Skip to main content
Skip to navigation

Oct. 9, 2014 Volume 36, No. 7

University chef publishes pastry book

Alternate text

University Club executive chef Daniel Pliska signs copies of his book Pastry & Dessert Techniques May 1, 2014, at the Reynolds Alumni Center. The book is available on Amazon and at the Mizzou Store. Photo by Madeline Beyer.

Recipes are for all levels of expertise

When Daniel Pliska got his first job at a restaurant, the 15-year-old wasn’t disappointed that it was as a dishwasher. After all, he played guitar and was going to be a rock star when he grew up. Sure, he loved his grandmother’s and mother’s cooking. “But I was a rock ’n’ roller,” Pliska said.

Then he stumbled upon a Time-Life book series on classical French cooking. For the first time, he saw how cooking and playing music were both artistic endeavors. “I got really enamored with the beautiful presentations,” he said. “It was a flashbulb moment.”

Pliska didn’t give up the guitar entirely, but he started picking up his chef’s knife more often than his guitar pick. He honed his cooking chops at private clubs and hotels for five years before landing an apprenticeship in a Düsseldorf, Germany, bakery.

“That’s where I fell in love with baking pastries,” Pliska said.

Now, after more than 35 years in the kitchen, Pliska has written a book, Pastry & Dessert Techniques (American Technical Publisher, 2014) with which to share that love. The book is for anyone from home cooks to seasoned professionals to the culinary students he works with as executive chef for the University Club of MU and University Catering.

“Cooking is creative: a little bit of this, a pinch of that. But pastries and desserts are more exacting. It takes a lot more measurements than cooking does,” Pliska said. “I wanted to demystify pastries and desserts.”

In the cookbook-meets-textbook, Pliska breaks down 35 foundational pastry techniques and then, utilizing step-by-step photos, demonstrates how to create and artistically plate 65 savory and sweet pastries and desserts. The book comes with a QR code that allows readers to access addition information. Teachers can download online chapter summaries, objectives and quizzes for class use.


The book features 65 savory and sweet recipes, including smoked salmon with chive crepe roulade with watercress lemon mousseline. Photo by Madeline Beyer.


Pliska describes his cooking style as applying classical European techniques to make local and regional ingredients. He also enjoys fusion cooking, like blending Latin American with Mediterranean and Asian flavors at one of the many internationally themed dinners hosted at the University Club.

For Pastry & Dessert Techniques, Pliska showcased tried-and-true recipes, such as his go-to piecrust that he has been using since his first job in a kitchen, as well as new recipes he’s whipped up in recent years, such as a basmati rice pudding with a Swiss meringue and infused strawberry lavender syrup.

Pliska put in more than four years on the book: picking the recipes, converting the metric measurements to the standard cups and tablespoons, testing each dish hundreds of times, and photographing the final product (many shot by MU journalism student Robert Watson).

Although it was a long process, he’s ready to get started on his next work. The chef divides his kitchen in the Reynolds Alumni Center into three areas — hot foot, cold food, and baking and pastries — and he’d like to ultimately have a book for each area.

“They’re meant to be learning books,” Pliska said. “That’s what’s great about this industry. You never learn it all. I’m always going to conferences or seminars or taking master classes with other great chefs. I’m still learning.”

 Pastry & Dessert Techniques is available on Amazon and at the Mizzou Store.

 —  Kelsey Allen


One of the sweet recipes in the book is this trio of eclairs featuring hazelnut butter cream and mocha pastry cream and chocolate mousse glazed fondant and chocolate ganache. Photo by Madeline Beyer.