The aura of the Cincinnati main library building calls to me each time I have business downtown, a call to which I willingly submit. The deep quiet, the seemingly unending stacks… it’s as if the library is the keeper of the secrets of history and philosophy and art and music, and that they somehow live there.
Dashing out with four or five books in my hands, a shocking pink bible-ish-looking book caught my eye on the New shelf. Patisserie, Mastering the Fundamentals of French Pastry, by Christophe Felder, published in the US for the first time in 2013. OK, I’ll skim.
Admittedly, I didn’t attend to it right away. It was going to be a casual, fun read after I’d been through a couple of other pieces of non-fiction. Within a week of my renewal date and caught in my car in the driving rain, I quickly browsed.
Tarts, creams, custards, gateaux, chocolate desserts, holiday desserts, cookies, macarons, brioche, petit fors, shortbread, and all manor of short, Linzer, Baba, strudel, puff and sweet pastries, each category set up as a lesson.
As the scope of what I was seeing began to sink in, I jumped back to the beginning and went page by page to take in the photographic beauty and creative use of ingredients in these traditional, time honored recipes. Then, I did it again as if to prove to myself that what I was reading was real. Then, once again.
This is a masterful and inspiring book. Christophe Felder is a pastry chef from a family of Alsatian bakers who has taken creative excellence to its highest level. “Precise technique, (remember the discussion about the word ‘precision’) common sense and playfulness are all elements of Felder’s pastry making. His guiding principles are to surprise and satisfy.”
Unbelievably, these recipes are written for home cooks, and each, categorized by degree of difficulty, is absolutely doable.
Feeling like a child whose present had just been stolen, I tried to retain my composure as the librarian pried the book out of my hands. It turns out others had lined up behind me looking for the same inspiration.
One click on Amazon, and all is well.