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VINE VOICEon February 8, 2009
I am an experienced home baker who loves pushing the envelope and trying out new, complicated recipes. In my opinion, that is the type of baker who will enjoy this book the most.

I've made a couple things out of the book, and I've had no problem with the directions. While the recipes often call for ingredients that may not be available in smaller markets, those ingredients, with few exceptions, are not "weird." By that I mean that the overwhelming majority of Iuzzini's recipes do not fall into the realm of molecular gastronomy, thereby requiring foaming dispensers and other chemical agents. A small number of them do, but most do not, which is something that I appreciate because I'm cooking for a small family, and not a restaurant. One of the problems I've had with a few other "chef" books is that you really need to invest a tidy sum of money in chemical agents to make full use of the recipes in those books, and professional pastry books produce HUGE quantities of desserts, requiring you to do a lot of math to scale things down. Iuzzini's book does not suffer from either of those problems.

Each major dessert is comprised of 4 mini dessert portions - you can either make one of them, or using the book as a guide, prepare all 4. The instructions are very clear and include both metric and standard US measurements, although he highly recommends that you invest in a scale. The author gives oven temperatures for both a standard oven and a convection oven. When he calls for chocolate, he notes his preference in detail, for example, he doesn't just say 40% cacao, he will say "preferably Valrhona Jivara 40% cacao." There are some recipes that fall into the realm of "molecular gastronomy," but those are only a small percentage of the book. When you do need some exotic ingredient, Iuzzini gives you the mail order sources for them. He also provides building block recipes (for example, regular and chocolate brioche) to use in his recipes, or you can use them in other desserts, if you choose. When he can, he offers suggestions in the "Make it Simple" sidebars that enable a home cook to simplify the recipe.

The layout and quality of the book are great. Glossy pages, photos for every finished dessert, easy-to-read layout, and a font that won't give you eyestrain. The book is divided by seasons and chocolate, so the main chapters are Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring,and Chocolate, with the Building Blocks chapter at the end.

If you are not an adventurous baker, then recipes like Corn Panna Cotta and Beet Parfait may turn you off, but remember that each one of those recipes is designed to be ONE component in a four part dessert. If you don't care for that, you can always make something like the Malted-Chocolate Rice Pudding, or the Chocolate Filled Passion Souffle Tarts (really good), or Cream Cheese Ice Cream.

This is a book that can take your baking and food presentation to a new level. I really enjoyed it.
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on January 6, 2009
This book is a great read with some very compelling ideas and wonderful suggestions. I have made three of the deserts so far and they were all successful. Note I did not say yummy some of the stuff in this book is about experience of flavor over tradition concepts of flavor. Expect new ideas that take some time to adjust to. If you enjoy experimentation and finding new ways to make old desserts this is a great book. Also if you want to start with molecular gastronomy this may be the least intimidating book to test the waters with. Overall this is a pure adventure if taste and texture with a lot of whimsy.
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on July 28, 2009
When I first saw Johnny's cookbook Dessert FourPlay Sweet Quartets from a Four-Star Pastry Chef ($35.00 Clarkson Potter) I figured I had a winner of a book, but not a cookbook - just a "lookbook".

Several weeks later, FourPlay, is still on my kitchen table - not covered in a film of dust as I might have expected, but doused in sugar, caramel and tuile batter. FourPlay turns out to be quite a clever book; it's a book that you can actually use...

Let's start back at the beginning.
Johnny Iuzzini is the Executive pastry Chef of the three-starred Michelin Restaurant Jean Georges in New York. At Jean Georges, Johnny's desserts arrive as four mini tasters served together. These creations may be inspired by a single ingredient or by the season, each a collection of delicious tastes, textures and techniques.

His desserts in FourPlay follow the same methodology as those at Jean Georges, so, when you look at the pictures in the book you might think that you are set for a visual feast and nothing more. But when you look a little deeper, the chef has written a book that puts the creative ball in the reader's court. It's a book of options.

You can choose to recreate one of the many quartets such as the Strawberry FourPlay; Strawberry Soda, Strawberry Ice Cream with Strawberry-Lavender Leather, Strawberry Shortcake with Roasted Strawberries & Strawberry Gelée, Coconut Cream & Crispy Chocolate or follow a simpler route and be inspired by one these components each of which shape up to be a great standalone dish.

I have used several of the recipes in the book over the past few weeks each of which have been accurate, well written and tasty.

Johnny Iuzzini has published a unique cookbook, one that serves up a magnificent concoction of style and substance - what appears to be a "lookbook" is, actually a cookbook!
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on May 1, 2009
The title of my review really says it all. Iuzzini showcases his awesome skill in this book, and the excellent photography backs it up. I just wish he had found a different way to make the chocolate spaetzle, because honestly, it looks like fat, black crispy chow mein noodles, and I think that visual should be enough for you.

He has tons of exceptional ideas, and executes them with the skill of a true master. Everything looks and sounds delicious, and each recipe is unique. I only wish I had thought of them myself!

It should be noted, however, that the recipes in this book are not for someone who is looking to cook for the first time. Some of the techniques are advanced, use ingredients that you certainly aren't going to find in your local grocery store, and several recipes have multiple parts gone over elsewhere in the book. Luckily for the layman, he offers several simple replacements for a good number of ingredients in several of the recipes.

