I like books a lot. All types of books. I really, really like reference books. The comfort of all those facts, and answers so close at hand. But I love, love, love cookbooks. I’m a cookbook collector. I have so many that my other half thinks I have a problem and need to enter a 12-step program. Single topic cookbooks are at the top of the list for me. (I just bought ‘Salted’ by Mark Bitterman, 312 pages on nothing but salt!) I like having cookbooks on my bookshelves that I can refer to, that I can pull from a shelf when I’m looking for information or a recipe. When I received Bon Appetit Desserts for review it made sense. A whole book, a huge book actually (680 pages), devoted solely to desserts. Every dessert you’ve ever heard of, every dessert you could ever want or need to make. All in one book. My kind of book.
Desserts and sweets as part of the eating process. The 600 recipes in the book are culled from Bon Appétit’s extensive archives; never-before-published recipes are also included. Well-known cooks, bakers, and pastry chefs (like Dorie Greenspan, Sherry Yard, and Susan Feniger), and Bon Appétit staff and writers also contributed to the book. If that’s not enough the book also has the Bon Appétit pedigree.
It’s truly a reference-cookbook – the first three chapters are ‘The Desserts Pantry’; ‘Equipment: The Basics’; ‘Techniques: The Basics,’ at the back of the book are ‘Online & Mail-Order Sources,’ and ‘Metric Conversions & Equivalents.’ Everything needed to make desserts with skill and aplomb. The rest of the book is all about the recipes. It has, in addition to the standard and expected American-style desserts, many of the classics: fools, crepes, Linzertortes, napoleons, cannolis, crème brûlées, éclairs, panna cottas, tiramisùs, pavolovas and more. I was thrilled to see a recipe for bûche de Noël!
Short and to-the-point head notes are followed by well-organized recipes. A whisk rating system showing the level of difficulty (1 to 4 whisks) is included with each recipe. An easy reference ‘Index of Whisk Ratings’ at the back of the book allows for quick decisions on which recipe to try. Food photographer, Con Poulo’s fifty gorgeous photos are sprinkled unobtrusively throughout. Recipe testing on a book of this size could take months but of the recipes I was able to try all worked beautifully.
Charles G. Thompson is a Los Angeles-based freelance food writer, whose reviews and stories can be found at his blog 100 Miles, an exploration of local sustainibility.
by Chef Mark Shoup