Automotive Holiday Deals Books Gift Guide Books Gift Guide Shop Men's Athletic Shoes Learn more nav_sap_SWP_6M_fly_beacon Prime Music Sweepstakes egg_2015 All-New Amazon Fire TV Luxury Beauty Gifts for Her Amazon Gift Card Offer cm15 cm15 cm15 $30 Off Amazon Echo $30 Off Fire HD 6 Kindle Cyber Monday Deals Indie for the Holidays in Prime Music Outdoor Deals on HTL

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars16
Format: HardcoverChange
Price:$26.17+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item

There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

62 of 68 people found the following review helpful
`The Sweet Life' by Chanterelle (top New York City restaurant) pastry chef, Kate Zuckerman brilliantly succeeds in a very difficult cookbook category. A high end restaurant dessert cookbook, on the surface, would seem to have a very small audience, since the audience for making fancy desserts at home is surely even smaller than the audience for making fancy entrees, especially since it may be actually easier to buy high quality patisserie goods from a bakery than it is to buy haute cuisine take-out.

But, our Kate has written an excellently diverse book of both highly detailed recipes for fancy desserts and lucid explanations of the whys and hows and wherefores of some pretty arcane baking and dessert techniques. What is even better, the geek material is presented in such an appealing manner that even the amateur who just happens to want to make a custard or a caramel or a mousse will gain from reading Ms. Zuckerman's sidebars on technique and background.

Offsetting the rare interest in fancy pastry is the fact that pastry technique explanations seem to need the authoritative professional voice even more than fancy savory cooking. While I may have little interest in learning from Nobu how to acquire the knife skills I need to make sushi, I and thousands of others have a more than middling interest in how to make good homemade ice cream. And, as luck should have it, Ms. Zuckerman covers some of the really dramatic facts behind cheap versus expensive ice cream makers. I won't steal her thunder, but I will say that she names and explains how a small, inexpensive ice cream maker actually did a better job than big, expensive models. Staying with ice cream just a bit longer, she explains how ice cream is such a versatile base for so many different flavors, as if the demonstrations on `Iron Chef America' of everything from trout to avocado were not enough.

Ms. Zuckerman starts off at just the right point if her intention was to impress me personally, as she begins with tarts, especially tarts with citrus curd fillings. One of my favorite desserts is a Chez Panisse recipe for a lemon curd and blueberry tart, except that Alice Waters and company don't give a lot of details on the finer points of curds. Frau Zuckerman does all this and more, especially in both explaining how curds work and how to practically test whether or not their cooking is done. The very best thing I can say about Zuckerman's treatment of her subjects is that it is as good and Sherry Yard's discussions of the same subjects in her `The Secrets of Baking'. Yard's book may be just a tad better for the average baker in that it covers so many basic recipes, but Zuckerman is easier to read and easier to see how the nerdy content applies to practical techniques. If you are a serious baker, you really should have both books, in addition to a book on basics such as `Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook' and an advanced book on bread baking, such as `Artisan Baking' by Maggie Glezer.

In spite of all these great notes on technique and understanding, this is still a book about desserts at a high end Manhattan restaurant. Therefore, in these recipes you will find a lot of relatively expensive ingredients and some fairly arcane baking tools. Mdme. Zuckerman is especially fond of European butter (higher butter fat content), Meyer lemons, and high cocoa solid content chocolate. In spite of her name, one gets the impression that Miss Z. is half Italian (or Austrian, would be more logical), as her favorite flavoring ingredient is hazelnut. She seems to put the stuff in just about everything you can imagine, in just about every form imaginable. So, if you happen to be a Nutella junkie, this book is definitely for you. But then, just when you are awed by a fancy Viennese style dessert, Frau Zuckerman comes up with the very American Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp and roasted glazed peaches.

One of my fondest discoveries in this book is Ms. Zuckerman's discussion of the leavening power of steam and of the multiplex aspects of baking powder and baking soda in recipes. The three commonly used leavening techniques are yeast, acid and base chemical combinations, and egg white foams. The most obvious example of steam, as so aptly demonstrated by Alton Brown on `Good Eats' is pate a choux, but steam even helps to leaven bread where one imagines the heavy lifting (leavening) is being done by yeast. It also turns out that a little extra chemical leavener enhances baked goods by adding just a bit more salt to the party, further enlivening the taste of the dessert.

