By: Trey Brusio
In culinary school, there is always an unspoken rivalry between the culinary students and the bread heads… I mean pastry students. No one knows why, but even the closest of friends will eventually bicker about which major/career is better (trust me, I speak from experience). So, as much as it pains me to say this, I have a secret… I love to bake. It’s a guilty pleasure. And I don’t mean making fancy bread sculptures or magnificent wedding cakes; I stick to baking basic pies, cakes, tarts, breads and pastries—the simple stuff. That isn’t to say I don’t add my own twist to classic recipes, but that’s another story.
I first discovered this book working in a small mom-and-pop style BBQ joint. Both the owner and managers had all gone to culinary school and the GM happened to have a particular niche for baking. One day I asked him where he gets his ideas from and he plopped this behemoth sized textbook in front of me. He said, “If you ever buy a baking recipe book, this needs to be the one.” I soon learned that he was absolutely right.
Title: The Professional Pastry Chef: Fundamentals of Baking and Pastry 4th edition
Author: Bo Friberg
Publication Date: 2002
Pages: a whopping 1044
Who wrote this book?
The mastermind behind this wealth of knowledge is Chef Bo Friberg. It is no surprise that with 40+ years of experience under his belt, he is known as one of the leading pastry chefs in the world. After attending a pastry school in Sweden, he worked various jobs in shops around Europe and the U.S. as well as in Swedish-American cruise lines. He currently is a chef instructor at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and is known by his students as Chef Bo. There is probably no one better out there to learn the pastry arts from.
Why get this book?
I find this book extremely helpful because I can easily find Chef Bo’s classical dessert recipes and make my own adjustments without screwing them up. I do not believe that you have to be a “professional pastry chef” in order to follow his recipes, however, I believe that some basic background knowledge in culinary/baking is needed at times.
What makes this book special?
Chef Bo added thorough step-by-step guides that explain the more complicated tasks (the really hard stuff even includes pictures). Some recipes are quite basic, while others do not joke around. I enjoy this because if I need a quick pie recipe for the holidays, boom here’s a simple pumpkin pie; if I have a lot of free time and want to take on a challenge, bang here’s a recipe for some killer bamkuchen.
What’s in the book?
Chef Bo covers EVERYTHING pastry in this book. Towards the beginning, he includes a lot of basic terms and techniques that you will later need to recall. But don’t worry, it is very easy to find where he explained the principles behind things like the creaming method in case you forgot. The book has an obvious progression of basic to more advance from start to finish. Do not be intimidated by the sheer amount of knowledge that is included; after a few uses, it becomes very easy to jump around from page to page.
Mise en place
Flatbreads, crackers, and rolls
Breakfast breads and pastries
Tarts, pies, cobblers, and crisps
Tea cakes, pound cakes, muffins, and other quick breads
Sponge cakes and cake bases
Basic chocolate work and decorating techniques
Ice cream and sorbets
Custards, puddings, mousses, charlottes, and Bavarian creams
Sauces, syrups, and fillings
Appendix A: Ingredients
Appendix B: Equipment
Appendix C: Weights, measures, and yields.
The Last Word
Baking may not be your strongest suit, but Chef Bo may teach you otherwise. Whether it be the dessert that everyone can’t stop talking about at this year’s Christmas party or something to fight that sweet craving you’ve been having, this book is an easy go-to. And when you get tired of this one, don’t worry… there’s a part 2: The Advanced Professional Pastry Chef.