Authors: David Lebovitz
Copyright © 2010 by David Lebovitz
Photographs copyright © 2010 by Maren Caruso
Certain recipes in this work, some in different form, were originally published in
Room for Dessert
1999) and in
Ripe for Dessert
Ten Speed Press and the Ten Speed Press colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Ready for dessert : my best recipes / David Lebovitz ; photography by Maren Caruso.
Summary: “A compendium of recipes for desserts, including cakes, pies, tarts, fruit desserts, custards, soufflés, puddings, frozen treats, cookies, candies, and accompaniments, from noted pastry chef, cookbook author, and food blogger David Lebovitz — Provided by publisher.
1. Desserts. I. Title.
Each year, hundreds of cookbooks are released,
which means that inevitably, many must go to make room for the new. But I was always surprised, and delighted, to hear from so many people that mine were the ones in their collection that they used the most.
When I began writing cookbooks over a decade ago, someone told me, “If a book has one great recipe in it, then it’s a good book.” So while I considered calling this book
David’s Greatest Hits,
that idea was (wisely) nixed by the powers that be. But, from all the positive feedback my cookbooks have received, I don’t know if that title would’ve been all that far off. Over the years, I’ve heard again and again from enthusiastic home bakers that many of the recipes from my first two books were their all-time favorites.
Room for Dessert
was released in 1999. I hadn’t written a book before, but was thrilled when the
New York Times
singled it out for praise in a very crowded field of cookbooks. It was also lauded by colleagues such as food writer Arthur Schwartz, who complimented the book as “deceptively slim,” meaning it packed an expansive variety of desserts in a very approachable, and not at all daunting, format.
My second book,
Ripe for Dessert,
continued that philosophy with an emphasis on baking with fruit. I’m very keen on incorporating fruits and berries into my desserts and know that many people share my affection for fruit desserts. The book came out in 2003 just as Americans were rediscovering the rewards of using regional ingredients. At the same time, there was a rising national awareness about healthy eating. Although it was certainly not a diet book, fruits played a central role in all of the desserts, rather than just an ornamental one, and the recipes let home bakers put to delicious use the new abundance of fruit available in farmers’ markets and at their local grocers. Shopping baskets overflowed with long-forgotten varieties of heirloom apples, unusual and exotic tropical fruits, deep-red cherries, and soft, tangy raspberries, all of which simply begged to be used during their all-too-brief seasons. I also included recipes starring some of the more elusive fruits—such as quince, figs, and persimmons—which were slowly becoming more familiar as they made their way from upscale farmers’ markets into mainstream grocery stores.
And it wasn’t just home bakers who were using my books. I got a great thrill out of spying a flour-dusted copy of one of my books on a shelf in a restaurant or bakery kitchen. It was tremendously gratifying to know that the recipes met the demanding standards of professionals.
After a long run, both
Room for Dessert
Ripe for Dessert
went out of print. In the meantime, through my website and blog,
, I was able to introduce my recipes to a whole new audience and to those who were disappointed that my books were no longer available. Needless to say, when
I was offered the chance to update the recipes and present them in this all-new edition, I jumped at the opportunity to do so.
Like so many other things, techniques, tastes, and even the availability of ingredients change over time. At first, I thought I’d just revisit a few recipes and make some minor changes. But as I flipped through the pages, invariably I’d land on a recipe and say, “Hmm, I wonder what that would be like if I reduced the sugar, and melted the butter instead of creamed it?” Or, “What about sharing those cookies I made last Christmas that everyone loved?” Off to the kitchen I would go to try out these new ideas.
So just about every recipe has been revised in some way—ingredients were added or swapped out with another or techniques have been changed. Plus, I couldn’t resist including a dozen new recipes, ones that have become favorites of mine, which I hope will become favorites of yours as well.
As a baker, my strongest influence was Lindsey Shere, the founding pastry chef at Chez Panisse, whose ideas prompted some of my favorite desserts in this book, including
Blanco y Negro
Champagne Gelée with Kumquats, Grapefruits, and Blood Oranges
as well as her now-classic recipe for
which she kindly allowed me to share. Some of these recipes were from our repertoire at Chez Panisse, and like many good recipes, they’re the result of a variety of influences, an appreciation for delicious desserts, and years of kitchen experience.
I was fortunate to work with the same people for nearly thirteen years, and I learned almost everything I know from working with them, most notably Mary Jo Thoresen, Lisa Saltzman, Shari Saunders, Diane Wegner, and Linda Zagula. Every day was a collaboration—there was no finer dessert “think tank” than the pastry team at Chez Panisse.
At Chez Panisse, some of the world’s best cooks were welcomed into the kitchen to collaborate with us, including Bruce Cost, Marion Cunningham, Niloufer Ichapouria King, Richard Olney, Jacques Pépin, and Shirley Sarvis, as well as our own chefs, David Tanis, Catherine Brandel, Paul Bertolli, Jean-Pierre Moule, Peggy Smith, Gilbert Pilgram, and, of course, Alice Waters, who wrote the introduction to my original book.
Pastry whiz Nick Malgieri likes to say, “Bake something. You’ll feel better!” And nothing could be truer. People constantly ask me, “Why do you bake?” It took me over a decade (I’m a slow learner) to come to the conclusion that baking is about sharing. The best bakers I know aren’t merely armed with a bunch of recipes, but baking is truly their passion, as it is my passion. We just love to do it, not just for ourselves, but for others—I’ve yet to come across a dessert recipe that makes only one serving. Cakes, pies, and batches of cookies are meant to be shared.
When people tell me “I can’t bake,” I’m truly puzzled because baking is the least fussy of the culinary arts. Sure, you need to measure carefully, but 1 cup of sugar is 1 cup of sugar. Eight tablespoons of butter isn’t really open to interpretation. To me, baking has much of the guesswork taken out of it. (I often think the world would be a safer place if people would drive with the same exactitude and precision that they think is necessary when baking.)
As much as I’d like to be baking right beside you, I can’t be. You’ll often need to make some of your own judgment calls, but there’s no need to panic. The French have a wonderful term,
(“by the nose”), that is used to describe cooking or baking in that fashion. If the cookie recipe says, “Bake for 11 minutes” and
in your oven they look done at the 10-minute mark, take them out. (I’ve never met two ovens that bake the same, no matter how fancy they are.) Your pears may not be as sweet as the ones I call for. Or you might have decided to use one of the newer high-percentage chocolates or European-style butters available these days, both of which can alter textures as well as baking times. So once in a while, don’t be afraid to do a little bit of baking “by the nose.”
Although lots of things have changed over the years, my tastes remain the same. I still crave chocolate cakes that have the “screaming chocolate intensity” that I wrote about ten years ago. I still don’t think that desserts need to be fussy or overly elaborate. And I’m even more convinced nowadays that it’s easier to make something tasty if you start with good ingredients and do as little to them as possible. So if you’re going to take the time to make a dessert, select your ingredients with care. I’m confident that no one ever tasted something delicious and sighed, “Gee, I wish I had used cheaper ingredients.”
So here’s a collection of many of my all-time favorite recipes, the ones I turn to over and over again. It’s not often that one gets a chance to revisit his or her work, update it, and make it even better. Thankfully, I got the chance, and I couldn’t be happier to have the opportunity to share these recipes with you, once again.