An Interview with Jacques Torres
At this time of the year, when waistlines have, perhaps, expanded more than hoped for from holiday overindulgence, a cookbook of desserts may not be high on the list of necessities. But I'm here to tell you that the highly esteemed pastry master Jacques Torres has produced a book that is a must-have, no matter the season, no matter the reason. Dessert Circus at Home brings all of the artistry of the classic French pastry kitchen to the American home cook. And what fun it is!
Having had the good fortune to observe Jacques Torres at work as both a baker and a teacher and to indulge in many of his wonderfully amusing, highly intricate, and super-delicious desserts, I couldn't imagine a technician of his exactitude produci ng a cookbook of recipes that were truly home-cook accessible. But he has done just that!
"How did this book come about?" I inquired. "My first book, Dessert Circus at Home," he replied, "was a gathering of d esserts that I had developed in my years of restaurant work both in France and the United States. It featured plated desserts and included a chapter of more challenging recipes for the accomplished home baker." "The book was so well received," I said. "Yes, it was," Jacques noted with no small amount of pride. "But some wanted a book that was even simpler, one that focused on cakes, tarts, and 'one-step' recipes. So, I decided that I would create a book that would be filled with recipes that would be easy and fun for everyone to do. In the first book, I did give many baking hints. InDessertCircus at Home, I have tried to go even further and explain such things as why flour and water become elastic. I have attempted to discuss m any of the basic rules of pastry making so that the home cook will know why and how things work. I hope that I have succeeded." I guaranteed him that he had, indeed, done just that.
On the day that I spoke with Jacques, I had spent the morning in the test kitchen working with chocolate, and couldn't have eaten a piece of the world's best confection if you had offered me a hundred dollars (I started to say a million, but I bet I could have found a taste for chocolate with the lure of lottery winnings!). This led me to ask Jacques if he still ate desserts. "Every day," he answered. "I never get tired of sweets either eating them or making them." "Do you have a favor ite?" I asked. "No," the master baker countered, "whatever I'm making or whatever is on my plate is my favorite of the moment."
Although Dessert Circus at Home is chock-a-block with many basic recipes, many are just fun to do and make creative projects for a chilly winter's afternoon. What could be more fun or easier than creating a confectionery caterpillar out of store- bought ingredients when the instructions have been put together by Jacques Torres? He doesn't make you feel as though you have cheated one bit by supplementing your home baking with ready-made ingredients. This is, I think, particularly unusual (an d something that I'm grateful for) because so many cookbooks ask the home cook to perform miracles using exotic ingredients and spending hours in the kitchen.
I asked Jacques Torres if he could offer any advice to the beginning baker. "First learn to make a great pie or tart it will take a little practice as you learn to make the dough and, when necessary, the cream and then learn how to add the fru it to make a beautiful presentation. Make this your featured dessert until you have mastered it. Then move on to pound cakes and then other cakes. If you take your time and are patient, you will become a master baker." These are warm words of enc ouragement from a master who has more than mastered his craft. I can tell you that you will find your road to master baker paved with recipe after recipe from Dessert Circus at Home.Judith Choate, barnesandnoble.com