The Art and Science of French Pastry
The preparation of traditional French pastries in the United States is informed by differences in both taste and ingredients.
In general, Americans prefer sweeter and richer desserts than the French do. In other words, sometimes strictly traditional French pastries may not taste sweet enough for the American palate.
Additionally, intrinsic differences in ingredients can complicate the delicate chemical and physical changes that occur during the baking process, meaning recipes may need to be adjusted. For example, in the film, Jacquy Pfeiffer notices that the egg yolks he is using in France are more yellow than the yolks that he used in the United States, and he spends time adjusting each of his recipes. French butter also tends to be higher in fat and lower in water content than American butter, causing it to behave differently in recipes (to compensate for this, American chefs sometimes spin American butter in a centrifuge before using it). The taste of dairy products in France also varies, because free-range farming practices yield products that vary based on what the cows eat. In contrast, the United States is dominated by industrial farming practices that are designed to develop products that are uniform and consistent.
Take a look at a glossary of pastry terms on the POV website to learn more about some of the sweets seen in Kings of Pastry.
» Friedland, Dani. "Sweet Talk: Chicagoans Learn the Art and Science of French Pastry." Medill Reports Chicago, Februrary 3, 2009
» Rinsky, Glen and Laura Halpin Rinsky. The Pastry Chef's Companion: A Comprehensive Resource Guide for the Baking and Pastry Professional. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2009.