It can be tough to find great baking cookbooks. Too often, pastry books have beautiful ideas but do not include the professional knowledge and exact methods needed to execute them. On the other hand, sometimes baking books are too technical and the recipes are boring and stale. But, the worst offense is recipes that are over simplified and excessively dumbed down for the home cook, resulting in subpar desserts that are nothing like what the book promised.
You don’t need to worry about any of that with this book. Sugar Rush is everything I love in a pastry cookbook. Not only does it include master tips and techniques, but the book also has over 150 interesting, fun recipes. Most importantly, it’s a whole lot of fun both to read and to bake from this book. It’s not intimidating nor is it dumbed down. It teaches the fundamentals in a creative, interactive way and applies them to modern, original recipes.
Whether you’re a seasoned pastry chef or a novice to the sweet kitchen, Sugar Rush will help you. If you’re a pro, you’ll be inspired by new flavor combinations and fresh takes on traditional desserts. Johnny will motivate you to think outside the box and come up with interesting flavors (peanut butter, pina colada, coffee-cardamom) for pastry staples such as pudding, pastry cream, and buttercream. For the novice, Sugar Rush will educate you and give you the advice and information you need before introducing you to the recipes. It will push you to get out of your baking comfort zone but give you the tools you need to succeed.
About the Author
Johnny Iuzzini is a James Beard Award-winning pastry chef and has been recognized as one of the Top 10 Most Influential Pastry Chefs in America by Forbes Magazine. He has worked at many esteemed restaurants such as Jean-Georges, Restaurant Daniel, Payard, and Laduree. He’s obviously credible but relates well to the home cook and has an authentic voice and unique perspective on baking and pastry.
About the Book
After an introduction from cookbook author legend Dorie Greenspan and a few pages on Getting Started (information on tools, equipment, etc.), Sugar Rush is broken into the following chapters: (1) Custards and Creamy Desserts, (2) Eggs and Meringue, (3) Caramel, (4) Cakes, Cupcakes, Brownies, and Muffins, (5) Cookies, Teas, Cakes, and Biscuits, (6) Tarts, Cobblers, and Crisps, (7) Yeast Doughs, (8) Glazes, Frostings, Fillings, and Sauces, (9) Building a Balanced Dessert
Each chapter starts with an overview of the fundamental techniques and gives a breakdown of the pastry and baking terms that are essential to the lesson. Johnny is sure to list his ‘Tips for Success’ within every chapter. Then, a master recipe is explained followed by several variations and uses for the recipe.
Let’s use Chapter 1 as an example. This chapter is titled Custards and Creamy Desserts and the lesson first explains the differences between custard, pastry cream, and other custards before presenting the mother recipe for Creme Anglaise complete with a step-by-step photo tutorial. A section on ‘Tips for Successful Custard’ precedes recipes for ice cream, sorbet, a variety of pastry creams, several variations of creme brûlée, panna cotta, puddings, and finally an apricot custard tart. The other chapters also follow this format which sets the reader up for success before turning them loose on fun recipes.
By the way, do take Dorie Greenspan’s advice from the introduction and read the book all the way through. There is so much valuable information to learn that I felt like I needed to take notes.
Recipes I’ve Made
Creme Anglaise (page 27), Vanilla Pastry Cream (page 41), Peanut Butter Pastry Cream (page 47), Chocolate Pudding (page 59), Chocolate Cupcakes (page 196), Brioche (page 292), Buttermilk Brioche (page 295), Focaccia (page 310), Vanilla Buttercream (page 319), Coffee Buttercream (page 320), Shiny Chocolate Glaze (page 328).
I’ve had good results with all of the recipes and I can see myself using some of them as staples in my kitchen. It took me two tries to get to brioche right but once I did, it was wonderful. The recipes make you want to come back and make them again and try the suggested variations or create your own. I filled the chocolate cupcakes with the peanut butter pastry cream and dipped them into the shiny chocolate glaze. This exact combination wasn’t given in the book but I was inspired by the Chocolate Fleur de Sel Cupcakes and substituted the peanut butter pastry cream for the caramel cream that was suggested. The chocolate pudding is rich, comforting, and rather addicting. I found myself going back for more and sneaking spoonfuls throughout the day.
Recipes I Can’t Wait to Make
I’m eager to try many more recipes from Sugar Rush and I can see myself cooking my way through the entire book. But, just to name a few… Sour Cream Sherbet, Chai Creme Brûlée, Roasted White Chocolate Panna Cotta, Chipotle Churros with Dulce de Leche Cream, Chocolate Brown Butter Crepes, Smack Caramel Corn, and Kouign-Amann are at the top of my to-bake list.
– You are sure to learn something from this book. Whether it’s the tips and techniques, the breakdown of pastry terms, or the interesting flavor variations, you will be a better baker after reading and cooking from this book.
– Beautiful, compelling photography. Not only are they gorgeous but the photos really serve their purpose and complement the recipes while helping the reader understand the technique.
– A full lesson on the technique and ‘Tips for Success’ are included with every chapter, helping to build up reader’s confidence before teaching the recipes.
– The recipes range from basic (chocolate chip cookies and brownies) to advanced (kouign-amann and puff pastry). There is something for everything in this book.
– Each master recipe is followed by tons of variations that you can mix-and-match to create your own recipes and flavor combinations.
– My normal criteria are met: The design of the book is beautiful, the recipes work, and the measurements are given in both cups and grams, and the writing is engaging.
This is a wonderful book and there are no serious issues. But in order to keep it fair, here are a few minor (really minor) snags I noticed while working with the book:
– Many of the recipe variations direct you back to the mother recipe for some of the instructions. This can get a little confusing if you’re not comfortable with what you’re doing.
– I prefer my pastry recipes to have both time and visual indicators of doneness and some of the Sugar Rush recipes are missing the visual cues. For example, the Chocolate Pudding recipe says to boil for 2 minutes and then strain but it does not give a visual cue, such as how thick it should be. This can leave you guessing if you’re working with a new recipe.
– I found the rising times on the bread to be significantly underestimated. I’m working in a kitchen that’s about 75-degrees and the brioche took closer to 4 hours to rise than the suggested 2 hours. I also had much better luck when I let the brioche rest and warm up for about an hour before shaping it, but the recipe does not suggest this.
Sugar Rush by Johnny Iuzzini
If you love pastries, desserts and anything sweet, you should buy this book. Simple enough for beginners, yet still exciting for seasoned cooks, this book is a valuable addition to any cookbook collection.
Rating: ***** (5/5 Stars)
BUY THE BOOK: Click here to buy the book from Amazon or visit your favorite independent bookseller.