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.

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