Inconsistencies in Payard’s pastry recipes?
Posted: 22 June 2009 09:30 PM   [ Ignore ]
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I have been studying carefully the recipes for Sweet tart dough or pate sucree and chocolate dough in two books by Francois Payard?s Simply Sensational Desserts and Chocolate Epiphany.  The recipes are neither internally consistent nor consistent from one book to the other, and I cannot understand why.  The SS book only contains a Sweet tart dough recipe while the latter book has a recipe for both pastry doughs. 

First, comparing the pate sucree recipe from SS to CE, both recipes claim to result in enough dough for two nine or nine and a half inch tart shells.  Yet the volume of ingredients in the CE recipe is hugely larger.  For example, the SS recipe calls for 9 tablespoons butter while CE calls for about double or four sticks of butter.  On flour, the SS recipe calls for 1.75 cups, while CE calls for 6.5 cups! The amount of sugar is about the same while the amount of eggs is roughly four times larger in the CE recipe.  Can anyone explain what seem to be inconsistencies?  How can two recipes, with widely varying volumes of ingredients both be for the same sized two tart shells? 
Second, in the CE book, comparing the Sweet tart dough recipe to the Chocolate dough recipe, both claim to make enough dough for two nine inch pastry shells yet have widely different volumes and are internally inconsistent.  The sweet tart dough recipe calls for ?4 sticks of butter or 1 pound?.  The CD recipe calls for ?33 tablespoons butter or 8.5 ounces? yet 33 tablespoons is a tad more than one pound.  The other ingredients are in roughly the same volumes.  Can anyone help?  Thanks!

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Posted: 24 June 2009 02:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I have been studying cookbooks and doing some recipe testing here and there, and I can tell you that not all cookbooks are put through a rigorous testing process. Baking is extraordinarily finicky, and any recipe intended for the home cook should be tested (in my humble opinion) not only in a home kitchen, but also by another home cook (preferably three). There are always instructions that can use clarifying, steps that seem obvious to the person writing it but not to the tester/reader, and visual and sound cues to doneness that can be gleaned from a fresh pair of eyes and hands testing a recipe. this process will also catch typos and errors before they go to print, but I imagine some are unavoidable.

I agree with Matthew that most of the problems stem from improperly scaling down commercial kitchen recipes for home use, and writing recipes for volume measurements and not weight measurements. In the Cake Bible, Rose actually pays such careful attention to scale, that she adjusts the quantity of leavening/baking powder for different size pans (look at the wedding cake / Rose factor section in the back). She is the first cookbook author I have seen that does this (though there are probably others). Every measurement in Rose’s books is provided in imperial and metric measurements, by both weight and volume (LOVE). 

Some publishers and editors think that home cooks want only imperial volume measurements (cups) and will be intimidated by volume measurements. This is bunk. At a minimum, I agree with Matthew that weight equivalents should be provided (the people who are freaked out can just look at the volume column LOL ).  However, wonderful cooking teachers and cookbook authors (Julia Child!) are fine publishing recipes with just volume measurements: for example, Martha Stewart’s wedding cake recipes only have volume measurements, and I am sure they measure by weight in her bakery/test kitchen! I know it can be done by volume, but why would you want to make an entire wedding cake like this? At a minimum, I think the volume measuring method should be identified right on the ingredient line in recipes - i.e. spoon and sweep, or dip and sweep.

Ironically, the volume-only recipes probably make it MORE difficult for a novice baker to make the recipes successfully, which in turn probably hurts cookbook publishing. At a booksigning event for some bakers I met recently, they said their editor had pushed them against including weights, and they asked us to email them requests for including weights in their next book to show their editor!

When I find someone who writes reliable recipes, like Rose, Flo Braker, and others,  I am really loyal and don’t venture too far from them. And when I find a recipe that clearly hasn’t been tested and causes me to waste time and ingredients, I tend to veer away from their recipes in the future (Ina Garten, Nigella Lawson*). I need to be more open-minded, though, and am going to buy Shirley Corriher’s BakeWise and Cindy Mushet’s The Art and Soul of Baking.

*I like these cooks, but not for their baking recipes. More for savory foods or other recipes that don’t require the same precision (i.e. Ina’s granola).

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Posted: 06 September 2009 10:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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StartfromScratch - 24 June 2009 05:51 PM

When I find someone who writes reliable recipes, like Rose, Flo Braker, and others,  I am really loyal and don’t venture too far from them. And when I find a recipe that clearly hasn’t been tested and causes me to waste time and ingredients, I tend to veer away from their recipes in the future (Ina Garten, Nigella Lawson*). I need to be more open-minded, though, and am going to buy Shirley Corriher’s BakeWise and Cindy Mushet’s The Art and Soul of Baking.

I’m new to this forum but I’ve been baking for a few years (although I still consider myself a complete amateur!). But your comments ring so true that I had to add my opinion! In England where I live Nigella Lawson is the self-appointed Domestic Goddess. I have two of her cookery books and always assumed that they were ‘the bibles’. Well maybe but some of her recipes really really DON’T WORK. After yet another disappointment (banana muffins that didn’t rise and that I could have used as tennis balls), I had a look online and found out that her recipes are notoroius for not working (although to her credit, in her website she lists various corrections, an alarmingly high number if you ask me).

So, although her New York Cheesecake recipe does work and has become one of my staples, I am too scared to try any of the others now. This made me come to the conclusion that most recipe books are compiled by scavanging recipes from various places without actually testing them at all. How else would you explain the tennis ball muffins?

So all hail people like Rose, who gives you all the necessary steps, even if the publishers might tell them that they’ll scare off some of the potential readers. My first double-crust cherry pie worked, thanks to her!

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Posted: 08 September 2009 02:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I wanted to report back that I am 2/3 of the way through BakeWise and have gotten so much out of it already. The book seems like a wonderful baking textbook, but I have not yet made any recipes from it. The ones I am most interested in making are actually not sweet - the Touch of Grace, mile-high biscuits she is famous for, especially since in the book it spurred Chuick Williams to stock White Lily Flour in Williams-Sonoma stores. Plus this is one of those old family recipes that someone honed for years and years (Shirley Corriher) and then was nice enough to pass along. Those are always the best.
I am also interested in some of the recipes that demonstrate different techniques, including the dissolved-sugar method.

The cakes do look quite sweet (especially the coconut cake!), but like you all said, Shirley is quite up-front about her sweet tooth, and I am grateful that she usually notes this in the headnotes.

I am on the path to find a buttercream frosting that will strike a middle ground between confenctioner’s sugar frostings and the mousseline buttercream, which I love (but only the versions with the full amount of puree and liqueur) but many of my clients find too buttery. And I think Shirley’s book will be helpful to me in experimenting.

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