I have a lot of cookbooks. A lot. I haven't counted them but it's probably in the triple digits. And of those scores of titles, there are only three dedicated to desserts. One is by Maida Heatter, another is by Lindsey Shere and the final is this one, Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich. Read on for why this book has a special place on my shelf.I don't shun desserts but I don't make them that frequently. My repertoire is small and I am usually quite content to rotate between six or so favorites. But every now and then, I want to stretch my wings and explore new territory so I reach for Pure Dessert which has never failed me. It inspires and tantalizes with its selection, and comforts with its simple and accurate recipes. There is always something I want to try and a few recipes have even made it to that rotation.
Of course, Alice Medrich herself is a well-known and venerable expert on the sweet kitchen. SInce the publication of Cocolat in 1990, she has produced several dessert-themed cookbooks including her most recent Sinfully Easy Desserts which was published in 2012.
• Who wrote it: Alice Medrich
• Who published it: Artisan
• Recipes and projects for right now: This review is being written in winter so Bittersweet Citrus Tart with Jasmine Cream, Chestnut Pound Cake (or Olive Oil and Sherry Pound Cake), Italian Chocolate-Almond Torte, Chilled Oranges in Rum-Caramel Syrup, Pink Grapefruit Granita, Saffron and Cardamom Panna Cotta, Panforte Nero.
• Recommended? Yes! With its wide range of flavors, beautiful photographs, and deceptively simple recipes that produce astonishingly delicious results, this book is both practical as well as inspirational.
• Other highlights: The book is arranged by flavor, which is really a wonderful way to browse for inspiration. Beginning with The Flavor of Milk, the chapters go on to The Flavors of Grain, Nuts, and Seeds; The Flavors of Fruit; The Flavors of Chocolate; The Flavors of Honey and Sugar; The Flavors of Herbs and Spices, Flowers and Leaves; The Flavor of Wine, Beer, and Spirits.
There is a lot of practical information in the front of the book on measuring, mise en place, equipment, how to shop, special ingredients, etc. So beginners will not be daunted but experts will find plenty here as well. A list of resources and a good index complete the book.
• Who would enjoy this book? Anyone who loves to make desserts, of course, but also for those who aren't so keen on the sweet stuff. Why? This book will encourage you with its creativity, simplicity, and broad range. Even dessert haters will find something here.
→ Find the book at your local library, independent bookstore, or Amazon: Pure Desserts by Alice Medrich (Artisan, 2007)
Related: Baker's Tip: How to Peel Hazelnuts
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(Images: Dana Velden )