Apr 9 2006
Dear Ms. Berenbaum:
I bought the Pie and Pastry Bible about 7 years ago at the suggestion of a dear friend of mine who is a hobby-ist pastry chef. It is an extraordinary comendium that really does give you fail proof instructions on making the perfect pastry. I have made several creations from this book and because of it developed a reputation for making delicious desserts.
Your scientific explanations of the different types of flour, baking powder, liquids and fat and how those ingredients interact were nothing less than relevatory. For the uninitiated reader, it is the grams of protein in the flour that affects flakiness. Too high in protein and the mixture requires more water resulting in touch or chewy crusts. Too low in protein (such as cake flour) results in too tender and weak dough. You explain the importance of cold butter that is not handled very much to preserve the solidity which results in the flakiness of the dough.
I loved the explanation of why fruit pies are often unsuccessful and the egg white trick of sealing the pie crust before adding the filling is priceless. I use that with all my crusts now. I have made the Open Face Designer Apple Pie, The Glazed Strawberry Pie, The Honeycomb Chiffon Pie (my DH’s workplace still talks about that one some 5 years later), The Lemon Meringue Pie, The Quiche Lorraine and multiple others. There is not a pie recipe in this book that hasn’t turned out exactly as your promised.
I loved the gorgeous pictures of your pies as well as the drawings of the baking utensils needed from the wire whisk to the fluted tart tin. The Pie & Pastry Bible is one of my best loved cookbooks. It’s definitely an A+.
But . . . (and isn’t there always a but), your Cake Bible, which I purchased after many uses of the TPPB, is a disaster. It’s hard to read, hard to follow and I only attempted one cake in which I failed miserably. The organization of the recipes is also very hard – with the cake batter recipes separated from the main recipes so that there is a constant amount of flipping back and forth. While this format works with pies and pastries because the pastry shells can be made months in advance, it doesn’t work well with cakes. The recipes and instructions are intimidating without the clarity that I found in TPPB. The Cake Bible is actually stored away in the back of some cabinet in my kitchen because I find it so unuseable. D.
I guess one out of two aint bad.