Top positive review
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Excellent Restaurant Cookbook / Memoir Buy it Now.
on November 7, 2007
`Desserts by the Yard' is by Sherry Yard, possibly the most prominent pastry chef in the United States today, as the Executive Pastry Chef to all of Wolfgang Puck's many restaurants, a winner of the best pastry chef award from the James Beard Foundation, and the author of the James Beard Award winning first book, `The Secrets of Baking'. When I reviewed her first book, I considered it one of the finest books on baking technique I have read. Since that time, I've seen several others which may be as good and even one from another restaurant pastry chef, Kate Zuckerman's `The Sweet Life'. But it is still a major achievement for someone responsible for so many restaurant responsibilities.
This book is much different. It is also much different from almost any other book of restaurant dessert recipes I've seen. The heart of the difference is that it reflects Ms. Yard's own career, beginning with her early experiences growing up in Brooklyn through her Academy Award banquet and `Iron Chef' appearances. In following this course, Ms. Yard has succeeded again in giving us one of the best restaurant baking books I have seen to date.
I am fully aware that this book's strong appeal for me lies in the large number of recipes which fit my particular interest and ethnic background (Austro-Hungarian). Strongly influenced by Herr Puck, with whom Sherry has been working for over twelve (12) years, her Spago era recipes contain many famous Austrian influenced desserts. What is so remarkable about the Puck - Yard collaboration is that Mademoiselle Sherry often disagrees vigorously with her boss, and usually wins. For his part, Puck is more than happy to go along with his pastry wonder woman, as the strong respect seems totally mutual.
My favorite aspects of the book, aside from the delightful snippets of memoir are:
Linzer Torte recipe. Even Wolfgang wasn't interested in this Austrian classic, until Yard produced a supremely moist version.
Strudel recipe. This is by far the most complicated recipe in the book, as making strudel dough is as much an athletic as a culinary exercise. It is similar to, but not the same as the Greek phyllo dough.
Dobos torte recipe. Another Austrian classic, taking about as much work as the strudel, but as totally impressive as a bouche de Noel or a baked Alaska.
Bill Clinton's Oatmeal cookies - The president could not eat chocolate, so Sherry wheeled out these delicious cookies. This is the first time I've seen it mentioned that the trick with oatmeal cookies is that you must work fast, or the oatmeal will absorb all the moisture and leave you with dry cookies.
Charlotte Russe - The dessert on the cover, for which Ms. Yard provides the recipe for the ladyfingers, and over which she and Wolfgang had a major row!
No Bake Cheesecakes - One of many relatively simple recipes. If Sherry Yard can make no-bake cheesecake, who am I to turn my nose up at it!
The English Interlude recipes, including Crumpets, Scones, Devonshire cream, Lemon Tea Biscuits, trifle, treacle tart, and peach melba. All are simple are delightful.
The large number of recipes which use fresh fruit, but which are not traditional pies. The version of Tarte Tatin is especially fascinating, in that it uses puff pastry and no pan! The most interesting of these was the rhubarb, apple, and fennel crumble recipe. Who would have thought of combining rhubarb and fennel!
The recipe for Lime-scented Floating Islands from her appearance as an assistant to Wolfgang on the `Iron Chef America Master Series' show. Unfortunately, she does not give us her technique for spinning sugar by hand, which made a big impression when we saw her do in on the show. This is the first time I've seen an `Iron Chef America' recipe in print anywhere.
The excellent tips and tricks given along the way and the concise section on basic techniques at the back of the book. The most novel and interesting suggestion was Sherry's statement that she prefers baking cake layers in half sheet pans rather than the traditional round pans. The second most interesting suggestion was the fact that cake crumbs are one of the most useful utility ingredients to have around, and Sherry gives several recipes which use them. The third most interesting suggestion was that a streusel topping should be made separately from the fruit filling, and heated on top of the fruit at the last minute.
The sure sign that this is book has something to offer is the fact that I read it from cover to cover in one sitting, and hardly noticed the time going by. If you are on the lookout for exceptional desserts, described by one of the craft's leading practitioners, this IS the book for you.