle baking, at low temperatures.
There are two types of madeleines, Honey and Vanilla (p. 91) and Coffee and Chocolate (p. 92) or try one of the truffle recipes like Raspberry and Vodka Chocolate Truffles (p. 99) dusted in raspberry powder or the strange Passionfruit, Mango and Olive Oil Chocolates (p. 103) with popping candy hidden inside.
There is much to explore in Patisserie at Home. Will Torrent is at once quite traditional – and yet there are marvelous twists and re-thinking of classics shared in his book. With a little confidence and some practice, he will guide with elegance and good humor.