In Which She Finally Gets Her Hands On Pierre Hermé’s Book

In Which She Finally Gets Her Hands On Pierre Hermé's Book

Last fall, I met the friend of a friend at a party and discovered to my great excitement that he worked for none other than pastry chef Pierre Hermé, at his rue Bonaparte pâtisserie. I had been coveting his new recipe book called “Mes Desserts Préférés” for a little while, and when I mentioned that to my new friend, he said he could try and have a copy signed for me. I nodded. Vigorously.

It took a number of weeks, missed calls and missed appointments to arrange it, but my daydreams about this beautiful book easily carried me through the wait. I finally went to collect it at the production center in the 15th arrondissement, in a small pastry shop with a discreet sign which the untrained eye would miss. It was just before new year’s eve, and this was where the huge quantity of holiday orders were being made and assembled, fresh from the morning. A lot of these are orders for Pierre Hermé’s signature macarons. (A macaron is made of two disks of light almond meringue, held together by a layer of cream.) Since nothing but the perfect macarons make it into the gift boxes, my friend was sweet enough to also give me a few small broken ones, which I shared with my parents and Maxence (aren’t they the luckiest bunch?).

And I have to tell you : I have never ever had such amazing macarons in my entire life. Pierre Hermé invents new twists on this confection each season, coming up with classic or unusual pairings. His macarons taste fresh and delicate, their flavors surprisingly powerful and pure. Peach apricot and saffron, chocolate and passionfruit, olive oil and vanilla, rose and litchi, caramel and fleur de sel, pistachio and white chocolate, need I go on?

But back to the book. It is signed. And beautiful. Really beautiful. It is written by Dorie Greenspan, an American journalist and award-winning cookbook writer who worked with Julia Child and has written several cookbooks with Pierre Hermé. This one, published in the US under the name “Desserts by Pierre Hermé”, is a collection of his favorite cakes, tarts, petits fours, and fruit desserts.

So this is really a four-handed book : the recipes are Pierre Hermé’s, but the writing is hers. And what great writing! Each breath-taking recipe has a short introduction that explains the history and characteristics of that particular dessert, including a quotation by Pierre who tells us where the idea came from, or what he likes to serve it with, or why this is among his favorites. Dorie then proceeds to walk you through all the steps involved, in great and clear detail, from start to finish.

The book is full of striking pictures by one Hartmut Kiefer, and I love that it includes recipes ranging from very easy (chocolate and nut cake, rhubarb and raspberry soup) to very intricate (layered chocolate dome, fall meringue cake). But the recipes are so well described that you feel like you can really do this, and inspiration abounds.

A lot of happiness is also to be found in the glossary of food terms, as well as the final section detailing the basic techniques and recipes used throughout the book. I mean, when you are making meringue or crème anglaise using Pierre Hermé’s recipe, surely nothing can go wrong!

My only gripe about the book – there has to be one, right? – and this is really not Pierre or Dorie’s fault, is that it was originally written in English, what I have here is the French translation. And it shows in some places, where the sentences are a little awkward and I can actually guess what the original English wording was. Which happens to be my pet peeve. I just hope they’ve done a better job at the translation between measuring systems, but this will be confirmed as soon as I try one of these exhilarating recipes!

Pâtisserie Pierre Hermé
72 rue Bonaparte
75006 Paris
01 43 54 47 77

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  • Hey! I have this book! It is beautiful, but I’ve never actually tried any of the recipes. Of course I have to now.

  • Nassim

    Pauvre Max, je compatis sincèrement, le voila condamné à manger des plats raffinés quasiment tout le temps. Je ne suis pas entrain de dire que gouter par exemple les macarons de Pierre Hermé soit une torture mais est ce que tu l’autorises à manger une boite de conserve, une purée mousline ou un plat congelé de chez Picard de temps à autre? L’inclination naturelle du mâle c’est de se nourrir avec n’importe quoi (pates ketchup/pizzas/sandwichs turcs…) et tout le monde le sait , aller contre sa nature c’est impossible!

    Je suggère donc une section “Junk Food” sur C&Z. Ca touchera un public encore plus nombreux et l’année prochaine on pourra voter pour toi à l’élection du meilleur Blog de la planète..pour moi c’est facile c’est le seul que je consulte :)

  • I must say, despite the somewhat intimidating experience of actually shopping at Pierre Hermé’s store, everything I’ve ever tasted from there has been out of this world.

    Maybe Rappy will bring her cookbook when she comes to visit me and we can attempt the recipes together!?!

  • Just thinking about the macarons is making my mouth water! And yes, the photographs look amazing. I think I may have to break down and get the English version of this…

  • Desdemona

    Happy Birthday to me.. Happy Birthday to me.. la la la la la la la!
    It’s -30C outside.. I’m dethawing before running some more errands. I cannot wait for winter to end.. yeesh..
    *hugs to Clotilde*

  • Jenny and Rappy – Oh you must try and bake something out of this book next time you’re in a kitchen together! If you do try some of these, be absolutely positively sure to let me know!

    Nassim – Je transmets ta compassion à Maxence, qui appréciera je pense. Mais ne t’en fais pas, il se rattrape bien sur le Mac Dalle et les sandwiches grecs quand je ne suis pas là pour hausser le sourcil droit! :)

    Jackie – Well, on your next day trip to Paris, methinks a stop at Pierre Hermé’s store is highly in order…

    Desdemona – Joyeux Anniversaire! Oh boy, minus 30? What kind of a inhuman temp is that? *shudder* Well, all the more reason to drink celebratory buckets of champagne and munch on chocolate, wrapped in a cosy blanket on the couch!

  • Speaking of birthdays, it’s already Jenny’s in France! Happy birthday! *goes to make Pierre Herme cake.*

  • Desdemona

    Clotilde: Merci Cheri! -30C = Canadian
    winter.. today honestly wouldn’t have been
    so horrid had there been no wind.
    I was gonna go out and spoil myself..
    but dreaded the 2 block walk to the

  • It’s understandable. We would have done the same with our El Buli book (a huge and beautiful book which I heaved from Paris to Hawaii), had it not been in Spanish. Ugh.

  • aba

    how about the chocolate dessert book…

  • Hilda

    3 ans plus tard
    Loooove your blog.
    I bake a lot but never anything excessively complicated until just a couple of weeks ago I made le gâteau Fall Meringue pour une amie Américaine who asked that I bake her wedding cake for her. The occasion requiring something à la hauteur, j’ai donc essayé cette recette which appears to be complicated but actually is quite straightforward when you have the proper utensils. I’m very happy to report that the first attempt was successful and enjoyed by all, and that the subsequent attempts will involve different mousse flavors for the different layers and probably several tiers to the cake as well.

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