Japanese Pâtisserie: Exploring the beautiful and delicious fusion of East meets West

Cover of Japanese Patisserie by James Campbell

Japanese Pâtisserie: Exploring the beautiful and delicious fusion of East meets West
James Campbell, photography by Mowie Kay
Ryland, Peters and Small, 2017

Scottish pastry chef James Campbell has worked in a variety of restaurants and now works in development for Marks and Spencer. He came to his love of Japanese-inspired pâtisserie after a scouting visit to Japan where he was impressed by the fusion of French pastry techniques with Japanese flavours. His creations in this book combine flavours such as matcha, miso, kumquat, and cherry blossom into desserts featuring madelines, panna cotta, dacquoise and multi-layered entremet cakes.

His work is absolutely gorgeous. I want to stare at all of the items in this book, and then put them all in my face.

Do I want to try and make any of them? Nah.

That’s not to say that an accomplished home cook with a penchant for fancy desserts couldn’t or wouldn’t give these a go, but most of these gorgeous offerings have many steps, many layers, and go beyond what you might see on the amateur versions of Bake-Off to the pâtisserie created on Créme de la Cme (now called The Professionals), the professional version of the show in England.

Which is not to say that Campbell doesn’t offer detailed instructions with plenty of visual aids to demonstrate quenelling, chocolate-tempering, pastry-folding, and spraying chocolate. A patient person could do this.

While most people may not be up to the Matcha, White Chocolate & Cherry Trench with Hazelnut Sponge pictured on the cover, there are recipes here that are doable in a home kitchen. Madelines, for instance, Macarons, Peanut Shortbread, a Vanilla and Rhubarb Custard Tart, and a White Sesame & Adzuki Bean Cheesecake with Tahini and Chocolate Sesame Soil that I would like some of right this minute…

Campbell creates some amazing flavour combinations, so even if you find that these dishes are beyond your skill level (heck, they’re beyond mine and I’ve had professional training and ran a catering company), use them as inspiration. Miso and caramel? Yum! Sesame and chocolate? Of course! Green tea and cherries? You can put those together in something that might not be as gorgeous as the desserts pictured in this book, but might be delicious in and of itself.

Usability: Steps are in paragraph format in a decent-sized font, so should be easy to follow, but also assume that the reader has some level of knowledge and skill. Measurements are in metric and imperial, but since there’s a lot of science involved in baking and pâtisserie, stick to one or the other. Many dishes call for ingredients such as tonka beans and yuzu, which might require an Asian grocery to procure, and some require citric acid, gellan gum or inverted sugar.

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