Ms. Zuckerman does not discourse much on baking equipment, but when she does, it's usually something out of the ordinary, and definitely deeper and more insightful than you may find on the average page of `Cooks Illustrated'. On black steel (not iron) baking equipment, she points out all the advantages of this very traditional French equipment, and why it works as well as it does.

Ms. Zuckerman is just a bit apologetic about the length of her recipes, but I find I love and respect each and every word. I happened to carefully read a recipe for stuffed roasted fall apples, which was even simpler than my dear Pennsylvania Dutch apple dumplings, except that her paragraph for prepping the apples is longer than the whole recipe in most of the Pennsylvania Dutch cookbooks. But, if you've ever tried to core an apple to be stuffed with stuff, then bake it so that it is neither hard nor mushy, then you start to appreciate Ms. Zuckerman's detailed instructions.

This is an excellent and very serious book for very serious bakers of great desserts. It will improve your baking of recipes in this book and of every other patisserie tome you may own.
22 commentsWas this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on November 2, 2006
I absolutely love this cookbook. In one weekend I tried five recipes, and all of them were fantastic! This is not just a compilation of tasty recipes - you can actually learn some tricks of the trade. Kate teaches you why you can achieve so much more depth of flavor by something as simple as browning butter. I have been so tired of recent desserts - please no more rustic fruit tarts and not another molten chocolate cake. This cookbook is filled with new and unique, easy and delicious desserts. I can tell you from experience that the hazelnut shortbread cookies, chocolate caramel pot de creme, and almond apricot tart are all outstanding!
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
34 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on November 15, 2006
Getting a cookbook in the mail is like receiving a gift. It is not just a book but an object to display on a coffee table or kitchen counter. It is a gift that gives you a desire to eat, call for a reservation at a fine restaurant or simply stroll the grocery aisles for something delicious. The Sweet Life by Kate Zuckerman is just that gift.

The contents page is easy to navigate. The mouthwatering pictures make you want to throw your apron on and get cooking. I was hesitant because I am not Martha Stewart--a food lover for sure, but not a true cook. I was scared I couldn't recreate any of the recipes to look like the pictures I was drooling over.

I thought I would try the Chocolate Bete Noir. "Dense and creamy, yet light and elegant, this flourless chocolate cake is remarkably versatile; it serves as the basis of many of my plated chocolate desserts at Chanterelle." I thought how hard could this be. The first step after heating the oven, which I am quite capable of, reads: "Using a paring knife, cut down the center of the vanilla bean and scrape out the tiny black seed into a heavy-bottomed saucepan."

Next!! Chocolate chip cookies are more my speed. The recipe for Crispy, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies was easy to follow and they turned out fabulous. I will say "two inches apart on the prepared cookie sheet" means two inches apart. Anything less and you have one big cookie.

What I loved about this book was it is educational as well as beautiful. The history of chocolate on page 31 I found very interesting. The Beyond the Basics area with subjects such as "Chocolate and water," and "Cooking caramel successfully" can be a lesson in science as well as cooking. The Technique Tip section of this cookbook is what separates the good cook from the talented chef.

The Sweet Life is a sweet gift for your friend or family member who always impresses you with their skills in the kitchen. Me, I will just make a reservation at Chanterelle and see what I am missing.

Armchair Interviews says: Yummy!
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on October 2, 2010
I have had this book for a couple of months, but have not had a chance to do any cooking out of it until recently. On my initial read through I was excited to get started. Well, I finally had the chance this weekend.
What I've made:
*Chocolate Bete Noire:
Good flavour, but I had real issues getting these cakes out of the tin - I decided to cook them in a muffin tin (listed as an alternative to making the single cake). It was unclear whether to take them out of the tin after removing from the oven, and due to the texture of the cakes - they were obviously going to fall apart if I tried to get them out immediately - I decided to cool in the tin - I probably lost 1/2 of them on removal - tops came away leaving the bases behind. I have plans to use this crumb mix to make an icecream cake, or I may rebake and use as a crumble topping. As I mentioned, great flavour, just not quite what I wanted.
*Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookies:
Great, no issues. Loved them.
*Walnut, Currant and Cinnamon Rugelach:
The cream cheese dough was extremely hard to handle, even after sitting in the refrigerator overnight. There was no way I could roll this out on a floured surface. I had to roll between 2 layers of greaseproof paper and refrigerate several times during this process to get it to size. Happy with the filling, but overall the biscuits were not that great a result for the effort expended & I won't make them again.
*Crispy Malted Bitter Chocolate Meringues:
I was very excited to try these, I really wanted a malteser-flavoured meringue. Possibly the problem could be with one ingredient that may have been lost in translation (I'm in Australia) - the barley malt syrup. I used barley malt extract which though in syrup form, may be heavier than what was used in the original recipe. Long story short, the meringues did not harden, they spread a bit and crisped (slightly) on the outside, but were very gooey on the inside. Additional oven time did not improve matters. Again, great taste, everyone loved the flavour, but they continued to "melt" throughout the day and ended up in the bin. Next time I plan to try my usual meringue recipe with some malt powder added to the meringue mix. Hopefully this will work out.

