"I have always considered desserts to be of equal importance to the savory food," Charlie Trotter writes in the opening pages of his lavish Charlie Trotter's Desserts
. "My approach to desserts celebrates a fruit-driven style, where flash and visual pyrotechniques [sic] are shunned in favor of celebrating the glorious flavors of a perfectly ripe piece of fruit at the height of its season." The illustrations for this book (which won the James Beard award
for Best Food Photography) don't quite square up with that statement. It's hard to imagine more pyrotechnics and more visual flash. It's also a little hard to imagine how many hands went into the creation of any single dish. These are not simple desserts for the everyday cook. Rather, this is a catalog of the kinds of desserts that can be created when fabulous food products and fantastic culinary talents all converge at a single kitchen. It's a coffee-table document of possibility.
Two Watermelon Soups with Frozen Yogurt Soufflé and Chocolate Seeds is certainly a "doable" recipe for the home cook, and the assembly makes no big demands. The real trick with this dessert, as with most of the desserts in this book, is finding the "perfectly ripe piece of fruit at the height of its season." If you are a cook with access to such fruit, have at it. If your grocery store or supermarket buys the usual picked green fruit found in the commercial fruit pipeline, then take a copy of this book to your produce manager and complain loudly.
Charlie Trotter's Desserts is divided into Soups and Sorbets, Citrus Fruits, Berries, Tropical Fruits, Tree Fruits, Vegetables and Grains, Custards, Nuts, Spices, Chocolate, and Chateau d'Yquem. Combinations are stunning. Surprises are endless. You'll discover such delights as Meyer Lemon Pudding Cakes with Persimmon and Tarragon Anglaise, Pineapple Tarte Tatin with Ginger-Hokkaido Squash Ice Cream, Rosewater Crème Caramel with Primrose Sauce and Black Pepper Tuiles, and Macadamia Nut Chocolate Cakes with Coconut Emulsion and Sugarcane Ice Cream. After living with this book you'll never look at a dessert menu in quite the same way. --Schuyler Ingle
Of all Trotter's books, this newest volume in the series produced out of Charlie Trotter's Chicago restaurant is the most attractive and accessible to the home cook. Despite the celebrated chef's continuing call for items such as satsuma oranges and Meyer lemons, unavailable to all but the most determined shopper, plenty of these recipes make smashing ends to meals. Whole-wheat carrot cake can stand on its own without the lovely but nonessential additions of black walnut praline and carrot sorbet. Blackstrap molasses, seldom seen outside health food stores, figures in several of Trotter's desserts, notably as a flavoring in an idiosyncratic pecan pie with a novel curry crust. Cooks burdened with excess primrose petals can toss them into sauce for rosewater creme caramel topped with black pepper cookies. Trotter's reinterpretation of German chocolate cake produces multiple layers formed into upright triangular slices that challenge any pastry chef's skills. Mark Knoblauch