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Sweet Seasons: Fabulous Restaurant Desserts Made Simple Hardcover – October 2, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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 entr‚e. 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.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (September 18, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 047138738X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471387381
  • Product Dimensions: 10.5 x 0.8 x 10.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #691,445 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By P. Eifel on May 27, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This sumptuous book succeeds for me on several levels. The artistry of the creations and beautiful photography are worth enjoying on their own merit. However, the greatest pleasure certainly comes from actually experiencing the creation, presentation, and deconstruction of these wonderful recipes. I disagree entirely with the remarks of some earlier reviewers who may be confusing 'complex' with 'time consuming.' I am an amateur cook but had little difficulty reproducing one of the more involved recipes using the author's directions. It did require 5 or 6 hours to prepare the 10 parts needed for the final construction, but the descriptions of the individual elements were so clear that they were indeed simple to make. Nearly all of them could be prepared one or two days ahead (the author clearly specifies which parts should be made at the last minute -- very few). The final constructions are well described and illustrated and the process seemed as entertaining to my guests as the eating. These desserts do take time -- but the final result is definitely worth it; and though the visual effect and interplay of different textures, flavors, and temperatures make it most rewarding to make the whole dessert, portions of each hold up well on their own. Last night, I impressed guests with the "Cherry and spice custard with warm financier" but the custard alone would have made an excellent dessert that would have taken less than an hour to prepare.
I also found the process of making one of these desserts to be a cooking lesson in itself. By the time I finished one, I realized I had made spun sugar, a frozen souffle, perfect honey tuiles (with homemade stencils) a sabayon sauce, creme brule -- all for the first time.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Rachael B. on November 16, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My husband purchased this book as a gift for me. I was totally suprised. He said all of my other dessert books were very much the same. This book is not the same. It is wonderful. I have made 5 of the desserts. Roasted Pineapple Tart with Basil Ice Cream is to die for. With the building block this book gives, it is a new dessert world opening up. It is not for the novice baker. But, you don't need to be a pastry chef either. It is time consuming. But, it is so interesting and tasty it doesn't matter. I work so I make the desserts on the weekend. This book will inspire you.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Scott Raisch on November 28, 2002
Format: Hardcover
A truly awesome book, with beautiful photography, inspiring recipes and easy to understand and reproduce recipes. However, I will say this clearly, this book was not intended for the 'Sunday Afternoon Easy-Bake-Oven Gourmet.' Many of the recipes in this book are the kind you'd expect to spend twenty dollars or more for at a fine-dining restaurant! I believe the author intended this book for the enormous army of professional chefs and pastry chefs that are out there these days, and not solely for the home cook.
However, do not let this disuade you from trying this book! Many of the recipes in here oculd be simplified by removing a few non-essential components to a dish, while some of them could be made partially in advance and then completed at the last moment before serving!
Bon Appetit!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By BooksFoodFilmTV on November 18, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I got this book because I was planning a dinner party, and I really wanted to impress my guests. I'd highly recommend the book to those who want to take their dessert repertoire beyond the "ordinary" cookbook fare and into top, restaurant-quality excitement.
While there's no getting around the sophistication of the recipes (the author is an award-winning pastry chef, praised by Alfred Portale, Tony Bourdain, Ruth Reichl, etc.), the fact that the author breaks the recipes into "components" makes them less daunting than than when you see the completed (beautiful!) results. The pastry chef's tips and tricks for presentation, make a WOW impression.
The beautiful pictures illustrate the recipes and key steps, and the many recipes and variations allow you to "mix and match" the cakes, souffles, sauces, cookies, ice creams, petit fours, and garnishes. The recipes are broken down by season, as well, so you can choose the recipe to go with the rest of your menu and be sure that you're using the ingredients at the peak of their quality and availability.
The book is full-color and beautiful, as well as great to use and follow.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By M. B. likes baking on June 5, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This book is a joke if you are interested in baking --even sophisticated bakers and pastry/cake decorators such as myself would be hard-pressed to find the ingredients (pistachio paste?) or the time to attempt any of these. Also it should be noted that while the concentration of this book is on presentation, NOT ALL OF THE RECIPES INCLUDE PHOTOS. So much for re-creating the recipe in your home kitchen. It is very entertaining, however, if you want to sit and page through it, at the library, as each page is more spectacular -- and astounding -- than the prior.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By pastrymn on April 14, 2005
Format: Hardcover
BEAUTIFUL presentations of Amazing desserts! I am a pastry chef for a resturant and I use this book ALL the time to start the new ideas flowing. This book may be useless for the home baker, I usually simplify Leach's ideas when making one of the desserts because of time restraints. All desserts have MULTIPLE aspects/items and steps.... I wish I could find more books like this one!!! (I heard about the book from a CIA chef, best advice he ever gave me....)
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