Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Confections of a Closet Master Baker

First, before I review anything, I have to thank Rob from Books are Like Candy Corn for sending this book as a baby gift for Chuck and myself. As much as Chuck and I like sweets, little Greyson doesn't stand a chance!

When I first discovered this book around the blogosphere and realized the author, Gesine (pronounced Geh-see-neh) Bullock-Prado, is Sandra Bullock's sister, I had a certain expectation of the author. Sandra Bullock (so often referred to as "Sandy") is often labeled the nicest celeb in Hollywood. She does seem very genuine and likable in interviews. Bullock-Prado, on the other hand, admits to being a misanthrope. Hilariously so at times, though I never disliked her for it.

To give a little background: She was a big wheel at sister Sandy's production company, but she loathed Hollywood and most of the fake, obnoxious people therein. Bullock-Prado and hubby, Ray, eventually left Hollywood behind to open Gesine's Confectionary in Montpelier, Vermont.

Each chapter in the book begins as an hour in the baker's day. She gets up REALLY early and begins her baking long before sunrise to be ready for the steady flow of regulars who visit the shop for a quick pastry or a panini at lunch. Mixed in with the day's rituals and tasks are stories of Gesine and Sandra's childhood, reminiscences about their mother, and recipes. Yes, kids, recipes! Each chapter ends with a recipe that somehow applies to the writing in that particular section.

Like most of my favorite memoirs, Gesine Bullock-Prado made me giggle often. I mentioned that she's a misanthrope, but not a Dr. Gregory House misanthrope. More of an introverted but well-mannered and well-intentioned misanthrope. In all honesty, I could see a good bit of myself in Bullock-Prado's story and in her decision to live a simpler life. She was much happier on a daily basis with her hands in a big tub of dough than wining and dining at pretentious restaurants and fighting LA traffic.

I was also pleased that a good bit of the memoir is a reminiscence on her mother. It's obvious that they had a very close relationship, though rocky at times, and with her mother now deceased, baking becomes a tribute to the German heritage her mother held dear.

I expected to read a lot about butter, flour, and sugar in this little book, and Bullock-Prado doesn't disappoint in that department. However, I got much more out of it than that. It was touching and funny and seemed very honest. It's a book which deserves a spot on my keeper shelf, and I can't wait to try more of the recipes.

I have tried one recipe: Golden Eggs! They're little vanilla cakes rolled in sugar and cinammon and taste very much like a donut when all is said and done. What's more, they brought back my own family memories because the light, almost custardy, texture reminded me a great deal of my grandmother's buttermilk pie growing up. I would share a pic, but the kids ate them so fast, I didn't get to take one. I'll definitely make them again, though, along with some other recipes from the book. In the meantime, go read Rob's review of the Espresso Cheesecake recipe! It's another one I can't wait to try.


  1. My sister is a personal chef and I think she would really enjoy this book. I would like it too but I am afraid I would be craving bread the whole time I was reading it! Ha!

  2. Great review Andi. I can't wait to read this book. I've been on an odd "food book" kick lately and haven't been disappointed in any of them, no matter how different, or from what perspective they're told. I'm looking forward to this one, and especially making some of the recipes after Easter when my stooopid idea of giving up sweets for Lent is through! Wow, what was I thinking?

  3. I love reading books that mix persona experiences, food and recipes like that. Kudos to her for leaving something that she didn't enjoy and finding something that she did.

  4. I thought this book was a fun read too! I wish we had a great bakery like hers here.

  5. The Golden Eggs sound delicious! And so does the Espresso Cheesecake. My attempts at baking tend to be disastrous, but I do enjoy reading about it.

  6. Oooh, a good food book/memoir? I'm SO there. :-D

  7. I looove food memoirs! I had a brief fling as a pastry cook so I'd really love this. Also I love Sandra Bullock, so I'm sure I'll love her sister by osmosis. Thanks for posting this. P.S. Love your blog name.

  8. For some reason I wasn't to hot on this book when I first heard about it, but your review changed my mind. It sounds like a great read - and the recipes are just icing on the cake (haha). Thanks for the great review!

  9. Oooh, I'd love to get my hands on this one! I do love books that mixes in personal anecdotes and recipes (Like Water for Chocolate, though fictional, is one). It's like I can taste the food already. I'm sure next time there'll be picture :) I'll head on to the cake recipe now :P

  10. YUM! Golden Eggs, Espresso Cheesecake, butter, flour, sugar...
    "An introverted, but well-mannered and well-intentioned misanthrope." Love that description! Bullock-Prado sounds like my kind of woman. Will have to look for this. Thank you.

  11. Hi Andi...I loved your review and am glad the book was a hit. Thanks for linking back to my blog. Take care and best wishes, Rob

  12. Kathleen, how cool that your sis is a personal chef. Does she love it, or does she get irked at the people she cooks for? lol And you would crave bread the whoooole time you read this one. She has some yummy-looking bread recipes in the book, too.

    Funky, this one is right up your alley. What foodie books have you read lately because I could always use some more suggestions.

    Nicole, me too! And, yes, I admire her greatly for up and changing her life.

    Kathy, me too! We have one bakery near our house, but it doesn't stock nearly the amount of goodies and variety that hers does.

    LOL, Nymeth! I'm a pretty good baker, but then again I generally don't attempt anything too difficult. I might try my hand at the espresso cheesecake sooner than later, though. We'll see how that goes.

    Right on, Melissa!

    Thank you muchly, Karenlibrarian! I think it would be an absolute blast to be a pastry cook for a day (or six). Would probably never get me back to my students. lol

    LOL, thanks Dana! It's my pleasure to enable. :D

    Lightheaded, it was a heck of a time catching those golden eggs on film! I really must do it next time, but I was surprised by how much the kids like them and how fast they got gone.

    Ds, my kind of woman, too! I could relate far too much. She's inspired me to dust off my oven and bake more. Huzzah!

    Thanks again, Rob!

  13. Oh, yum. You've got me drooling. Thank goodness this book is already on my wishlist.

  14. Thanks so much for the review. I want to get this one soon. I love books with recipes.

  15. I just got this out of the library and am looking forward to reading it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the book!!


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