Pros - Serious tool for professionals and advancing students
Cons - Not much in the way of anecdotal delivery
The Professional Bakeshop
Tools, Techniques, and Formulas for the Professional Baker
Reviewed by Jim Berman
Wayne Gisslen, if not the authority on kitchen texts, has to be high on the list. So, when he breaks out a new volume, it is well worth an examination. In his latest construct, The Professional Bakeshop, Gisslen takes on everything from Almond Paste to Zabaglione with none too meandering paths towards and through the fundamentals, yeast doughs, quick breads, cookies, custards, cakes and plating, with solid visits to pies, syrups and applied techniques, among others.
For clarity’s sake, this is not a recipe book. And it is not for the casual observer of the Rites of Flour and Frolic in the kitchen. There are no full-page photo compositions and the pages are not dotted with anecdotes about the author’s travels to Bali. Rather, The Professional Bakeshop is a textbook. Falling just short of a study guide, sans the essay and/or multiple choice questions following each chapter, Bakeshop is a kitchen tool. Each of the 700 recipes is constructed in the Gisslen-esque straightforward approach; there are yields, ingredients, procedures and variations. There are some hand-drawn illustrations to accentuate the less-obvious steps in each piece, but the long-time collaboration with photographer J. Gerard Smith comes to life with many of the formulas. The photos go a long way to identify anticipated outcomes, saving the guesswork and ill received product.
At nearly 600 pages, The Professional Bakeshop does the Gisslen magic with answering many questions before they are asked. Gisslen is proactive with troubleshooting, say, cookie faults, ingredient substitutions/variations, and improper mixing, to site a few technique issues. There is heavy emphasis on procedure without the flourish of flamboyantly verbose dialog of celebrity chef penned books.
The Professional Bakeshop is bookshelf worthy for, as the title implies, a pro or advancing student. If an occasional chocolate cake is the extent of one’s baking repertoire, Gisslen and his merry mammoth is too much.