It can be argued that French pastries have always been regarded as the crown jewel in the baking world—notoriously difficult to perfect, but extremely rewarding when successfully accomplished.
Beaucoup Bakery’s co-owner and pastry chef Betty Hung understands that the complexity of French baking can be intimidating, especially because this style of baking extends beyond ingredients and techniques. It also incorporates science, where every measurement and temperature plays a crucial part in the outcome of the baked goods.
Regardless of the high-level of attention to detail and skills required for making French pastries, Hung was determined to demystify the baking process for amateurs. She does so in her new cookbook, French Pastry 101: Learn the Art of Classic Baking with 60 Beginner-Friendly Recipes.
This is Hung’s first cookbook, which saw her take on the responsibilities of baking, recipe-writing, and photographing each item. It’s not her first foray into writing and photography—she’s the founder of Yummy Workshop, a visually compelling blog dedicated to all things baking—but it was still a challenging task to juggle writing a book while running a bakery.
“After you have the recipe down, you have to make it again and style it, and do the photos and edit it,” Hung explained to the Straight in a phone interview. “I did it all at home, and the only reason I was able to do it was because I had a little background in graphic design. I was able to envision how I wanted it to be.”
The talented pastry chef has always wanted to write a book. Publishing French Pastry 101 is an especially celebrated accomplishment because she’s had no formal pastry training, aside from enrolling in some professional baking classes after applying to work at Beaucoup Bakery when it was still owned by Jackie Kai Ellis.
Hung immigrated to Canada from Hong Kong when she was around eight years-old. Those familiar with households in Asia will know that it’s not common to bake at home because there is simply no space for that kind of luxury.
“If you wanted a piece of bread or cookie, you’ll buy it at your local bakery because there’s no room to make it at home,” Hung explained to the Straight in a phone interview. “When I came here, I suddenly lived in a home with a big oven and space to actually bake.”
It was through watching relatives bake at home that spurred her interest in creating pastries—the process of making batter and seeing it turn into something edible intrigued her.
“I found out that the French were the best bakers. They bake the best pastries and a lot of the techniques that you use in different kinds of baking actually came from the French,” said Hung. “That’s how I got interested in French baking.”
Now she’s able to share her love for these France-originated baked goods in her new book.
French Pastry 101 features five dozen beginner-friendly recipes, which includes nine chapters that highlight everything from cookies to cakes, and from tarts to twice-baked pastries. At the back of the book, Hung has written some notes of ingredients and equipment, which will help amateur bakers better understand the process and science behind French baking. Things like allowing dough to be in chilled the fridge or using room temperature eggs can make all the difference when you’re attempting to bake for the first time.
“What sets my book apart is that I do go through the basics and science behind the techniques, so people will have a bit more understanding the baking process or why you need to go it to a specific temperature,” said Hung.
If you’re making French treats for the first time, she suggests trying out sablé bretons, a classic French cookie with a buttery taste and sandy texture. Other fan-favourite items in her cookbook include Paris-brest, tarte au citron (lemon tarts), twice-baked almond croissants, and gougères (cheese puffs made from choux paste).
Many of the recipes that Hung has included will take an hour or less, so readers won’t be spending an excessive amount of time in the kitchen. And if you’re worried about the flavours of certain French pastries, you could always stroll into Beaucoup for a taste-test beforehand.
French Pastry 101 ($32.95) is available at various Indigo Chapters locations and online.