The Professional Pastry Chef by Bo Friberg is a must-have reference for all serious bakers / pastry chefs. It appears frequently as part of baking / pastry arts curriculums for good reason: Chef Bo clearly explains techniques and plating suggestions with a healthy (and entertaining) dash of food science along the way. The first of two volumes (the second being The Advanced Professional Pastry Chef), this gorgeous (and hefty) tome walks the novice pastry chef through glazes, meringues, basic doughs (short dough, puff pastry, pate a choux, pasta), yeast breads, breakfast breads and pastries, quick breads / pound cakes, sponge cakes, decorated cakes, individual pastries, ice cream, and custard-type desserts. The section on plated desserts is worth the price of the book alone, as you’ll find templates for pastry cutouts, piping instructions, etc.
First and foremost, this is NOT a book for the average home baker. In most cases, the yields (and quantities, which are given in weights, not volume) are geared towards restaurants / foodservice, although certain bread recipes are scaled down for smaller yields, such as the small-batch Black Forest bread with cocoa and dried cherries, challah, and Southwestern corn and cheese bread.
The included line drawings are enormously helpful to illustrate techniques. The Chef’s Tips and sidebars further explain techniques or recipe-specific advice. Several in-depth charts like cookie recipes categorized by texture, production method, and storage capability provide an at-a-glance guide to what would be an otherwise overwhelming number of recipes to juggle.
The book particularly excels in its treatment of European (French/Italian/Viennese) pastries. Even the ice cream chapter yields unique flavor surprises, like the macadamia nut ice cream, banana-poppy seed ice cream, and avocado-mango ice cream. You’ll find unusual frozen yogurts as well, like black-pepper honey, gingered pineapple, and strawberry-rhubarb frozen yogurt with ginger, that provide a welcome change.
The comprehensive appendices cover nearly 150 pages alone, including an extremely thorough glossary of ingredients and tools, precise metric conversions and metric equivalents, metric/US length, weight, and volume equivalents, and a particularly helpful section on yields, baker’s percentages, and Baumé / Brix scale readings.
Despite owning several dozen baking books, I find myself coming back time and again to “The Professional Pastry Chef” for its clear instructions, charts, and fascinating food science tidbits. Chef Bo makes for a most pleasant and patient instructor, and his thorough explanations of techniques and ingredients will serve you well whether you’re an advanced home baker or an experienced pastry chef.
(Many thanks to Wiley for the review copy)