Paula Peck's The Art of Fine Baking and the Child/Beck/Bertholle Mastering the Art of French Cooking are still the bibles of serious home pastry-makers, but there's plenty of room for newcomers. Braker, a California-based teacher, approaches the task with massive amounts of theoretical background and procedural detail--which she heroically systematizes. Most of the recipes fall into two chapters devoted respectively to cakes (from plain butter cakes and spongecakes to meringues and dacquoise) and pastries (American piecrust to pÃ¢te Ã choux). There are several further subdivisions within each chapter, with ""foundation recipes"" for basic batter or dough types and important variants followed by ""desserts"" incorporating these and other components. Four brief chapters (technical discussions of chocolate and sugar, recipes for frostings and various fillings or toppings, techniques of final presentation) round off matters. Don't be deceived by the ""simple art"": this is definitely and exclusively for specialists. The ""foundation recipes"" are spelled out in the kind of astonishing detail (equipment, termperature of ingredients, position of oven rack) that reassures some cooks and intimidates others. The ""desserts,"" with their many cross-references to subrecipes, are not to be tackled without a keen sense of logistics. Ingredients are expected to be of the finest; heavy-duty mixers are a must for virtually all the cakes. But those who really long for raspberry cream torte (sponge layers filled with raspberry mousse), perfect chocolate butterflies, gÃ¢teau St.-HonorÃ‰, and vacherin (in the shape of a beehive decorated with meringue bees and filled with ice cream) will find here the fulfillment of a dream. And for a good many food professionals, it will be an indispensable reference tool.