Author: Emmanuel Mollois
UWA Publishing RRP $55
Review: Monique Mulligan
“One of the best pastry chefs in Australia.” — PHILIPPE MOUCHEL
I love the movie Julie & Julia, which is based on blogger Julie Powell’s real-life challenge to cook all the recipes in Julia Child’s first book. It’s a challenge I wonder if I could rise to when I turn the pages of Emmanuel Mollois’ Pâtissier, dubbed “the definitive guide to making French pastries and desserts”. Those who know me, may have guessed that I’m travelling the world through cooking, in lieu of being able to actually travel (not yet, anyway), and now it seems that my kitchen, well-worn apron and I will be “visiting” France.
If the cover had boasted a decadent, perfect dessert that screamed “Look how creative I am” I might have stopped there – instead, the friendly, encouraging face of celebrated pastry chef Emmanuel Mollois says, “Take a look. You may be surprised what you can do”. The Australian-based, French-born chef is a partner at Bistro Des Artistes in Perth and shares a bit of his background in the book’s introduction: ‘When I was 15, I wanted to be a cartoonist; I loved eating but didn’t fancy cooking at all; my dear dad decided differently for me after many family discussions.’ His self-deprecating and humble approach is as much encouragement as his smiling face … perhaps I can do this?
In essence, Pâtissier is a French cooking “masterclass” that instructs cooks from the from the basics through to the most advanced creations. The first section is a lesson in dough-making techniques – from puff pastry to fast (or rough) puff pastry, from shortcrust to choux, all the techniques are explained simply. The instructions are clear and well-laid out – easy enough for any home cook to follow. This section is followed by one on biscuits – some very simple, others with more steps and requiring a careful read first. Moving through the book, methods for making a variety of mousses, pastes, jellies and ganache are shared, followed by a selection of more advanced recipes for more adventurous cooks.
Pâtissier is aimed at anyone with an interest in French baking, whether they are curious home cooks (like me) or passionate pastry chefs. The techniques are explained well and once the basics and classics are mastered, those who want to challenge themselves can try out the recipes Mollois has created for family members such as Le “Volime te” (a cake for his wife) or Gateau Mafalda (a chocolate/caramel creation for his daughter). Other, more advanced recipes include macarons, cakes incorporating a variety of techniques (including tempered chocolate), and the famous croquembouche. There are even some gluten-free recipes for those with a gluten intolerance.
So, back to the challenge. Should I cook my way through this book? Can I? Here’s the thing. I’m going to try out the different doughs, biscuits and tarts … and maybe even the macarons. As for the exquisite cakes Mollois has made, I don’t know if I would have the time to make most of them – I’d need hours! Hours and no kids around. I’d rather have those made for me, and with that, I think a trip to Bistro Des Artistes is in order. My to-do list includes (in English):
- Cinnamon sweet pastry
- Puff pastry – I’d love to try this from scratch
- Chocolate sweet pastry
- Chocolate biscuit
- Raspberry and lemon cake
If you need a gift idea for a budding pastry chef, I’d highly recommend Pâtissier. It’s a fantastic resource and should be a staple on the bench (not just the shelf). For curious home cooks, don’t be put off by the more difficult creations – there is plenty in here that will help build confidence in pastry techniques. And if I do decide to make one of Mollois’ special creations, I’ll blog about it!
Available from good bookstores and UWA Books. This copy was courtesy of UWA Books.
Bookish treat: How I wish I had a salted caramel macaron at hand while reading this book. Alas, I had raw almonds. Not quite the same.