Baking is one of the most difficult forms of cookery, at least in my opinion.
It’s more a branch of science than a culinary endeavour, one that needs precision and technique, both of which are some way beyond me.
I’m also not an habitual eater of dessert. I like the odd cake every now and again, and I’ve been known to make some very nice ice cream indeed, but dessert is something that I don’t normally pay a lot of attention to.
Ready for Dessert, David Lebovitz’s new book was something of a challenge.
It started on the cover for me…that cake photo on the front is probably one of the last things I’d ever dream of cooking, so I wasn’t that keen on exploring further.
But….but!…Lebovitz’s last book, a Titanic volume on ice cream was a complete triumph, and everything I made from it turned out fantastically well, so maybe…maybe…
There’s a certain style to Lebovitz’s writing, a friendliness and enthusiasm that’s quite compelling and entertaining. It makes Lebovitz’s recipes engaging and tempting. There are Big Recipes here, but none feel out of reach because of the clear and easy to follow directions and advice about ingredients, equipment and technique.
Ready for Dessert is split into five main sections – pies, tarts and fruit desserts, custards, souffles and puddings, frozen desserts, cookies and sweets and basic sauces and preserves. It’s a logical structure that covers a lot of ground.
An awful lot of ground.
There’s a huge breadth of recipes here, ranging from simple biscuits through to daunting but undeniably impressive cakes, with a quick swing through a selection of Liebovitz’s trademark ice creams and sorbets.
Of course, there’s the obligatory chocolate brownie recipe, as if it could possibly be missing from a book of this type, but it’s balanced with plenty of other more demanding and adventurous recipes such as a pistachio – cardamom cake, heavy with Indian influence and some sesame – orange almond tuiles that seem to need a real knack in, firstly, getting the consistency right and, secondly, shaping them properly at just the right moment and at just the right angle over a rolling-pin.
It’s a great collection of recipes, presented well with some fantastic photography. Lebovitz is a captivating food writer who has the ability to encourage, enthuse and inspire.
One problem, though…there are two cupcake recipes – the ultimate expression of style over substance – although, admittedly, one of them is redeemed a little because it’s got Guinness in it….