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[Photograph: Helen Cathcart]

What is a Paris Pastry Club, exactly? A group of well-appointed ladies who get together and discuss desserts? A cabal of pastry chefs who meet in secret to discuss the latest French techniques? As it turns out, it's a little of both. Author and pâtissière Fanny Zanotti was born and raised on the French Riviera, learning about food and life in her grandmother's kitchen. From there, she traveled the world, training as an apprentice in one patisserie after the other, ending up as a pastry chef in London.

Paris Pastry Club is a collection of recipes that are both sentimental and professional. Taken as a whole, they tell the story of a girl coming of age as a woman and a chef, two processes that seem unrelated, but probably share a fair amount of involvement with chocolate. The book is accordingly arranged by emotion: desserts you would make when you're feeling a certain way. Heartbroken? Turn to Chapter 3, "Break-Up Menders", and prepare Crème Brûlée for One. And what of those gorgeous sunny days we always seem to get too few of? Chapter 5, "Lazy Summer Sweets," offers Iced Yogurt with Mead-Baked Peach, a dish that comes together without an oven, or too much effort for that matter.

Paging through the personal stories accompanying every recipe, it becomes evident that chef Zanotti has made a career of following her heart. She admits that pastry wasn't her plan, but the atmosphere of the professional kitchen pulled her in immediately, and she never looked back. Her training lends even the simplest of recipes a masterful polish, like One-Bowl Tiramisu, which sounds gimmicky, until you taste it. And, of course, following your heart means being guided by what you hold dear. Earl Grey Tea Weekend Loaf is modeled after cakes made in preparation for the weekend ahead, often seen in French pastry shops. They're wrapped in plastic and meant to be eaten, slice by slice, when one is lazing at home or adventuring away.

So, what is a Paris Pastry Club? It's what you make of it. Take these recipes, make them, serve them to yourself and to your friends. Fond memories are sure to follow.

Win A Copy!

Thanks to the generous folks over at Hardie Grant, we are giving away five (5) copies of Paris Pastry Club this week. All you have to do is tell us a dessert you like to serve to friends.

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