You can’t judge a book by its cover, right? Right. And when it comes to cookbooks, you can’t necessarily judge them by the pretty pictures inside, either. I’ve come to realize that a talented food stylist and photographer duo can transform a mediocre collection of recipes into
an irresistible display, with the unsuspecting consumer getting stuck with what amounts to a doorstop in the end. The other day I received a review copy of a book called How to Make Bread (Ryland, Peters & Small, 2011; $27.95) and immediately thought, “Oh, great. Another
bread book.” The beautiful photos on the book’s cover and inside, however, soon seduced me into thinking that maybe this book wasn’t all that bad and I started thinking that maybe, just maybe, I might make something from this book. After poring over each recipe, I finally
settled on the French classic Pains aux Raisins, made from croissant dough. It’s sort of a complex recipe, just because croissant dough is by nature a little tricky to make, but, again, the photos lured me in. Halfway through the recipe, during one of the many periods of letting the dough
rise, I read the author’s bio on the jacket flap. His name is Emmanuel Hadjiandreou, and he’s a South African who learned how to make bread in a German-style bakery in Cape Town. Eventually he landed in Britain, where he worked for Gordon Ramsay and several high-profile bakeries.
His current gig is teaching at The School of Artisan Food in Nottinghamshire (isn’t that where Robin Hood hung out?). He has won several awards for his bread along the way. Ok, so maybe I was impressed, but that still didn’t mean his cookbook was good. And then,
suddenly, the pastries were done. I had followed each step meticulously, mirroring the photos in the many step shots, and the dough was beautiful, and the pastries were perfect – buttery dough encasing a creamy vanilla custard and lots of sweet raisins. I haven’t made pains aux raisins since I was a cooking school student in Paris, and I forgot just how wonderful they are. Especially when you use an excellent, detailed recipe that works. So what’s the moral? Sometimes you can judge a book by its pretty pictures. Nice job, Chef Hadjiandreou, you’re a superstar in my book.