Book Review: The Sweet Melissa Baking Book

April 16, 2008 at 2:08 pm | Posted in book review | 7 Comments

Sweet Melissa

I had a little treat waiting for me in my mail pile the other day: a copy of The Sweet Melissa Baking Book by Melissa Murphy.  I’ve never met Melissa herself, but do have a very personal relationship with her shop.  Before moving to Sydney last year, I lived in Brooklyn Heights.  When I first arrived on the Brooklyn scene in 1996, there wasn’t really anywhere to get a great slice of cake or a beautiful tart (and I was too busy sitting in a cubicle to be making things myself).  Then one day a couple years later, as I was running errands in neighboring Cobble Hill, I noticed a little storefront with wedding cakes in the window…it was Sweet Melissa Pâtisserie.  Finally–just what the neighborhood needed!  It was cute and small, but had places to sit down and have tea and sweets from real cups and plates, and best of all: a display case full of gorgeous treats!  Melissa even had her French Culinary Institute diploma framed on the wall.  Fast forward a few more years, and I myself was a graduate of FCI’s pastry program.  I trailed for a job opening at Sweet Melissa just a couple of weeks after graduation.  Well, I didn’t get the job (I had no professional kitchen experience at that point), but I kept up my monthly tradition of going for dessert at Sweet Melissa’s (after dinner at the sushi place next door) right up until I moved to Sydney. 

Now, back to the book, which, for obvious reasons, I couldn’t wait to crack into.  From time to time (otherwise knowns as always) I still find myself homesick for Brooklyn, so looking through this book was almost comforting for me.  Melissa says that her goal is “…to make everyone’s favorite desserts better than they’ve had them before.”  Even if your not familiar with her shop, you’ll still be familiar with many of the desserts in her book.  There aren’t many photos, but if you’re like me, you’ll recognize many of her recipes as things you grew up with and still crave.  And she has plenty of things in the book that are uniquely hers as well.  These are things that you will want to make, and even though she takes no shortcuts, her directions are so clearly written that you’d be hard pressed to mess them up! 

Melissa’s six chapters cover the gamut of sweets, from ‘Dessert for Breakfast’ to ‘Sunday Supper’s Grand Finale,’ with cookies, layer cakes and fruit desserts along the way.  And the final chapter, ‘Favorite Gifts: Truffles, Brittles, and Candies,’ is really special.  Who wouldn’t think you were amazing if you made them honey cream caramels??  Melissa also includes ‘pro tips’ that will make home bakers more confident in the kitchen and offers us quick snippets of why these recipes are special to her.

I’ve already made a few things from the book, and all with great results!  You’ll get to see those as separate posts as I’m able to write them up…so stay tuned.

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7 Comments »

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  1. Sounds like a great book – I’ll look forward to your posts!

  2. Hey Steph,

    thx for the great recommendation. now tts the next book on my to-buy list!

    and i’m definitely visiting the Sweet Melissa Pâtisserie when i go down to sydney in june! can’t wait.. me and my gf headed down for some backpacking adventures!

    any other suggestions as to what crazy things to do in Sydney?

  3. Nice review!
    I just got a review copy of “Sweetie Pies” to do for my online magazine gig, Suite101.com.
    I also sent Melissa a request, but she’s away for a while. I’ll have to sit tight and wait!

  4. I was just looking into the FCI Pastry program, but I don’t know anyone personally who went there and graduated. You are totally going to have to give me all the basics and advice because I really want to go to FCI for baking classes. I don’t know what I want to do afterwords, but I hope to bake all day long :)

  5. First let me say that they were crazy not to give you a job!
    Second, can’t wait to see what you make from the book. I have never been to the store but I am really enjoying baking through her recipes.

  6. Hi there

    Where is she based – Brooklyn on the way to the Central Coast in NSW??

  7. Givoanna- Hi. Actually, she’s in Brooklyn, New York. I moved from New York City to Sydney for a couple years (now back in NYC).


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