Summary: again, good flavours, but unreliable results for effort expended. I will use this book as an idea reference and may try some of the desserts and icecreams at a later date, but will probably source alternative recipes for similar results.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on February 17, 2009
This book exemplifies the art of the pastry chef. The dishes are more complicated that the average cook book produced for the masses but the results are fantastic if you read and understand what is going on.

My favourite so far is the fresh apricot and almond tart pg 26. The flavour of the brown butter and almond custard is stunning and could form the basis for many other recipes.

I recommend this book as a wonderful addition to any cooks library.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on August 25, 2007
We've been using this book since we attended Kate's demo at the New York Chocolate Show. The recipes work perfectly and the scientific explanations are fun. I've made everything that my wife will let a man with high cholesterol cook. I would particularly recommend the various sorbets with fruit and herbs, but it all works! Thank you Kate!
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 1, 2008
I love cookbooks, and my husband and I have tons of them that we mainly read and then occasionally consult for a particular recipe, but there are few that we really use. This will be one of them. It is not only a great and informative book to read, but it has a large collection of recipes that are easy to make even though the author cooks at Chanterelle -- a haute cuisine restaurant if there ever was one. I made the sour cream spiced apple cake this morning to bring to a New Year's Day lunch, and it came out perfectly with nary a hitch. This is one of the best dessert books that I have ever used. I am thrilled to add it to my collection and it will live in the kitchen, not on the bookshelf!
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon March 15, 2009
This is a lovely cookbook. I cooked the date cake with toffee for one of my daughter's birthdays and am now happily munching on chocolate chip cookies. There are many other recipes in this book that I must try soon, including the beautiful pears from the cover.

The recipes are clear and easy to follow, and the book includes helpful sections on the basics, such as creaming butter, and so forth, so you are not left with the "now cook the caramel until it is right" type of instructions.

I'm looking forward to cooking more. My only wish is that there were more illustrations.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 12, 2008
I fell in love with this cookbook after seeing Kate at the chocolate show in NYC. Her demo was wonderful and fun. So after meeting her I went and bought the book later as she was signing them. I have so far made 3 things from it. The way she wrote it makes it so easy to create such beautiful pastry dishes. The tips and tech terms she breaks them down and makes them so easy to understand. Just the way the book is laid out makes it so easy to understand and follow along so all of us can enjoy the ease of these great fun filled dishes. If you love to cook and love cook books. This is a must have, trust me. Kate has skill that many of us only can dream of having. Buy this today, you will be thanking yourself and Kate.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 21, 2012
So far I've made two items from the cookbook - a Apricot Almond tart and Plum ice cream. In both I substituted peaches because they are in season and fresh picked here. For the ice cream I added lavender (steeped for 30 minutes in the warm milk) too. The recipes are awesome - not overly simple, but not hard to follow and the flavors are great. There is also a good deal of food science, which is useful in understanding the behind the scenes working of certain techniques. These desserts are very refined, as you would expect, but the effort is worth it for some truly stunning flavor experiences. There are a good number of pictures and she also includes technique tips that are more broadly applicable. Highly recommended!
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
Customers who viewed this also viewed
Tartine by Chad Robertson (Hardcover - August 24, 2006)

The Baking Bible
The Baking Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum (Hardcover - October 28, 2014)

Baking: From My Home to Yours
Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan (Hardcover - September 25, 2006)

Send us feedback

How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you?
Let us know here.