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Chris Amirault

Baking (Etc.) with David Lebovitz's "Ready for Dessert"

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I just got Society member David Lebovitz's Ready for Dessert out from the library. I know that he's a big favorite here in the P&B forum, especially for his Perfect Scoop book (topic here). However, there's no topic for this 2010 book, a new edition of many of the recipes from his first two, out-of-print books, Room for Dessert and Ripe for Dessert.

I'm eager to see what people have done with it, as it looks fantastic. Has anyone tried any of recipes in the book? If you have a favorite from Room or Ripe, what is it?

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The first recipe I made out of it was his Cranzac cookies -- they are a riff on anzac cookies, with Lyle's golden syrup, cranberries, coconut, and oats. While they sounded great in principle, in actuality I found them very one-dimensional and overly sweet. Not a fan at all...

Emily

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His Fresh Ginger Cake kicks serious heinie. I have made it at least half a dozen times. I am the only one who likes it in my house, so I get the whole thing to myself. Not really, I take half in to work where it's gone in no time.

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Bricktop is right; the Fresh Ginger Cake is seriously good. I actually find myself craving it. I had one guest spontaneously exclaim that this was the best cake she'd ever had. It is an adult cake, definitely not shy on flavour. I can't imagine that kids would find it palatable though.

I've also made the Buckwheat Cake (minus the poached apples). It's a simple, homely cake - in a good way. I liked it best for breakfast with a mug of milky black tea. When fresh, I'd call its taste subtle. As it aged the flavour bloomed and I actually found it to be at its best in the third day after baking, just as we finished it off. Be warned; as DL says, the batter is VERY thick. I had a hard time imagining that it would have any rise, but it did.

The Very Spicy Baked Pears with Caramel was richly flavourful. It was hard not to lick the pan, it was that good. I'm not sure that the "very" in the title is warranted. I can't imagine even the most spice averse would find it unpalatable. It's a fantastic fall/winter dessert that I know I'll repeat again and again.

Kathy

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A third vote for the fresh ginger cake, which we made last night. Gotta make sure you finely mince that ginger, but... oh man.

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I don't have the book in front of me, but the Lemon Buttermilk Panna Cotta is excellent light dessert. The chocolate tart is out control good, simple and delicious.

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Delicious book. My favourite so far is the Bahamian Rum Cake (p. 68). Soft, buttery and moist with all the rum-licious. Make sure you make the glaze and use dark sugar for that, it really adds another level. Only problem is there doesn't seem to be any left after 3 days around the house, which is a shame as it just gets better with time.

Also made the Marjolaine (p. 28) twice. Looks and tastes stunning, and easier to make compared to other versions I have. On the first go I felt all that creme fraiche was making the cake too tangy so replaced it with the usual heavy cream in the chocolate ganache. I think that improved it.

The Irish Coffee cupcakes (p 38) glazed in chocolate with the hidden surprise were very good. The Guiness-Gingerbread (p. 36) cupcakes were interesting and looked amazing, but like the ale not to everyone's tastes.

The only one I didn't particularly like was the Banana Cake with Mocha frosting (p. 62). The taste of the ripe banana puree (2 cups, quite a lot) did not go at all with the rest of the cake, esp the frosting. Maybe the bananas were too ripe or the chocolate (Cacao Barry Excellence 55%) wasn't the best match, not sure.

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So far I've only made the Racines cakes. It's a flourless chocolate cake (with espresso and vanilla bean extract) that is sprinkled with cocoa nibs. It was a great ending to our Christmas meal this year and enjoyed by all. I served it with his Armagnac and prune ice cream (from The Perfect Scoop).

I like the fact that the cake was intensely flavored while extremely light. I highly recommend it if you like chocolate.

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Glad you're all working your way through Ready for Dessert. The recipes are all my favorites and some I've been making for decades, literally. If you make the chocolate chip cookies, be sure to use all the chocolate bits (and dust) when you chop the chocolate; they contribute to the cookies being nice and chewy.

And the frosting on the Banana Cake should come to room temperature so it's thick enough to spread as frosting on the cake. Somehow the line about letting it sit mysteriously got omitted during printing, but is being added back for the upcoming next printing. Hopefully it's evident to bakers to let it cool down so it resembles the cake, as shown in the book.

Happy baking...and enjoy the book!

-David

www.davidlebovitz.com

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It looks like a great book. It is now on my ever growing wish list on Amazon. I am actually quite surprised how much of the book is available through their preview option. Naturally, the ginger cake is not available for preview. the banana cake is and that looks stunning.

I am wondering what others think about the book containing volume and metric measurements, but not imperial measurements.

Dan

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Major disaster! Catastrophic failure! And huge embarrassment.

Yes, I managed to mess up the Idiot Cake.

Hard to find an easier recipe though with only 4 ingredients and 3 steps. But apparently my springform pan needs to be immediately replaced. Despite using aluminum foil to prevent potential leaks during cooking (bain marie-style), when I uncovered the cake at the end of the cooking time, its top was partially hydrolyzed. Unfortunately there was no way to salvage it so it ended in the trash. It did smell absolutely amazing though, and the texture seemed perfect inside, so I guess I need to find a better pan and try again soon.

It's great to see David on this thread by the way. I love the sense of humor in his books.

