• Madeleine Feeny

The Pastry Chef's Guide by Ravneet Gill

Updated: Aug 3, 2020

A sumptuous new baking cookbook equips Josie Graves to conquer her fear of pastry

I work with cookbooks every day and this is without a doubt the most stunning publication I have seen all year. It is a perfectly planned out, detailed guide which covers the basics for home cooks wishing to learn the secrets behind professional patisserie and baking. Its author, Cordon Bleu-trained chef Ravneet Gill, has worked in top London restaurants, including St. JOHN and Llewelyn’s. Adorned with two beautiful foldout photography pages and styled in syrupy pink, it is so lovely that I have been quite scared to cook near it and have it suffer the usual stains and splashes.

I started with the lemon loaf. Gill describes her attempts to achieve a perfect split along the top crust while at Llewelyn's, challenging the reader to create one. I committed to her tips and tricks (a well warmed oven, a clean butter knife down the centre, perfectly whipped eggs) and I am hopeful that these nuggets of expert advice will find their way into my future baking. I also tried her crumbly chocolate biscuits, which were bittersweet with plenty of cocoa, bound together with golden syrup, and would make a delicious accompaniment to a creamy dessert.

I couldn’t have judged The Pastry Chef’s Guide without trialling its pastry. Gill provides two chapters for tarts and pies, which range from traditional French patisserie such as a classic lemon tart to modern examples such as a peanut butter, chocolate and rum banana tart, and bold American-style fruit pies. When it comes to this section, I am the exact target audience: afraid of pastry. But Gill provides us with invaluable wisdom and precise instructions, along with recipes for several different types of pastry, each requiring varying levels of competence. I tried her shortcrust, which was crisp, sweet and surprisingly easy to work with.

Lemon tart is my favourite restaurant dessert, and one that I have never attempted at home. This recipe requires ten eggs, along with a generous measure of sugar, double cream and five lemons. Gill cuts no corners, and this is what elevates these recipes from classic home baking to pastry chef standard.

This tart really is something spectacular. It came out so glossy I could see my reflection in it rich and delicate and absolutely delicious.

The twice-baked chocolate cake from the menu at St. JOHN is a real treat. It has one of the briefest ingredient lists in the whole book, but is the most indulgent cake I have ever made. The twice-baked aspect works a dream, resulting in a dense and rich brownie-like base, with a delightfully light and soft top layer. It was thrilling to be able to create a St. JOHN-standard dessert at home.

Whether or not my attempts at these bakes, full of sugar and determination, live up to true chef standard, I do feel The Pastry Chef's Guide has taught me a good deal more than other baking books have. It is with thanks to Gill’s warm prose and encouraging humour that I feel more professional as I go about attempting the next recipe. This is a book of beauty, as lovely to read through as to bake from a stunning addition to the shelf of any baker looking for more expertise in the daunting world of pastry.

The Pastry Chef's Guide by Ravneet Gill was published by Pavilion Books in April 2020.

Josie Graves is a contributor to A Moveable Feast. She is a bookseller specialising in cookbooks and a home cook and recipe tester. Find her on Instagram @howtobehungry.

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