"First and foremost, everything I make has to taste absolutely delicious," says Claudia Fleming in her introduction to The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern
. Words to live by, especially when you're the pastry chef at one of New York City's most popular restaurants. Fleming cleverly describes and explains her creations in intelligent introductions to every recipe. She easily justifies her unusual flavor combinations, such as Roasted Apricots with Chamomile and Lavender-Lemon Pound Cake, and carefully walks us through important steps like gently cooking the strawberries and rose wine for her Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Strawberry Rosé Gelée.
Recipes are divided by their star ingredient, and read like a farmers' market shopping list: apples, pears, and quinces; figs, melons, and grapes; herbs and flowers; cheese, milk, and cream. "Composed Desserts" make up the last chapter, and each is paired with a dessert wine. While every one of Fleming's recipes produces a delectable dessert on its own, the combinations she proposes in this chapter are truly memorable. A lighthearted composition like Waffles with Maple-Glazed Bananas and Maple Flan brings a favorite breakfast treat into the dining room for dessert. It's creamy and sweet, crispy and warm, cold and tangy--all at the same time. A number of Fleming's signature desserts are here, too: Coconut Tapioca with Coconut Sorbet, Passion Fruit-Pineapple Sorbet, Passion Fruit Caramel, and Cilantro Syrup (a Gramercy favorite). There are also plenty of recipes for the cookie jar, including the wonderfully soft and chewy Chocolate Brownie Cookies, elegant enough to serve with coffee for dessert. Treats like Milk Chocolate Malted Ice Cream, Mascarpone Cream Cannoli, and Lime-Gingersnap Parfait will have you singing Fleming's praises as loudly as her fans do at Gramercy Tavern. --Leora Y. Bloom
From Publishers Weekly
Claudia Fleming pastry chef at New York's swank Gramercy Tavern is a dessert visionary who has earned a James Beard Award for Best Pastry Chef and two Best Dessert Awards from Pastry Art and Design. Some of her restaurant recipes will be a challenge even for the most practiced home bakers, but they are well worth the effort. The book includes 175 recipes, organized by main ingredients. There are chapters on fruits (recipes include Blueberry-Cornmeal Cakes and Tamarind-Glazed Mango Napoleons), vegetables (Truffled Rice Pudding, Chilled Rhubarb Soup) and sweet essences (Earl Grey Ice Cream), as well as the usual suspects like chocolate (Chocolate Espresso Terrine) and dairy products (Goat-Cheese Cheesecake). Fleming also displays a light touch with such unusual herb-inflected desserts as Bay Leaf Flan. The restaurant's wine director, Paul Greico, has contributed thoughtful wine suggestions for each category. Recipes for the individual items are provided separately, but in an appendix Fleming groups them as they appear on the restaurant's menu and explains their assembly process (e.g., Rose Meringues with Summer Berries, Raspberry Sorbet, and Goat Yogurt-Rose Mousse consists of three recipes, but a composition of all three would be a single dessert at Gramercy Tavern). It's easy to see why these recipes whimsical without being silly, daring without ever losing their focus on flavor have won Fleming a reputation as one of today's most talented pastry chefs. 85 color photos. Agent, David Black. (Oct.)Forecast: With a first printing of 30,000 and a seven-city author tour (with demonstrations), this cookbook's commercial prospects are good. Gramercy Tavern's name should help too; since its 1994 opening, it has consistently made Zagat's top five most popular New York restaurants.
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