The delectable treats turned out by Richard Leach--executive pastry chef of the Park Avenue Café and a James Beard Foundation Pastry Chef of the Year--are inspired, distinctive, and daring. In Sweet Seasons
, he aims to bring his masterful recipes to home kitchens everywhere.
Known for his striking presentations, Leach states in the book's introduction that he would never be able to make his phenomenal desserts without the help of his staff, yet here he claims to make it possible for home cooks to re-create these masterpieces in their own kitchens. Truth be told, one would be hard pressed to find many home cooks who have the time, the patience, or the chutzpah to attempt dishes like Leach's Citrus Panna Cotta with Warm Poppyseed Cake and Citrus Sorbet. The dish, in its entirety, includes: Poppyseed Cake, Lemon Curd, Citrus Panna Cotta, Sour Lemon Meringues, Citrus Sorbet, Honey Tuiles, Orange Sections, Grapefruit Sections, Citrus Sauce, Cotton Candy, and Sugar Garnish, all of which are prepared from scratch. The good news is that many of the desserts are quite lovely--not to mention impressive--with most of the garnishes left off. For instance, in the above example, the Citrus Panna Cotta--delicately flavored with chamomile tea and lemongrass--is lovely served with a simple garnish of fresh fruit and a drizzle of the warm citrus sauce. If you're in the mood for extra flourish, you could add either the Honey Tuiles or the Sour Lemon Meringues for a little crunch.
A chapter on "Basic Recipes" offers sauces and syrups, cookies, and other garnishes that are delicious enough to turn any cake, pastry, or scoop of ice cream into a dessert worthy of serving to even the most honored guests. Mix and match these with Leach's sophisticated cakes, tarts, ice creams, and fritters, and you'll be sure to impress your guests. Boyd Hagen's lovely photographs are both inspiring and appetizing. If they move you to attempt Leach's presentations in full, more power to you. --Robin Donovan
From Publishers Weekly
Leach, executive pastry chef at the Park Avenue Cafe, creates architecturally heady and refined desserts. Organized by season, each recipe in this treasure trove actually contains several sub-recipes: Roasted Pecan Napoleon with Chilled Pecan Terrine is a two-for-one deal, for example, and Caramelized Banana and Milk Chocolate Custard with Banana-Praline Terrine and Banana Fritters has three recipes that can be used separately. Each recipe contains assembly directions that include suggestions for piping sauces and placing garnishes. Unusual ingredients (such as jicama in Frozen Banana Timbale with Jicama, Lime, and Mint and chamomile in Warm Blueberries in a Strudel Shell with Chamomile Sauce) elevate dessert, so it is just as important as the entre. Professional techniques and equipment are called for here, but home patissiers who are not afraid to experiment may be inspired by the meticulously thoughtful combinations such as Roasted Pineapple Tart with Basil Ice Cream or Fresh Figs with Crisp Corn Pudding and Frozen Fig Torte. There is no guidance on ingredients where to find tamarind paste, for example, so novices beware: much assembly required. However, the dessert titles alone could stand as poetry, with the added plus that results are delicate and innovative.
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