If you are a regular reader of my blogs, you know my adoration and respect for Bernard Clayton, Jr. Not only for the recipes, but for the man. He has a generous spirit along with a passion for food. If you know him as a cookbook author, you know his “Complete Book of Breads” which Craig Claiborne called the best book on the subject in the English language. After writing two best-selling cookbooks, Bernard knew the art of bread making could be demonstrated and described in a way that would give confidence to the home baker. So he thought, why not pastries, too? Bernard decided to spend a summer in Europe concentrating on pastries. He visited, spoke, and baked with pastry chefs from Madrid, Vienna, Munich, Athens, Zurich, Paris, London, Brussels, and Copenhagen. Upon returning home, he studied American regional favorites along with collections of old cookbooks. Thus a book on pastries came together.
If you are new to pastry making, or need some encouragement after some not-so-successful attempts, you must try this book. Each family of pastries whether pies, (sweet or savory), or Danish pastries, and even pizza, is thoroughly explained. In the chapter explaining ingredients, there is nothing left out. You will learn in detail about varieties of flour; all about yeast and other leavenings; why fats are one of the most important and essential ingredients used in pastries; and all about milk, salt, spices, sugar, and eggs. In the chapter about equipment needed to make fine pastries, Bernard mentions his favorite 9-foot long table. To see a picture of this, go to one of my former blogs to see it! Can you imagine how much fun it would be to have a 9-foot work surface?! I would be in kitchen heaven.
As for the recipes, I don’t think there is anything in the pastry world you won’t find here. There is cream puff pastry, pie crusts of every kind, turnovers, kipfel and cannoli, strudel dough, entree pies, Danish, dumplings, tarts, quiches, and pizza. In the pizza and pissaladiere (French pizza) chapter, Bernard also gives a recipe for pizza sauce, which I make yearly when my tomatoes are ripe. I make large batches of the sauce and freeze it to use when winter tomatoes just don’t make the mark.
There is a chapter at the end of the book called “What Went Wrong?” I don’t know why every cookbook doesn’t include such a valuable learning tool. If your pastry has a soggy bottom, it shrinks, it’s too tough, it tears and breaks, collapses, doesn’t puff, or the crust is too hard, Bernard will have a solution for you.
Below are some photos of one of our times spent with Bernard and his lovely wife Marje at their home in Indiana, when our girls were young. Bernard was always interested in my love of cooking and encouraged me to write a cookbook someday, and wrote the lovely inscription in his pastry book. It’s one of the dearest treasures in my culinary library.