Confections of a (Closet) Master Baker is the memoir of Gesine Bullock-Prado, former Hollywood executive turned owner of a small town bakery. The memoir chronicles Bullock-Prado’s reasons for getting into the movie business, getting out of it, and moving on to her true passion, baking. Each chapter begins by taking you through her life as a baker and seamlessly transitions to her history. Overall, the book is a quick and easy read, filled with humor. From the first sentence, Bullock-Prado captures the reader, doing an especially wonderful job of connecting her story emotionally with the recipes she provides. (Be warned though, this can lead you to want to make every single recipe.)
When I first found out I would get to do a review of Confections, I looked around online and found this website where the author herself gives an online tutorial on how to make the very first recipe in the book—Golden Eggs (or in this case, golden bundts). The claim about this recipe is pretty big: it is her only magic recipe. Without any frying, a simple white cake/muffin recipe is transformed into a pseudo cake doughnut. I had to give it a try. While the resulting desert is quite similar to a doughnut, I would not go so far as to say I would mistake it for one. Honestly, I ended up liking this even better.
At this point, I should stop and point out one very important thing I learned from the online tutorial. Recipes in this book give temperatures for convection ovens, so those of us using a conventional oven should set the temperature 25 degrees higher, a fact I wish I had known this when I made the scones. I really wanted to like these, but to be perfectly honest, I found them a bit bland and dry. The dryness I attribute to setting the oven too low, and then leaving them in too long to get the golden tops. Also, in the final version of the book, ‘vanilla extract’ was replaced with ‘lemon extract’—a typo which may have cost these poor scones their excellence. Don’t get me wrong. It isn’t that these scones were bad, they just weren’t phenomenal and my expectations were high.
Bullock-Prado is most known for her almond macaroons, yet if you buy this book specifically for this recipe you will be disappointed. She is upfront and honest about the reasoning (how would she make money without keeping some secrets?) which I can respect. Plus, in it’s place we are given an amazing cookie recipe. The texture on these is very light, and the flavor is full. I accidentally made these with a bit too much cocoa powder (again, a typo in the unedited manuscript) but they still came out wonderfully. Even better–these are cookies that you can easily freeze ahead of time and pull out just when you need them.
One of my favorite things about these recipes is that Bullock-Prado gives a long introduction to each recipe in which she provides plenty of suggestions on how to modify it (for example, turning a cake into muffins or a meringue into buttercream). When read carefully, this book can really help you understand how recipes work.
I can only assume that if you are reading this review on the Daring Kitchen website, that you are a person who loves food, maybe even the type of person who has at some point dreamt about giving everything up and devoting your life to your passion. Confections of a (Closet) Master Baker is an inspiring read that will tug at these feelings. It is at the very least a wonderful story, but even more importantly, the memoir will motivate you with its unique and delicious recipes.