We'll call this one the PDR, the Pastry Chefs' Desk Reference, not to be confused with that other PDR, the Physicians' Desk Reference, although both books are invaluable to the practitioners of the respective arts.
So what did you do on your summer vacation? Did you write the pastry chefs' desk reference, with 4,800 terms and definitions from around the world plus ten appendices? I didn't think so, but then, neither did I.
The story goes that Glenn and Laura Rinsky, while working towards their Master's degrees, and having a baby, came up with a hobby, The Pastry Chef's Companion: A Comprehensive Resource Guide for the Baking and Pastry Professional, was the result.
Amazing what you can do once you put your mind to it. Both authors are graduates of the CIA in Hyde Park, NY, and both have extensive experience teaching culinary arts and running kitchens around the country and the world. Both are certified by the American Culinary Federation as Executive Chef or EC, Executive Pastry Chef or EPC, and Culinary Educator or CE.
Being instructors, they wanted to compile a list of pastry terms. "How hard could it be?" they thought. How hard indeed. They took notes from their kitchens, lectures and students and created a comprehensive handbook that not only gives definitions for thousands of terms but also provides a list of classic and contemporary flavor combinations, troubleshooting guides for subjects from butter cream to yeast breads, and, of course, weight and volume equivalents. After two years of work, they had what they set out to create: a wide-ranging handbook for the pastry artist, beginner to advanced.
Now, if a student happens to forget the difference between "biscuit" and "muffin" as a mixing method, and is fortunate enough to have this book, they can look it up and find, on page 183, concise descriptions of fifteen different mixing methods that are used in the modern bake shop.
This book is a potential time-saver for instructor and student. Instead of: "Chef, how do you spell lekvar? How do you pronounce lekvar? What the heck is leckvar?" my inquisitive student will find the answers to these questions on page 164.
While the answers are useful, they are concise morsels, not meals. It is meant to be a quick reference book, not the end-all definitive tome on the history, manufacturing, moisture content and dietary usages of lekvar. (By the way, lekvar is "a thick, intensely flavored pureed fruit spread used to fill pastries and cookies. This Hungarian favorite is traditionally made with prunes or dried apricots cooked with sugar.") I happen to love lekvar for its replacement value for fats in baking. It grants a smooth mouth feel and is a real food alternative to man-made fats or straight white sugar.
Part dictionary, part encyclopedia The Pastry Chef's Companion was developed for bakers, pastry chefs, chefs, food enthusiasts, confectionary artists and students. It the first reference book that I have encountered that is sufficiently comprehensive yet appropriately sized to be the definitive portable handbook for the pastry arts.
Within the pages of this book are useful answers in an easy to use and easy to retrieve format. In the hands of a busy baker, professional or aspiring, this book can be a great time-saver and deserve a place on the kitchen shelf. It is a very good companion to any baking or pastry textbook and a wonderful tool for the student.
Along with my other favorite book, the Baker's Handbook, 3rd Edition, by Joe Amondola, The Pastry Chef's Companion will be on my desk and in my bakeshop at all times.