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So, I get this cookbook in the mail — I’m not going to say which one — and my immediate reaction is: if you are only going to buy one baking book this year, buy this one. And I start to write it up.

And the next day, I get this other cookbook in the mail — I’m not going to say which one — and my immediate reaction is: if you are only going to buy one baking book this year, buy this one.

That leaves me sitting in front of my computer with the blog about the first book not quite finished and this other book sitting on my desk. And I don’t know what to do. I am no Solomon and I can’t decide.

Fortunately, I don’t have to. In this country, you can only have one wife, at a time, but there can be two cookbooks that you must buy. Must. Pastry by Nick Malgeiri is one of them. And the other? Well, Nick has been publishing exceptional books for 29 years — this book is his 12th. The other author, Dominique Ansel, has just written his first, The Secret Recipes. I will write about Secret Recipes later this week. I will say that these two volumes are the perfect complements to each other, both important, both superior, both necessary.

Secret Recipes offers elevated, if not outrageous, recipes and is really not a book for the novice. Nick’s book is subtitled Foolproof Recipes for the Home Cook. If you start with Nick, you will be a superior pastry person. And you can live forever on the recipes in Pastry or you can dabble in the outer fringes of The Secret Recipes. One spouse but two books.

Every two years or so, Nick publishes yet another masterful baking book. All his life, he wanted to a baker, not a chef, but a baker. And all his life, Nick has written, taught, and most importantly traveled to learn and to taste. His previous books include:

  • Bread [2012]
  • Bake! [2010]
  • The Modern Baker [2008]
  • Perfect Light Desserts [2006]
  • A Baker’s Tour [2005]
  • Perfect Cakes [2002]
  • Cookies Unlimited [2000]
  • Nick Malgieiri’s Perfect Pastry [1998]
  • Chocolate [1998]
  • How to Bake [1995]
  • Great Italian Desserts [1990]

Pastry is the third in a row with publisher Kyle Books. This is certainly one of the great marriages in cookbook writing. Always an accomplished writer, Nick has found in Kyle a firm that can match his culinary artistry in the layout, photos, and style of the book. Baking, and certainly pastry, is as much science as art. It can be difficult and scary, even intimidating. As a book, Pastry is beautifully conceived with its design, pictures, and easy flow. Nick’s writing reflect his decades of teaching, his honed ability now to write down exactly what it takes to achieve baking perfection.

And I do mean perfection. Suzen and I have all Nick’s books. We have cooked from them all, learned from them all, and enjoyed every experience. As a writer, Nick has the perfect pedigree: just follow his recipe and you’ll cross over into the Promised Pastry Land. [If Nick wants to use that phrase for book number 13, he’s welcome to it!].

There is a standard and logical order to the nine chapters in Pastry:

  • Ingredients and Equipment
  • A Whole New Generation of Doughs
  • Sweet Tarts & Tartlets
  • Sweet Pies, Cobbler & Crisps
  • Savory Tarts & Pie
  • Strudel & Other Thin Doughs & Pastries
  • Puff, Pastry, Croissants & Other Laminated Doughs
  • Brioche & Other Yeast-Risen Pastries
  • Pâte à Choux or Cream Puff Pastry

What’s not standard actually is Chapter 2: A Whole New Generation of Doughs. This is not the first time Nick has written about pastry, as that book list proves. But he explains that over the past 30 years, his own understanding of pastry has evolved and grown. He knows his audience, too: American home cooks who can be pastry adverse because “getting the dough right” can be “so impossibly hard.” In Pastry, Nick reshapes the pastry dough landscape. The 16 dough recipes here, from flakey butter to gluten-free cookie, are new, profiled for “us” and designed to achieve pastry success.

Can you follow these recipes and make dough in 10 minutes? No. Nick makes things easier, clearer and somewhat faster. But, Nick educates us all: dough has to be made, it has to rest, and it has to be carefully and swiftly rolled out. There’s a whole section in Chapter 2 about rolling out the dough as easily and swiftly as possible, for overworked dough becomes tough and that is a sin. Nick is not an advocate for pastry sin.

How different are these doughs? Substantially. I compared Nick’s Flakey Buttery Dough with the butter‑centric dough recipes in Pies by Ken Haedrich. Nick’s recipe is distinctive: no ice water or cake flour, but 2 eggs and baking powder. In Pastry, Nick offers significant new approaches to pastry dough, approaches that you will be happy to try and thrilled when you taste.

The guidance here to achieve sin-free, almost carefree doughs. Nick succeeds in this mission as no one else could.

With Chapter 2 and doughs under your belt, you are prepared for those other chapters filled with pastry delights. Here you will find:

  • Argentine Chicken Empanadas
  • Quiche of Salmon and Peas
  • French Canadian Meat Pies
  • Strudel of Greens, Bacon & Goat Cheese
  • Strawberry Raspberry Mille-Feuilles
  • Sweet Cherry and Rhubarb Pie
  • Apple & Calvados Cream Tart

From appetizers through main courses and onto dessert, there are wonderful ways to take Nick’s new pastry doughs, layer on goodies, and craft delights that will draw attention and applause. With its new pastry techniques and with its delightful flavor combinations, Pastry will be a kitchen companion you will treasure for years. You can spend many happy hours with Pastry, waiting until Nick produces his next and again magnificent work.