Economic downturn got your professional pastry aspirations on ice like so much pie dough? Don’t stick your head in the oven over the price of culinary school. Just cough up two 20s for Baking (Ten Speed Press, 2009, $40), the hot-off-the-press 378-page magnum opus by Brooklyn’s own James Peterson, who has called Boerum Hill home for 11 years.
No casual cookbook for playing pastry patty-cake, this comprehensive culinary tour-de-force teaches textbook techniques for cakes, pies, tarts, pastries, cookies, breads, custards, mousses and more, with enough exacting detail and scientific explanation to make aerospace engineering look like a piece of (French meringue layer) cake.
Peterson teaches at the Institute of Culinary Education and has been one of the country’s preeminent cooking instructors for more than 20 years; baking from these pages approximates working alongside him at the stove. More than 1,500 photographs help the book stand in for school, plotting the steps of every technique from folding egg whites to rolling sheet cake, and from pita and pumpernickel to croissants and soufflés. And, yes, he even shows you how to form marzipan mushrooms to top your bûche de Noël.
So quit living on bread and water to save for tuition. Do your homework and you’ll soon be telling your sweet staff they can use their culinary diplomas as parchment paper.