Liza, I love, love, love this book, it is my favorite of all Rose’s books… so far!
When you say pastry, are you ruling out pies and tarts? Just in case you’re not, a few thoughts on pies/tarts:
My recommendation to start with, would be a seasonal fruit paired with the cream cheese flaky crust. Whatever is most perfectly ripe and tasty, choose a recipe that features that. Not sure where you are, but here that would be peaches/cream tart, open face blueberry pie or blueberry- lemon curd tart, etc.
In another month or so, when orchard fresh apples are here, I’ll make the open face designer apple pie, which is possibly the most perfect apple pie ever. Because it is open-faced, the crust can be blind baked and is super crispy and perfect. Also because it is open-faced, the juices evaporate when baking, so that very little cornstarch is needed and there is very little dulling of fruit flavor.
After that, maybe in Oct, my family’s favorite pie will be up in the rotation: concord grape. When I make these, I make them in multiples and freeze (unbaked), so we can continue to have them into the new year.
In the Fall, the pecan tart is to die for, I like it best with the bourbon whipped cream but without the chocolate. Make sure to use Lyle’s.
Let’s see, pastry thoughts. I agree, Rose’s brioche is lovely, I have made it many, many times. If you still have good strawberries in season there, I would go for the Savarin (details in the Cake Bible). The first summer I discovered Savarin I made it over and over, probably 5 or 6 times. I’ve never tried it as Monkey Bread, but it would probably work. The pecan sticky buns are very good. And brioche is easier than either puff pastry or croissant.