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Yes, you need to make sure that springform is water tight. No matter how much you think it may be, water finds its insidious way into those things. Although we can't get it in France (at least not that I know of) in the US there is very wide foil that's nice and thick that should work.

Incidentally, someone did bake the cake without the water bath and said it worked just fine, but I haven't tried it.

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Hi Dan: It's not only very difficult to get publishers in America to publish books in anything other than cups and tablespoons, but readers are reluctant to buy books with metrics (and imperial) measurements in them because "the recipes too complicated."

Because I live outside of the states, I added metrics. It actually took quite a while to reconfigure all the recipes but I really wanted them in there. But I know quite a few other authors that wanted to add other measurements to their cookbooks and got nixed by the publishers. Thankfully mine is very open to what I do.

There is going to be a UK edition of the book sometime in 2011 but for those interested in various measurements, folks can let publishers know that's what you'd like to see in a book (and just as importantly, buy the ones that do!) by writing a letter or an e-mail, and perhaps they will consider adding them to more cookbooks.


Edited by David Lebovitz (log)

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I am wondering what others think about the book containing volume and metric measurements, but not imperial measurements

Personally, I am happy to get any type of weight measurement in a baking book. Since anyone who is going to appreciate weight measures already has a scale, I'm pretty sure just about any electronic scale can easily be switched to metric. I actually prefer metric - maybe there are some people who are uncomfortable using it? (No, I did not grow up in Europe).

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Thrilled to see "the man" in this thread. I have yet to try a single DL recipe that didn't tock big time. I think he's one of the most "under the radar" talents in food!

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Metric weight measurements are also important for me because 1) that's how I learned to bake, 2) weights are much more accurate than volume and accuracy is important in baking, 3) scaling down/up recipes is much easier with the metric system, and 4) less stuff to clean when you weigh directly into mixing bowls.

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I am happy to report that my second attempt at the Idiot/Orbit cake was a great success.

Since I did not have time to look for a new springform pan, I decided to use a low temperature for baking and ended up skipping the water bath altogether. I have a pretty good oven and this technique has worked well for me in the past when baking custards.

I ended up baking the cake at 212F for about 1.5 hours, and then another 30 min at 230F. The cake was wonderful. My husband said it was "a sort of lava cake on steroids".

Here is link to a picture.

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Finally made the Racines cake today WITH the cocoa nibs (got a whole kilo by Callebaut, if anyone in the UK needs a bit PM me :)

Wow what a difference. It's my favorite cake now, without the nibs I thought it was just OK.

Also try it as recommended with some orange blossom flavored whipped cream. It's a perfect match.

And +1 on the metric measurements, wish all the books had them instead of the spoon/cups craziness.

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Wow what a difference. It's my favorite cake now, without the nibs I thought it was just OK.

I concur completely. The cocoa nibs really make this cake special. Without their crunch it would not be as interesting.

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I'm not a fan of asking people to get obscure ingredients but those nibs really do make the cake special. It's great that cocoa nibs are pretty available from many chocolate companies and like Brainfoodie mentioned, you can buy them in bulk (at G. Detou in Paris, they sell Valrhona ones for around €13,kg) and you can also split them amongst baking pals.

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I saw nibs at Whole Foods the other day, so I think that they're starting to be carried more broadly.

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In California, Bristol Farms sells Scharffenberger cocoa nibs in 6 oz packages. That's where I got mine.

I've been on a buckwheat kick lately. It was chandeleur last week (aka crepe day!) and I made galettes bretonnes (savory crepes with buckwheat). I had some buckwheat flour leftover, so I made the Buckwheat Cake from Ready for Dessert last night and am enjoying a slice this morning with my cappuccino.

What a delightful cake. It is very unassuming but the mix of buckwheat and almonds is fantastic. The almonds really enhance the buckwheat flavor. Even though the batter seemed a little dense, and I managed to forget the baking powder and added it at the very last minute, the cake turned out very light and delicious. I imagine that it's a good recipe if you are gluten-intolerant as it does not contain any flour.

I took one shortcut and used almond meal since I had some already, instead of grinding sliced almonds.

We had it last night with Cara Cara orange supremes. It's great. I want to try it next with the Tangerine Butterscotch sauce that is recommended in the book.

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I've continued my exploration of the flourless chocolate cakes in Ready for Dessert with the Gâteau Victoire. Five ingredients for this one - chocolate of course, heavy cream, rum, eggs, and sugar (no butter except what is needed to butter the pan). I decided to skip the bain-marie again and cooked at low temperature (212F) until the batter set, which took about 2 hours.

The texture of the cake was similar to a light ganache, very rich and creamy. Another great recipe!

Because of its soft texture it's a little hard to cut with a knife. The books recommended to slice the cake with dental floss which was a great tip.

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While I do not yet own the book, I did make the Racines cake a few days back. We loved it, despite the fact that it cracked. The instructions I found did not include a bain-marie. I should have known better, but it was just the two of us, so it didn't much matter. It was my first time baking with cocoa nibs. I had no idea how nutty they would taste! I had a half pound of Valrhona nibs sitting in my freezer from my last Chocosphere order, and finally got to use them. I also used Guittard 61% couverture discs. Served with freshly whipped cream for me, and homemade low-sugar vanilla ice cream for my husband, it was a homerun on a number of levels: gluten-free (for me), and low sugar (for my husband), easily made with few ingredients that I always have on hand, and delicious. Thanks, David! :cool:

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