The fine arts are five in number, namely: painting, sculpture, poetry, music, and architecture, the principal branch of the latter being pastry.
I used to repeat this quote to wind up my architect husband, but now I totally get it.
In this monument of a book, the basic building blocks–genoise, buttercream, meringue, etc.–are assembled to create classic pastries like Religeuses and Opera, or assembled and flavored in new ways to create the avant-garde.
Sounds like architecture to me!
I think the reason we buy patisserie is the architecture factor. I can make a creditable genoise and a decent buttercream, but not in the same morning, or even the same day. And building a Charlotte or Croquembouche can be fraught. I’ve had layer cakes implode and force me, cursing, from the kitchen. A perfectly layered Mille-Feuille or even a Baba that cooperates by sliding out of it’s mold can be a lot to ask.
Luckily, in each of set of directions, Dupuis and Cazor highlight the “tricky aspects,” like hydrating gelatin, using a pastry bag or recognizing the ribbon stage. Then, with page references, they guide you through each of those tricky techniques.
But not all the recipes are killers. Some, like an apple tart, are excellent basics, easy to master and vary. From apple, move on to tropical fruits or a chic lemon meringue. Recast the tart into tartlets, filled with Chibouste cream and raspberries or lime curd. Or crank out passion fruit, strawberry and chocolate.
So after you tire of your New Year’s, lentil-based dietary resolutions, make a resolution to build some pastry skills. Become a master of the macaron, fearlessly stare-down a St. Honore, and vanquish the Vacherin.