A Keeper: The Secrets of Baking by Sherry Yard

Even when Christmas is the time for gift-giving, the month of March came this year with that ‘tis-the-holidays feel when this book finally landed on my lap:

I loveeet!

Mind you, this wasn’t even one of those baking book wish lists but I’d have to thank an Amazon.com member’s advice on finding the BEST baking book, who said that you just have to read it from cover-to-cover to learn the secrets of baking. Now, you might argue with me on that category but as far as I’m concerned, this one is for keeps—the way that Julie Powell had always kept Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking within her reach at home (that’s on my wish list). Gullible as I am (or desperate for a good baking book) I grabbed this the moment I found out from Fully Booked Greenhills Promenade that they have one copy!

To do a review on this book is to do the author an injustice. Sherry Yard is the Executive Pastry Chef of Spago—the famous Beverly Hills restaurant owned by the renowned chef Wolfgang Puck. She is known for consistently creating delectable and sophisticated desserts for the Emmys, Grammys, and Academy Awards. But aside from that reputation under her belt, her first and famous book, the Secrets of Baking, has not only become a bestseller but also an awardee of the James Beard Foundation for Book Awards and Sherry, for being named Outstanding Pastry Chef of the same Foundation in 2002.

The Secrets of Baking is not your run-off-the-mill-award-winning-baking-recipe book. As the famous Jacques Pepin described it, the instructions in the book are lumped together in groups, like the way they learned it in culinary school. An average and novice home baker (like me) would initially scratch her head when you see that Chapter One is all about Mastering Ganache and its related recipes. Sherry carefully and albeit painstakingly lumped recipes with similar but differing ratios of ingredients and created “family trees” of each. It’s pretty unconventional but I loved it! My first attempt on a recipe was “Mastering Lemon Curd.” After following the instructions to a T, I must say that it was foolproof–the kind of lemon curd that has the right amount of sweetness and tanginess that would make your lips pucker. My first ever attempt on cream puff (pate a choux) also came from this book and it turned out great! Pictures to follow.

The recipes are easy to follow and Sherry gave bits and pieces of insight about a certain recipe like, why pate a choux was called as such, or why you should mind temperature very much while preparing ingredients. She not only dishes out great recipes but she explains the science behind those methods. And that’s another thing I loved about it. A lot of baking books just dish out recipes without explaining the whys and why nots, and that is why I find Sherry’s work truly exceptional.

What I loved best about this book is Sherry’s passion for baking and desserts. One could sense the depth of her admiration and respect—with  an amusing touch of humor here and there—for the craft of baking by the way she strung words together. And her ultimate advice—“bake with love. It’s the only ingredient that you’ll ever need”—is the sum of all the reasons why baking makes it all worth it. ❤

The Secrets of Baking is available at Fully Booked for only P1,499. The price gets better if you have a Fully Booked loyalty card.

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