Oak Park, Illinois is a regular destination for the Pastry clan, especially around the holidays. While there we never pass up an opportunity to stop at The Book Table, one of the handful of independent bookstores still left in the Chicago area. All of us love browsing the crowded stacks, and how often do you get the chance to actually handle a book before you buy it these days? I sure miss that in the age of Amazon, particularly when it comes cookbooks. I also miss discovering a gem versus being served it via algorithm. On which note, I practically fell over when I saw this: the reissued (and retitled) edition of Lenôtre’s Desserts and Pastries, first published in 1977.
I have an original copy, and it’s long been a Joe Pastry secret weapon. I’ve swiped no end of techniques and ideas from the late master pâtissier. Now I’m well and truly busted. Snap this up when you get a chance. I definitely will on my next trip up, as I’m curious to see the changes that the Lenôtre team has made in the interest of bringing this classic up-to-date.
I’ve been looking for a good for-the-masses Chinese pastry book for years now. This one treats the subject better than any I’ve seen, with its great photography and easy-to-follow instructions (there’s some decent history thrown in as well). I haven’t tried any of the recipes yet, but this book will definitely be my go-to from now on.
My daughters love this show, so they dove for this book when they saw it on the shelves. I was surprised to see that it wasn’t a “greatest disasters”-type of show retrospective, but a collection of the actual recipes that the hapless contestants used to create their cringe-inducing monstrosities. Grandpa bought them a copy, and while I don’t see myself using it much, I can say it was a fun one-time browse.
I was drawn to this little book more or less instantly, since I’m always looking for easier, less time consuming recipes for first-timers. I thought the presentation, “lazy baking”, was genius (most people wouldn’t think to put those two words together). It’s a great little book that I can tell I’ll be using often. The ideas in it are so simple they can be riffed on almost endlessly. Way to go Jessica D.!
I make a lot of brick oven pizza, but there’s always more to learn, and I liked the approach of this book quite a bit. The title isn’t exactly inspired, but the photos are good and there’s plenty of information for people who want/need to get under the hood of Neapolitan pizza. Newly minted Ooni owners, I’m looking at you.
Seems like every year there has to be at least one comprehensive “mastering the basics”-type baking book on the shelves, all done in rich tones of gold and brown, with plenty of aprons and floury implements. Bread Ahead is a solid addition to the genre, even if, like most of the others, it’s a long-form brochure for a cooking school you’ll never go to. Some really nice tips in here, and a handy mix of both bread and pastry formulas.
Since I’m talking about books of 2021 I shouldn’t neglect to mention Dorie Greenspan’s new book, which I received as a Christmas present and am very happy with. There’s a fair amount of familiar territory in it, but it’s an excellent book even so, particularly for anyone relatively new to Dorie’s work.
And since I’m reminiscing about Oak Park, I want to remember an old friend from there who died not terribly long ago: John Mahoney. It’s not every day you accidentally form a casual drinking buddy friendship with a big time film and TV actor, but what can I say, we used to go to the same bar. A proud Oak Parker, John was nothing like the cranky old dad he played on Frasier. Rather he was sophisticated and witty, interested in people, and with a smile that couldn’t help but make YOU smile. A lot like his character in Moonstruck but without the regrets. We lost touch when I moved to Louisville. I was sad to hear that he’d passed a couple of years back, though I still like to drop into Poor Phil’s and think of him. Goes to show you never know who you’re going to bump into in this life. Ya gotta keep your eyes peeled!
Oh and, did you know that in addition to Ernest Hemingway, Frank Lloyd Wright, Ray Kroc, and Bob Newhart, Betty White was also from Oak Park? Fare thee well, golden girl!