Book Club Tuesday: Pastry Love

When I was a kid, I came to realize that there were two types of baking. All year long I would look forward to the plane ride east to visit my maternal grandmother and her family. Auntie Grace’s pies were one reason for my high-level of anticipation. She would always bake our favourites: raspberry for me and lemon meringue for my sister. Thinking back on it, I doubt if she ever used a recipe. Like many of my elderly relatives, baking was a tradition passed along from parent to child. My mom baked us cookies and made cereal squares but never pie and nothing too elaborate (except for the whipped cream and chocolate drizzle delight she made for my sister’s birthday).

As I grew older, I became hugely fascinated with Martha Stewart Living magazine. The baking that Martha offered seemed magical and other-worldly. Croquembouche with spun sugar and layer cakes topped with elaborate buttercream flowers, swoops, and swirls. All of it was beyond my skill set and, often I wondered if such baking really existed out there in the world. It wasn’t until I met my friend Emily, that I realized this type of baking existed and it was alive and well in Eastern Ontario. Emily and her mom are the most Martha-esque bakers I know.  When I fretted about baking cookies for a holiday cookie exchange, Emily invited me over and she baked peppermint meringue kisses while I watched in wonder. When I turned thirty, she baked me the most gorgeous coconut chiffon cake. And, when Emily was getting married her mom made the most delightful petit fours for the shower and gorgeously decorated sugar cookies for the wedding favours. These talented women showed me that this style of baking was achievable.


Chaussons aux Pommes, p. 271

Like Joanne Chang (pastry chef, cookbook author, bakery owner), I feel love and connection through baking. While I’ve never had the pleasure of visiting her famous Boston bakery, Flour, I have the joy of owning her first baking book of the same name. So, when I learned that she had a new book being published in 2019 I became excited! I couldn’t wait for Pastry Love to arrive and, when it finally materialized in my mailbox I got to baking. This is a review that I’ve taken my time with because I wanted to immerse myself in the recipes and linger with her stories. As it states in the tagline of the book: A Baker’s Journal of Favourite Recipes, you get a sense that this cookbook is the culmination of years of experience. Each recipe provides a glimpse into the journey that Chang’s life has followed.

At first, I felt a bit intimidated by the recipes — I can bake but these recipes seemed a little bit more involved. Immediately I was reminded of Emily’s baking — this is just the type of book she’d love! The book is organized into 8 chapters: What’s for Breakfast, I Knead Bread, Afternoon Pick-Me-Up, Easy as Pie, Let Them Eat Cake, Time to Show Off, I Made This for You, and Master of Your Pastry Domain. I really appreciate that Chang offers very precise and direct instructions — this is where her background in mathematics shows. And, throughout the beginning of the book she offers helpful tips and advice for how to improve your baking skills and techniques in addition to discussing what equipment and which ingredients to use. Baking takes practise (like everything else in life) and it helps to have good instructions to follow.

Whole-Wheat Maple-Blueberry Scones, p. 69

Almost everything I’ve tried from Pastry Love has been beautiful and delicious! The Whole Wheat Maple-Blueberry Scones and the Ricotta Cherry Scones became both a breakfast and afterschool treat for my daughter. Unlike other scone recipes I’ve tried, Chang adds a little something extra to hers — ricotta or crème fraiche. Since crème fraiche is a bit more difficult to come by here, I really appreciate that Chang provides directions at the beginning of the book on how to make your own crème fraiche at home. 

Ricotta-Cherry Scones, p. 73

One of my favourites in the book is the recipe for Country Feta Pies. Made in a muffin tray, these mini pies are just like bite-sized quiche. The Master Single-Crust Pate Brisee provides such a perfect base for the pies. Filled with ricotta, feta, egg, spinach, and scallions then topped with a slice of tomato I really enjoy this savory breakfast option. The pastry is flaky and buttery and is so easy to make! In the past I’ve used premade/frozen mini pastry shells but after trying Chang’s master recipe I think this will be my go-to.

Country Feta Pies, p. 40 / Master Single-Crust Pâte Brisée, p. 438

During the time I’ve worked on this review I needed to bake a party cake for my daughter’s sixth birthday and, the Malted Chocolate Cake turned out to be an excellent choice. To date, this cake might be one of the most involved recipes I’ve baked. From baking the cake, to making the Vanilla Syrup cake soak and the Malted Milk Frosting it took me a few hours to complete. The recipes themselves span three pages and I think this is a testament to how much detail Chang offers. I even learned that by dipping an offset spatula into warm water, then drying I would achieve a smoother surface on my frosting. The finished cake looked gorgeous and I was so proud of how well it turned out. My daughter loved it! Instead of tinting the frosting blue, I chose to tint it with her favourite colour: pink. The party guests seemed to really enjoy it and, much to my husband’s dismay we came home with only a thin slice left over. The pairing of the chocolate and malted milk powder is such a good one.

Malted Chocolate Cake, p. 337 / Malted Milk Frosting, p. 339 / Vanilla Syrup, p. 340

Throughout the time I’ve spent with Pastry Love, I’ve almost had a dozen recipes with near perfect results, save for one. To say that I tried a recipe (twice) and ended up with inedible results is difficult for me. So, when I made the Raspberry Swirl Meringues, I was fully expecting to end up with exactly what the recipe offers. The first time I tried the recipe, the tops of the meringues were firm after the four-hour bake time, but they were sitting in a pool of clear syrup. Thinking I did something wrong; I attempted the recipe a second time following the recipe exactly. When the meringues didn’t turn out a second time, I contacted Joanne Chang to see what I was doing incorrectly. She was kind and offered some suggestions but, ultimately, it’s a mystery as to what happened. Since I use a thermometer in my oven, I knew the temperature was okay. I had sent Chang pictures of the meringues before I put them into the oven, and they looked as they should. With only four ingredients (excluding the coulis and optional chocolate shavings) there wasn’t an error here either (especially since I weigh my ingredients). Considering the success I experienced with Chang’s other recipes, I’ve been confounded by these results. Would I recommend Pastry Love? Wholeheartedly! However, I wouldn’t recommend the recipe for Raspberry Swirl Meringues

Lemon Sugar Cookies w/ Lemon Glaze (I added blood orange zest + juice), p. 189

The more I bake, the better I become. And, it’s been such a delight to bake through recipes that remind me of my dear friend, Emily. Not only have my friends and family enjoyed the things I’ve made from Pastry Love, I’ve enjoyed developing my skills and confidence. One of the best things about this cookbook is how Chang uses the recipe headnotes like mini memoirs. I appreciate how her experiences have evolved into these recipes. If you’re curious to see what else I’ve baked, then checkout my custom Instagram hashtag #eatworthypastrylove or my dedicated Facebook post

Rhubarb-Strawberry Jam-n-Butter Biscuits, p. 75

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Raincoast Books for providing me with a free, review copy of this book. I did not receive monetary compensation for my post, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.


3 thoughts on “Book Club Tuesday: Pastry Love

  1. Ok I am buying the book! Love this and you. Your words are too kind! I do love to bake my days away. I wish we could share some of these delights. 💗


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