Before I even get started, I have to give fair-warning of my infatuation with this book, not for just its contents, but for the fact that everything surrounding this book, just oozes the romance of Paris, and it will completely embrace hopeless romantics, such as myself, and the rest of the Francophiles in the world.
While I know that Paris isn't the only city in France, just as New York isn't the only city in the United States, I have to admit when one thinks of France, it is an automatic thought process to think Paris. That being said, "Laduree" is one of the reasons that Paris has been given this geographic pedestal.
The joy, and the reason for above warning of infatuation, began when the book arrived at my doorstep. For those unfamiliar with Laduree, it is a pastel-colored bakery/tea salon, and its trademark is the soft, sherbert colors of its walls and papers, and presentations of its baked goods (but goods which now extend to personal luxury products as well). First of all, this surprisingly heavy book is encased in a lovely pistachio green box printed with a raspberry print. Once you lift up the case cover, you are greeted with a sheet of a pale plum tissue paper that wraps the book like a light shawl on a somewhat cool spring evening.
The covers of this gem are suede-like, and in the same charming pastel green color. This fact helps you to be impressed by the embossed gold print on the cover, with the same gold gilding found on the top and sides of the pages, thereby making me ever so gently remove it from its tissue cradle. This particular version has been translated into English though you can purchase the French version if you desire.
Once inside the covers, you are gifted with one delicious recipe after another, after you are given the history of Laduree, and how it began as a modest bakery in the heart of Paris, and how it has now evolved into one of that city's beloved landmarks, with shops opened in many other cities of the world, though I am a bit disappointed that they haven't made it to the United States. Yet.
There are a total of 11 chapters of cookies, pies, cakes, beverages, and pastries that are tucked within the sherbert-colored pages of this lovely book, and which use pristine photography and simple yet elegant displays. It is in the photographic presentation of the "gateaux" that the visual skills of the photographer proves most delicate and pleasing to the eye.
But to be honest, this is not a regular cookbook format in that there are a "How To" section or "Supplies Needed" nor is this meant to be a teaching guide. You will have to be familiar with the baking side of the kitchen, as it is assumed that you already have a handle on the basics of the baking world.
At the top of each recipe, there is information that gives you the prep time, the cooking time, how many servings it will make, and for some recipes, "resting time" so that you know how long it takes to rise or settle. There are many recipes which will end with "Chef's Tips" which are always very welcomed as they help you go a bit beyond what the recipe gave you. As an aside, Chef Andrieu is the driving force behind the continued success; his love for France and for all that is in line with his love of pastry is evident.
I found that most of these were quite easy and a few others, more time or labor intensive, depending on how much effort or patience you'll have in waiting for them. But I assure you that any time is definitely worth the effort. Though there are many mouth-watering favorites, I would say that the "Beignets Framboise" were excellent, and if I might suggest, using a custard rather than the raspberry jam, makes these dee-vine! Don't forget the cardiology appointment after eating them.
Section 1: Les Macarons (Macarons)
Section 2: Les Petits Gateaux (Small Cakes)
Section 3: Les Desserts Glaces et Fruites (Frozen and Fruit Desserts)
Section 4: Les Tartes (Tarts and Tartlets)
Section 5: Les Entremets et Verrines (Custards, Cremes, and Puddings)
Section 6: Les Gros Gateaux (Large Cakes)
Section 7: Les Viennoiseries (Pastries)
Section 8: Les Gateaux de Gouter et Confiseries (Tea Cakes and Confections)
Section 9: Les Petits Biscuits (Biscuits and Cookies)
Section 10: Les Boissons (Drinks)
Section 11: Les Recettes de Base (Basic Recipes)
The remaining sections cover the Recipe Index, Pastry Chef Philippe Andrieu, Acknowledgements, and Metric and Imperial Conversions.
If by chance, you have a Francophile or French pastry chef wannabe in your life, this would be a great gift; it has everything that speaks the romance of France. Pax!