PRG Book Club: In The Sweet Kitchen


This month, Laurel Melchor (PRG Bakery Manager and Pastry Chef) recommends:
In the Sweet Kitchen by Regan Daley

Why are you recommending this book?
I love In the Sweet Kitchen because it is not just a cookbook. There are certainly recipes, but they are secondary to the bulk of the text. Ms. Daley covers everything from tools to techniques to ingredients.

What I love best in this book—and what I come back to again and again (and again!)—is her “Flavor Pairing Chart.” Broken down by ingredient, this chart gives flavor pairings for almost every ingredient that we use in the Paragary’s pastry kitchen. I love using the chart this time of year when new items are coming into season and I’m developing holiday desserts. When I saw that pumpkin goes well with brown butter, I was inspired to re-imagine my October cupcake, which led to our Pumpkin Spice Cupcake with Brown Butter Cream Cheese frosting (available at all Café Bernardo locations throughout October).

Who should read this book?
I think this book is useful for anyone who wants to work more creatively in the pastry kitchen—from professional chefs to beginners.

Why did you choose to read this book?
I was introduced to this book by my very first pastry chef. An updated edition was released in 2010 that is even more comprehensive. I go back to this book again and again when I’m developing desserts or trying to come up with that extra touch that will make a pastry extra special.

What did you like the most about this book?
What I like most about this book is that it isn’t just a book full of recipes. Almost anyone can follow a recipe. Following directions is for putting together IKEA furniture! “In the Sweet Kitchen” provides tools that even a beginner can use to create their own unique combinations. I encourage everyone to explore the possibilities of pastry—think about texture, think about colors, but most of all—think about your ingredients. Let them lead you to creating your own unique pastry masterpiece.

Book Details

Book available at: and Barnes & Noble

Book summary (from Barnes & Noble):
Professional pastry chef Regan Daley maintains that baking is no mystery. Anyone, she insists, can make a fabulous dessert—as long as the ingredients are chosen with care. The components of most desserts are few, so they must be of the highest quality. She knows firsthand how fresh butter or the right chocolate can transform a simple cake. She knows the stunning difference between a silky lemon curd made from the juice of fat lemons and one made from bottled juice, that shortcakes made with bland, pulpy strawberries shipped three thousand miles can’t compare with those made with rice, red local fruit and fresh cream.

In the Sweet Kitchen will help you navigate through the world of sweet cooking, providing extensive information on hundreds of ingredients, from vanilla beans to rose water to durian fruit. It explains how to select, store and best use baking elements as common as cornstarch or flour and as unusual as cloudberries or manuka honey. It unlocks the simple secret of truly great desserts—knowing your ingredients:

—the best kind of cocoa to use for dark, fudgy brownies
—the differences among cream of coconut, creamed coconut and coconut and coconut cream
—which vanilla bean is best in poached pears

This ultimate cookbook/reference volume makes it all clear, and also provides hundreds of invaluable tips and techniques Regan mastered during her professional career.

In addition, Regan offers practical advice on equipment: Do you really need a state-of-the-art apple corer? Will using nonstick pans affect the outcome of your baked goods? Indispensable tables such as the Baking Pan substitution Chart and the Cake Troubleshooting Chart help you modify your recipes—or figure out what went wrong. And the unique Flavor Pairing Chart is a must for inspiration and a list of great partners.

Regan shares more than 150 of her favorite desserts, both simple and seductive. Thick slices of Toasted Hazelnut Pound Cake are perfect for a picnic; Oven-Roasted Pears with Red Wine and a Gratin of Goat’s Cheese make a sensational finale to an elegant dinner party; Pumpkin and Orange Breakfast Cake with a Fresh Orange Syrup is great any time of day. There are homey desserts with special twists—Guava Cheesecake, the World’s Sexiest Sundae—not to mention addictive brownies, mouthwatering pies, nostalgic cobblers, mousses, ice creams, quick breads, fritters and more.

This is the essential reference for home bakers and professional patissiers alike.