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Gateau: The Surprising Simplicity of French Cakes

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by Aleksandra Crapanzano
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There is something charmingly, unaffectedly old-fashioned about Gateau, even as it feels comfortably contemporary.

This collection of French home cakes, which stretches ever so slightly to include the likes of a pavlova, madeleines, and several tiramisu, relies largely on time-tested classics embraced by family bakers. Flavorings may occasionally be more modern, such as Le Weekend Cake au Yuzu, and if you want a true project cake you can find several, including a choice of bûche de Noël . 

But Aleksandra Crapanzao, a longtime food columnist for The Wall Street Journal, who grew up partly in Paris, is alert to the casual pleasures of desserts which rely on pantry staples and seasonal ingredients. They are rarely decorated with more than a dusting of powdered sugar or cocoa, if at all, although sliced fresh fruit can pair nicely.

Among the delights herein:

  • yogurt cake
  • blood orange upside down cake
  • raspberry clafoutis
  • chocolate and pear cake
  • burnt caramel chocolate cake
  • hazelnut financiers

And the Gâteau de ton Enfance, or childhood cake, a one-bowl wonder redolent of orange, which it seemed all of Paris was baking during the early days of the pandemic.

Adding to the appeal of this book are Crapanzano's detailed headnotes, which perfectly capture the texture of the finished gâteaux, and offer abundant practical perspective on everything from properly cooling your creation to improvising with flavor.

There are no photographs here, although there are some enchanting illustrations by Cassandre Montoriol.

Hardcover. Watercolor illustrations throughout.

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