2014 is shaping up to be the year of the pastry and baking cookbooks, and now here's Beard Award winner/Cronut king Dominique Ansel's offering: Dominique Ansel: The Secret Recipes. While the book does in fact include the much-ballyhooed recipe for the Cronut, there's so much more on offer here. To ignore Ansel's other pastries — including Popcorn Chouquettes, the Sunflower Tart, or Ansel's riff on the kouign-amann, the DKA — while bee-lining straight for the Cronut is as much a mistake in his New York City patisserie as it is in this book.
The first half of the book consists of a foreword by Ansel's former employer Daniel Boulud, essays, stories about Ansel's career, and some pretty major pastry porn. The second half contains the recipes. Ingeniously organized into Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced recipes, The Secret Recipes has a little bit of something for everyone. The Cronut falls squarely in the middle of the Advanced chapter, so you might do better to start off with something simpler, like the Mini Madeleines or the Hot Chocolate.
While the publisher's copy for the book insists Ansel is "a modern-day Willy Wonka," what you'll actually find here is some fairly traditional pastry instruction. In fact, compared to much of this year's (absolutely stellar) pastry titles — Brooks Headley's Fancy Desserts, Zoe Nathan's Huckleberry — Ansel's book hews most closely to traditional French technique. It's what he does with these techniques that is so innovative.
As previously mentioned, The Secret Recipes contains a foreword by Daniel Boulud, and has photographs by Thomas Schauer. It's out now from Simon & Schuster (order on Amazon).