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Baking Chez Moi Book Review

Dorie Greenspan’s New Book, Baking Chez Moi, Hits the Shelves

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Many cookbooks come with quite a bit of anticipation, such as with Dorie Greenspan’s newest, Baking Chez Moi,which I have had the pleasure of baking from for the last couple of months. You can read my very in-depth interview with Dorie as well, where she describes this book as the baking companion to Around My French Table. Her goal with this book was to bring us what she bakes in her Paris kitchen and also what her French friends are actually making in their homes. There is a paradox here – that she mentions in our interview – that most French women and men don’t bake at home! So how did she write a baking book about it then? Well, what the French do is prepare simple, glorious desserts. Some are baked, some are simply assembled but you will find recipes in her book such as a casual galette, perhaps with a crust that has gently cracked open to reveal the juicy fruit filling, as opposed to a structured pie. A cake might be plain or have a simple glaze instead of the piped frills of a frosting decoration. It might seem to be a subtle shift of focus, but if you have lived in France, as Dorie has for 20 years, the methodologies are clear. Whether it makes sense to you or not, there are recipes in here that you will want to bake in your home. We are featuring her Fall-Market Galette (which she recommends for beginners) and her version of Cannelés.

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Let’s get inside the book. From first glance of the cover, it sets the tone – one of quality and deliciousness. You must really read our interview to understand how important “deliciousness” is to Dorie, and we couldn’t agree more. A shiny and chic chocolate cake stands center stage, covered with salted chocolate shards. While it was inspired by an original by Pierre Hermé, this one according to Dorie, “is doable by ordinary mortals”. Dorie repeated her collaboration with photographer Alan Richardson and stylist Karen Tack to great effect. The images look inviting; they look approachable. You can readily see the components and understand what the dish is made of. They make you want to make the dish. (Make sure to read my interview with Alan as well.

The book’s introduction is followed by chapters for (with recipe examples in parentheses):

Simple Cakes (Browned Butter and Vanilla Bean Weekend Cake, Cheesecake Alsace Style)

Fancy Cakes (Gingerbread Buche de Noel, Pithiviers)

Tarts and Galettes (Caramel Tart, Cranberry Crackle Tart)

Baby Cakes and Petite Pastries (Les Whoopies, Matcha Financiers, Bubble Éclairs)

Cookies and Bars (Vanilla Bean Sablés, Parisian Macaron, Coco Rochers)

Fruit, Creams, Frozen Desserts and Candies (Pistachio and Berry Gratin, Honey-Yogurt Mousse, Hot Chocolate Panna Cotta, Tea-Raisin Truffles)

Basics (Sweet Tart Dough, Brioche, Chocolate Ganache, Crème Anglaise)

 

Every chapter has a nice index page, set off by a French blue color, making the chapters easy to find. The sidebars sport this color as well or a chocolate brown and include helpful information on Measuring Flour (Dorie dips and sweeps, by the way), “Logging” (how to make rolled cookies or Buche de Noel nice and tight and firm), the “French Bake”, which is the extra-dark color that many French bakers bring to their baked goods as well as a mini-glossary of French terms such as confiseries, Viennoiserie and boulangerie, among other sidebars.

So far I have baked the Custardy Apple Squares and Edouard’s Chocolate Chip Cookies. I gravitated towards the apple dish because of its seasonality and homespun quality. It is a very simple pancake-like batter that is combined with a very generous amount of thinly sliced apples. Poured and baked in a small square pan, the squares are meant to be eaten with a fork and work well for breakfast, snack or dessert. The ingredients are humble (you have them all in the pantry) and their look, as you can see, is straightforward. It is the kind of recipe you might overlook, but shouldn’t. It highlights apples in a lovely, direct way. Her recipes sport their own mini-sidebars called Bonne Idées where she elaborates upon the recipe at hand. In this case there are suggestions for the inclusion of rum or Calvados (apple brandy), Armagnac or even almond extract. Citrus zest might be added, pears or quince could sub in for apples or, if you want to gussy it up, apple jelly can create a glaze. These additions mean you are getting many recipes rolled into one, and while I understand Dorie’s desire to add – and I am glad that the info is there – in this case, I thought the simplicity of the dish spoke most directly to the way it would be created in a French home, and so I stuck to the basic version. And they were great. I used her suggested Gala apples and they were eaten up in a flash.

The chocolate chip cookies are a version that includes nut flour, either almond or hazelnut. I made the almond version and you can read about the details in our interview. What was interesting with this recipes, and indicative of all the recipes in the book, is that I followed her recipe – although not exactly – and while mine did not look like hers they were delicious nonetheless and demonstrated perfectly how her recipes are very workable by “mere mortals”. Okay, I know I have more experience than most but trust me; you can make her chocolate chip cookies and come away with treats delectable enough for the corner patisserie and just different enough from any others you have encountered.

While the book is meant to be a sweet companion to Around My French Table, it certainly stands alone as a great book on baking, regardless of where you live. Dorie considers herself a baking evangelist and she truly wants to help her readers get in the kitchen and not only have success but also an enjoyable time. Her directions are clear and thorough yet have a calm, supportive way about them. This is not about perfection or exact duplication time after time. Dorie’s kitchen is about producing inviting baked goods that are a joy to learn about and then to create.

 

Available Now: Baking Chez Moi: Recipes from My Paris Home to Your Home Anywhere, © 2014 by Dorie Greenspan. Photos Alan Richardson

 

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