Starred Review. An elegantly-composed collection of classics and contemporary riffs, former Chez Panisse pastry chef David Lebovitz's (The Perfect Scoop) latest effort hits the sweet spot. Artfully balancing accessible recipes for novices (the simple four-ingredient Chocolate Orbit Cake, the three-ingredient Peaches in Red Wine and Pistachio, Almond and Dried Cherry Bark) with ambitious-but -worth-it desserts like Banana Cake with Mocha Frosting and Salted Candied Peanuts and White Nectarine Sorbet with Blackberries in Five-Spice Cookie Cups, Lebovitz truly has something for everyone. Can't-miss combinations like Guinness-Gingerbread Cupcakes, Cherry-Almond Cobbler, and Orange-Almond Bread Pudding are sure to inspire a trip to the market, and riffs on classics like a French apple galette (updated here with frangipane, a rich almond pastry cream) and a lush Fresh Ginger Cake will appeal to bakers whose bookshelves are already groaning with cookbooks. The inclusion of Coconut Layer Cake, Vanilla Ice Cream, Meyer Lemon Sorbet, Chocolate Chocolate-Chip Cookies, and Gingersnaps (including a fat-free variety) shows that Lebovitz also knows when not to mess with a good thing. Given its breadth, depth, and accessibility, readers with a passion for baking will be hard pressed to find a better guide to desserts this year. Photos.
American pastry chef living the sweet life in Paris! Author of several cookbooks, including The Perfect Scoop, the complete guide to making the best ice cream and frozen desserts at home, The Great Book of Chocolate, a guide - with recipes - for everything about everyone's favorite ingredient, and Ready for Dessert, a compilation of baking favorites, from an extra-moist Fresh Ginger Cake, to crunchy Double-Chocolate Biscotti.
The book begins with an overview of ingredients, all of which either I already have or can easily obtain in any local supermarket with the sole exception of agave nectar. Next is an overview of equipment which is again likely to be found in the kitchen of an average family. The only item I don't have is a food mill (and I live in a one bedroom apartment that does not have a lot of storage space for little-used cake pans or other extraneous items). You may notice the recipes for financiers but the recipe has been adapted for standard muffin tins so don't worry if you (like me) don't have financier molds.
I am a compulsive baker with an embarrassingly large collection of dessert/baking cookbooks. For another book to make it onto the crowded shelves it has to stand out with unique recipes and techniques. While there are many excellent recipes in this collection that I am thrilled to have is there anyone out there who is thinking; if only I had another recipe for Mexican Wedding Cookies?
They are stingy with the photographs and it is very disappointing that of the pictures included none are of some of the more elaborate desserts where you would like to see what the final product looks like. Instead there are pictures of chocolate chip cookies, pots de creme, gingersnaps, flan, bread pudding, sorbet and frozen yogurt. That is just plain annoying. I would gladly pay more for a book that is well photographed.
I have a great deal of respect for David Lebovitz and was excited to be one of the first to get a look at his new title. There are some books I can say unequivocally, buy it you will love it. This one I would recommend looking through it first to see if it is something you would enjoy.
*Update: Obviously my comments on the book struck a chord among the obsessive bakers/ cookbook collectors out there. It has been bothering me though that other than my comment on the amount of recipes included that I dismissed as too common most were really complaints the publisher was responsible for. I want to update this review with a response to a question on the quality of the recipes in the discussion section for those who don't usually check in on those...
All recipes I have tried from this book do work, and they are clearly written. Many of the recipes are adaptations of classics with David's spin.Read more ›
What most struck me about this work is that, even though these dishes have supposedly come into the author's head over the past thirty years (he says), each of these recipes are clearly right up-to-date and of the 21st Century, quite typical of California chefing. I review and give away lots of cooking and baking books, but I'll be hoarding this little treasure for myself. Every day I cook meals from scratch and I'm very much impressed with this dessert recipe collection.
Author David Lebovitz is a pastry chef who garnered much of his guidance from the Chez Panisse Cafe, (a highly-renowned Berkeley, California venue), an eatery from which many other terrific cookbooks have emanated. Here's my favorite of them all, authored by the restaurant's founder: Chez Panisse Vegetables. In any case, Lebovitz has assembled 172 dessert recipes here, most of which feature mercifully brief ingredient lists. These are recipes which can pretty much all be easily managed by home cooks of moderate experience.
Here is a breakdown of the recipes:
-- Cakes (29 recipes) -- Pies, Tarts, and Fruit Desserts (29 recipes) -- Custards, Soufflés, and Puddings (16 recipes) -- Frozen Desserts (32 recipes) -- Cookies and Candies (30 recipes) -- Basic Sauces and Preserves (36 recipes)
The recipes themselves are rendered one or two to a page and since the book format is large (8 1/2" x 11" x 3/4") it's quite easy to follow the instructions as you cook or bake. In fact, I cannot actually recall having seen a nicer recipe layout. I'm reviewing an advance proof edition so the photos in my copy are in black-and-white.Read more ›