I must admit that although I live right across the bay from Miette (located in the Ferry Building in San Francisco) I have never visited them, nor tasted their pastries. Oddly enough, I just don’t get to The City that often, and when I do I’m usually headed somewhere that is not the Ferry Building. In point of fact, on the rare occasions that I am in San Francisco and looking for something to eat, I’m a lot more likely to be making a beeline to Tommy’s Joynt for some of their delicious Buffalo Stew and incredible garlicky pickles.
Frankly, I don’t go to many bakeries. I prefer to roll my own.
So when I heard that there was going to be a Miette cookbook, well, that got my attention. You see, while I hadn’t had any of their cakes, tarts, cookies, or sweets, I had heard they were awfully good. My copy arrived in my hot little hands just yesterday, and I must admit I’m eager to try out recipes.
The book itself is quite charming. It’s a comfortable size, and it opens flat, which is convenient for actual use. The pages are thick and glossy, and the edges are cut in a rather charming scallop. No, that isn’t necessary. It’s just pretty. It’s also lavishly illustrated with photographs by Frankie Frankeny, who has done a tremendous job of making everything look beyond scrumptious. As you can see from the illustration above, the poster child chosen to represent the bakery is their famous Tomboy cake with its naked chocolate sides and pretty pink buttercream. It’s pink because it’s raspberry. Dark chocolate and raspberry? Sign me up!
Unfortunately, I will have to wait to try making this beauty for one simple reason: I don’t have the right cake pan. You see, Miette works with the philosophy that smaller is always better… and I have not yet had a reason to acquire a 6″ x 3″ cake pan. Sigh. Guess I’d better hunt one down.
I know that Miette is all about cute, but I think I’m going to leave the ribbons out of the cakes that list them in the ingredients. It is my considered opinion that there should never be anything on a cake that cannot be safely eaten. If I feel the need of the decoration, a little icing in a contrasting color should do the trick.
There is one other annoyance – this time in the text. In the layer cake section, authors Meg Ray and Leslie Jonath harp again and again about how very difficult they are to make. In the notes on making the Princess cake, we are told it can take days depending on the baker’s stamina. Really? In nearly every case, so far as I can tell, what they really mean is that the cakes can be exacting rather than difficult. It’s a fine distinction, but one I consider well worth making. One needs to – for instance – cut the layers so that they are even and straight. This is not especially difficult, but it is important to get right. Saying these cakes are incredibly hard to make scares off the home baker, and really, is that what you want to do in a cookbook?
Besides, in the candy section there are several treats that are every bit as exacting and fussy (in some cases moreso) as the cakes, but they are never called difficult. There is a general warning to be careful when working with extremely hot sugar because it’s quite easy to burn yourself badly, but no dire warnings that any of the candies will tax your strength beyond its bearing. The correct temperature is emphasized, but again, while this is on par with most of the steps in constructing the layer cakes in terms of difficulty vs. importance, there are no exhortations that making toffee or marshmallows is a Herculean task.
Still, these are miniscule flies in the batter, as it were. As I flip through the glossy pages, I am tempted by recipe after recipe. Cakes, cookies, candies, and tarts all call to me and beg to be baked up right away. And from my considerable experience in baking (forty-one years and counting!) I have yet to look at one of the recipes and question it’s proportions or ingredients.
Yes, I can ignore being assumed to be a layer cake wimp when the recipes are this good. After all, as soon as my 6″ cake pan is in my hot little hands, I’ll be proving in spades that I have the intestinal fortitude to slice layers and roll fondant with the best of them.