If none of that phases you, then get this book. You will not regret it.
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on August 30, 2012
I bought this book because of its stellar reviews. I have plenty of respect for the author, but this book falls far short of meeting my expectations.

The book is organized by seasons (with an extra section for the all-seasons ingredient, chocolate), which I think is a great idea. Problem is, seasonal fruit seems different for Iuzzini than it is for me: Here in Northern California, apricots and cherries are gone by the end of June. They're springtime fruits. But the summertime recipes in this book are chock-full of recipes calling for apricots and cherries. Well, I can certainly adapt my mental calendar to make those recipes at the appropriate time of year, so that's not a huge problem.

Problem #2 is the list of sources that Iuzzini gives: Many of them are only available for wholesale buyers. I'm not going to spend a hundred dollars on powdered beets, so the inclusion of (for example) Terra Spice on that list is worthless to me. Same with about thirty percent of the other listed sources. If this book didn't claim to be written "with the home cook in mind" that wouldn't be such an issue, but with that claim in place, it strikes me as a bit clueless.

Problem #3, the biggest problem I have with the book, is that many of the recipes don't sound very good. I don't think cumin belongs in a dessert, even if it's in a pear sorbet. Basil is borderline, but mustard is probably a bad idea. Agar is used extensively in the recipes and is one of those trendy ingredients (being vegan where gelatin is not), but in real life it almost always has textural issues, even when prepared by professional pastry chefs.

I'm in the habit of making something I call a "drifting toward dessert" course, a course which spans the gap between sweet and savory applications and is served between the main course and dessert. Many of the dishes in this book seem to fit much better into that category than they fit as a dessert. Consider the recipe for honey-roasted tomatoes with blackberries, almond streusel, and two sorbets: The reason we don't see tomato desserts is that tomatoes have high levels of glutamate, which makes them pretty much inescapably savory and not favorable in a dessert application. I've tried out tomato desserts on my family and friends, but the verdict is always, "Too weird." (Before someone mentions it, I'm well aware of Alain Passard's signature tomato dessert. I just don't think it's a very GOOD dessert.) But I made honey-roasted tomatoes with baharat, fresh ricotta, and pistachios as a "drifting toward dessert" course for my anniversary dessert in 2008, and it worked well -- but it wasn't dessert.

Edit: I should note further that I'm a bit baffled by the reviews which say the recipes are difficult. I didn't see a single recipe which an experienced home cook couldn't make fairly easily; Iuzzini even gives a detailed explanation of how to blend sodium alginate and water. The only challenging parts I could imagine would be (1) finding enough people to eat an entire Fourplay group (which range from eight to fifteen servings), and (2) plating the components as prettily as the dishes are plated in the book. (Then again, quite a few of them appear to be plated directly onto a matte-white counter -- imagine doing THAT for twelve people sitting around a table at home!)
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on January 27, 2016
The concept of dessert with this book is fantastic. The best way to present dessert to family and friends! I recently used the concept with a 'Rib Coof-Off" at a family gathering and everyone went bonkers over dessert. I explained the Four Dessert concept and they thought it genius; besides getting more than ONE dessert served. I mean who wouldn't appreciate that!

I would recommend if you are not already a "star pastry baker" to invest in Sugar Rush by Johnny Iuzzini first; or get them both at the same time. I am currently walking through Sugar Rush, going through it chapter by chapter and it has been an amazing learning experience. I will probably venture into Dessert FourPlay on occasion, too, once I feel a little more confident in my abilities. I lightly read through it, love the combinations and how they are presented seasonally.

Can't say for sure, but I have a feeling when I am done with these two books, I won't need to buy any other. I feel confident these will give me the experience I will need to create my OWN recipes. ; )
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on June 15, 2016
Recipes are strange, including unusual pairing of ingredients. As a former foods instructor, I cannot recommend this book. In an attempt to be creative, preparing these recipes is more likely to be a waste of time and ingredients.
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VINE VOICEon May 26, 2016
I enjoyed looking at and reading this book and it shows well on the Kindle Fire . The recipes are probably more than a little to elaborate and esoteric for most of us mundane cooks but it is fun to read .
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on August 13, 2013
I have hundreds of cookbooks, but this one, by far, is the best dessert book I ever purchased. It was worth every penny. I've used numerous recipes out of this book with deliciously fantastic results. I've also learned how to perfect my ice cream making skills by reading this cookbook. If you want to hone your dessert making skills-this is the book for you!
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on February 15, 2009
I was so excited to purchase this book, that I preordered it on Amazon in November after seeing it in a catalog at my work. The pictures are amazing and ideas are wonderful. I gave this book the rating of only 3 stars because of the taste of the 5 recipies I have tried. I have only tried 5, but this is more than I usually would give a chance for other books. For instance, I was excited to have a graham sable and made the recipe. You have to use this straight from the freezer. I am a dough taster and the dough tastes amazing and exactly what I was looking for. When I baked it, I tasted the dough. It was chewy and tasted nothing like the raw product. I threw it out. Most notably, I tried the warm, crispy doughnuts. I actually had all the chemicals at work, so we played with it there. It worked and was weird like I expected, but tasted horrible. I was hoping for once that a chef published his restaurant recipes and they were as amazing tasting as the pictures, but no.
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