The best books to have in the kitchen are often reference books. The category of reference books can include cookbooks, but for each book packed with beautiful photos and tempting sounding recipes, it is great to have one that breaks down the definitions you need to make sense of those recipes. Some reference books are also cookbooks, big volumes that have lots of great information, but that are difficult to handle and hard to find things in. The Pastry Chef’s Companion is a great reference book that is easy to use and very handy to have around if you’re a baker.
The book is like a small, but easy to read, encyclopedia that gives you an overview of nearly 5,000 baking and pastry terms. From A to Z, it covers the definitions of different types of food and fruits, different cooking techniques and different pieces of equipment. Most of the entries are short and to the point, giving you a brief overview of the definitions and history (if applicable) of a term. The book has just a handful of illustrations, but it is very clearly written and you don’t feel as though you’re missing diagrams when you read through.
The back of the book is filled with conversions, seasonal fruit suggestions and a chart that helps you put together both classic and contemporary flavor combinations for desserts. I know several pastry professionals that keep this book in their kitchens and get a lot of use out of it, so it does live up to its subtitle of being “A Comprehensive Resource Guide for the Baking and Pastry Professional.” The one thing the book doesn’t have is recipes, but when you already have a bunch of great cookbooks on the shelf, sometimes a simple reference book is all you need to streamline the process of from selecting a recipe to serving it.