Features & Stories

Author Profile: Nick Malgieri

Nick Malgieri is a baking expert and a true master of his craft. He's a former Executive Pastry Chef at Windows on the World and a 1996 inductee into Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America. He has a long line of bestsellers under his belt, many of which are available now, or coming soon to ckbk.

Malgieri’s success is also evident in his numerous awards and accolades, including being voted one of the ten best pastry chefs in America by Chocolatier and Pastry Art and Design magazines in 1998 and 1999.

His talent and expertise in pastry are evident in all his books, although he has told us how he struggled to find his written voice when he first started out in his food writing career. We met Malgieri to look back on an exceptional career and find out how he was able to throw off the early trauma of writing and discover his own style.

By Ramona Andrews

Finding a voice

“I was very traumatized about writing” says Nick Malgieri, author of a baker’s dozen of cookbooks, five of which are now available on ckbk (with more on the way). For his first cookbook, Nick Malgieri’s Perfect Pastry, Malgieri felt compelled to dictate the entire book to someone “which was quite an excruciating experience.” He described how he put down his fear of writing to an experience in the fifth grade. 

The school bus had got stuck in a traffic jam and he decided to write a story about it “obviously, in a very ten-year-old amateurish way.” When the stories were graded and about to be handed back, his teacher told him “Now class, I'd like to read you an example of what never to do when you write an essay of this type.” She read from his work, he says, “but exaggerating the weak points of it with stuff that I had never written. And from that day on, I was definitely afraid to write anything.”

Perseverance (and years of therapy) helped him develop a confident written voice, which is evident across all of his many must-have books that have been published over the years. One friend called him after Cookies Unlimited was published and said, “Oh, my God, only you could have written 'Don't put too many pans of tuiles in the oven at the same time, because then they all need to be carved while they're hot and your life will turn into a nightmare.’”

Swotting up

Malgieri says that the mighty Great Italian Desserts book “was always my dream to do”. His mother was born in a small market town in southern Italy and his paternal grandfather was from the same area, while his paternal grandmother was from the center of Sicily. For this cookbook, inspired by his Italian heritage (in particular his maternal grandmother’s love of baking), he undertook a research trip to every region in Italy.

“When I got to Agrigento in Sicily, I met up with an official in the Italian Chefs Association, and he said to me, ‘Oh, do you have any interest in convent sweets?’ ’Are you kidding?’, I said, ’Of course I do.’” Malgieri was then invited to Santo Spirito Monastery to meet the abbess and prioress at a convent of cloistered Trappist nuns, founded in 1295, to taste their biscotti and sweets. He later returned to the convent to try their famous pistachio couscous. 

“So many people have attempted to recreate it. I think the version that I did is the only one that comes anywhere remotely close to the original. It was really interesting meeting the abbess and the prioress of a convent of cloistered nuns. You know, they stood behind a partition that separated the cloister from the public areas of the convent. And so that was probably the most unusual experience I've ever had in looking for recipes.”

After that came Nick Malgieri’s Bread “and that was the most difficult thing I've ever done because bread is all math”, even more of a challenge writing for both a US audience as well as other parts of the world. “Sometimes I would be there for two hours with the calculator, trying to have the cups come out evenly and not have the metric be outlandish at the same time.”

Modern baking

Talking of Cookies Unlimited, Malgieri says, “there’s a big section on different Italian cookies. Some of which have never appeared in an English cookbook before”, along with a simple Scottish Shortbread, Checkerboard Cookies (easier to make than you think!), and Infasciadedde, a Sicilian cookie that Malgieri’s great-aunt Elvira used to make. A Baker’s Tour, also due to come to ckbk soon, includes some of his favorite recipes to look out for: “a Neapolitan salty boiled and baked biscuit, Turkish flatbread, Alsatian Onion Tart and Tan Fingers” (a New Zealand bar cookie).

The Modern Baker was the next of Malgieri’s cookbooks: “the concept was that you can do all these things in easy ways without necessarily doing a full-on classical type of preparation. So, there's a puff pastry made in a food processor and a quick way of making Danish pastry.” He picks out the Real Welsh scones, Corn Pudding Tart, and Orange Scented Olive Oil Cake as recipes to bookmark. One of the cakes he makes all the time is the Blueberry Crumb Cake.


From Bake! that followed, some favorites include Russian Punch Cake (“a very fancy cake, but I do make it occasionally - the recipe comes from Demel, which is the fanciest pastry shop in Vienna”) and Conchas, “a kind of Mexican sweet bun, like a breakfast bun, a variation of a brioche recipe”. Nick Malgieri’s Bread, is packed with recipes he still refers to regularly, including his All Wholemeal Bread, plus ideas for recipes that are made out of bread: Caesar Salad with Croutons, Mexican Meatballs made with soft bread, or a Tomato and Bread Salad from Puglia.


Pastry Perfection is the definitive guide to pastry, covering all types of dough-making techniques. Malgieri says “Danish pastry originated in Vienna, where it's called Plunder, which also means stacked or corded wood. So the idea of the layers of butter and dough made for that use of that word. And then it went from Vienna to Scandinavia and in Denmark, it's called wienerbrød, or Viennese bread (Danish Viennese bread). So it's a little bit of a crazy transition.” As well as Danish pastries, this book features go-to recipes for croissants, Turkish pastries “and also my best strudel recipes that I've ever done”.


Pastry Perfection by Nick Malgieri


“I had made Turkish baklava, which is baked in a round pan and cut into wedges - all baklava is cut before it's baked. And it has it has an interesting name, Carrot Slice Baklava, because the browned wedges of the dough suggest fat carrots.” After Kyle Books opted to put the Carrot Slice Baklava on the cover of the book, “I got a call from a friend who was part of the food establishment in Turkey, and she said the mayor of Gaziantep is inviting you for a week. Of course they were so thrilled that this very classic pastry that originated in Southeastern Anatolia, could be on the cover of a mass market book like this.”

Another star of Pastry Perfection is what Malgieri calls “the ultimate chocolate tart”. This recipe was given to him by food writer Leslie Chesterman. “She said to me, I have to give you the recipe because it is the very best chocolate tart that exists, bar none. And I said to myself, I'm certainly going to look at this with a critical eye. You know what? It was 100% right. It's called Leslie's Individual Double Chocolate Tarts and I have to say, I'm salivating looking at the picture.”

A career in food

What does Malgieri recommend for any young chefs looking to get into pastry, or indeed food writing? “I’ll tell you what I tell people at the countless times I've been at a book signing and a parent is pushing a very unwilling child who's probably blushing, ‘tell him, tell him you want to be a pastry chef’ So I always say, ‘Oh, you want to be a pastry chef, go to college!’” It might be a throw-away comment, but what he means is that if you want to have a career in food, get an education first and then do the food part. 

As for his own personal writing development, which evolved throughout a long and successful career, it is remarkable to think that he is now trying his hand at a food-focused piece of fan fiction. His story is based on E.F. Benson’s Mapp and Lucia novels set in the fictional English town of Riseholme and Tilling (closely based on Rye in East Sussex). One of the characters - Lucia’s - specialty is a dish called Lobster à la Riseholme. Recipe pending!

ckbk Premium Members have access to the full content of seven of Nick Malgieri’s books and more than 700 other cookbooks. Great Italian Desserts, Bake!, The Modern Baker, Nick Malgieri’s Bread and Pastry Perfection and Cookies Unlimited are already available on ckbk in full. Sign up for new book alerts to be notified by email when A Baker’s Tour is added, in the coming weeks.

Nick Malgieri’s top recipes on ckbk


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