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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?

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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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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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

"Salt is born of the purest of parents: the sun and the sea." --Pythagoras.

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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!

---------------------------------------------------------

"If you don't want to use butter, add cream."

Julia Child

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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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  • 2 weeks later...

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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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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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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  • 4 weeks later...

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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      I've been so good about taking pictures at nearly every step! But here's where I fail you.......when I get "in the zone"......meaning that I'm so intent on my little details....I sort of forget about the camera! Here's what I did in between this picture and the next two:
      *made the baby's shoulders and neck and arms out of modeling chocolate
      *sprinkled my cookie dirt inside the pots
      *dusted the centers of my flowers with luster and color, made the calyx's (sp?) and mounted *them on my green skewers
      *rolled modeling chocolate onto a skewer to form the umbrella stem
      *made the bottom banner and wrote on it
      *made the baby's flower bonnet
      I modeled the baby's neck and shoulders, then stuck that right on the top pot. Then I cut the skewers that are coming out of his head to the right length and pushed it down through the neck and shoulders.

      I placed the arms and formed the hands. I stuck my umbrella stem through the arm and down into the cake so there would be adequate support......but darn, I wasn't watching carefully, and the skewer came out of the side of the pot because my angle was a bit off. Oh well, I'll cover that up with a leaf. At least you can see where the umbrella stem is on the skewer. On top of the umbrella stem is a little half dome of modeling chocolate, to support the gumpaste umbrella. I dab a bit of melted white chocolate on that, and stick the umbrella on top. Now all I have to do is place my flowers, mount the banner, and put his little bonnet on.

      And here we have the finished product. It's sort of hard to read the banner....it says, "May Showers Bring Adorable Flowers". One thing I always seem to to do.....I'll shoot the picture of my finished cake and I'm always tired.....so I'm too lazy to find a good backdrop. Then I curse myself later when there's that yukky kitcheny background. God, in one picture I took, my cake had a dirty mop bucket behind it! All I can say is, thank god for Photoshop......I can always "fix" it later.
      It took me 8 hours to put this together and that's not counting all the prep I did the whole week prior. I don't think a whole lot of people realize the time that goes into this stuff.....and it's also why you don't see it very often.
      Anyway, the girl that's getting the baby shower has NO IDEA this is coming. Surprising her is going to be the best part!
      Fast forward to the next day. My boss's wife and I are bringing the box inside the house, then removing the cake from the box. Kids are dancing around us....."is that a CAKE? Is that a CAKE?" People gather round, and the girl who's getting the shower sees it and starts crying. She gives me a big hug and says "I don't know how to thank you!" I told her she just did.
      The shower went on, presents were opened, food was eaten, champagne was sipped.......and then.....it was time......the part that the kids almost couldn't wait for.....time to eat cake! Which of course, means, time to cut cake. And guess who gets to do it. Yep. Me. I don't have to cut my own cakes very often, and that's a good thing. Usually I'm nowhere in the vicinity when my cakes are cut and consumed.....I have only the memory of a photograph and my labor. This time I also do the deconstructing.....and I gotta say it was bittersweet. Especially since knowing it took me 8 hours to build it and only 15 minutes to take it apart. May I say.......wah? Yes. Wah. Luckily I'd had a couple glasses of Mumm's so my "pain" was numbed a bit.......
      Hope you all have enjoyed this bit of cake sculpting. Now back to our regular programming.......
    • By Nn, M.D.
      I'm very excited to share with you all a recipe that I developed for a double crust apple pie.  I had been inspired a few weeks ago to come up with a series of 3-ingredient recipes that would focus on technique and flavor but still be simple enough for the unseasoned chef.  I decided to make an apple pie as a challenge to myself--never having made one before--and as a way to show those who might find pastry intimidating how easy and adaptable it can be.
       
      Basic Shortcrust Pastry
      Ingredients:
      - 300g flour
      - 227g salted butter, cold
      - 2 lemons, zested with juice reserved
       
      1. Cut butter into small chunks.  Beat butter, zest of the 2 lemons, and flour together with an electric mixer OR combine with pastry blender OR rub together with fingers OR blitz in a food processor until it resembles sand.
      2. Add just enough water to bring the mix together into a dough (about 20g for me).  You'll know your pastry is ready when you can press it together and it stays in one piece.
      3. Divide dough in two and wrap tightly with plastic.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
      4. When ready to use, roll out each portion to 13 inches in diameter. (I do this between two sheets of parchment paper.  Don't worry too much if the parchment sticks to the pastry. I periodically placed mine in the freezer to help keep everything cold, and the butter will separate from the parchment when frozen.)
      5. Take 1 portion of rolled dough and place it in a 9-inch tart tin with a removable bottom.  Gently press into the sides to ensure even coverage.  Place in the freezer for 30 minutes.  Freeze the other portion of dough in-between the parchment pieces.
       
      Apple Filling (and Assembly)
      - 1 kg apples (I used about 7 apples for this recipe.)
      - 220g dark brown sugar, divided
      - 1 egg, separated
       
      Making the apple butter: 
      1. Cut and core 500g of your apples, but do not peel.  Add cut apples, juice of the one lemon, about 100g or so of water, and 170g of sugar to a large saucepan.
      2. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to a simmer and cover.  Let the apples cook for 20-30 minutes or until tender.
      3. Remove from heat and blend until smooth.
      4. Return puree to saucepan and simmer uncovered over low heat, stirring occasionally, for an hour.  Color should deepen and the mixture should thicken slightly, but do not allow it to scorch.
      5. Remove from heat and refrigerate until cool.
       
      Apple filling:
      1. Peel, quarter, and core the remaining 500g of apples. Slice on a mandolin to about 1/8th inch thickness. Place sliced apples in a large bowl of cold water while slicing remaining apples.
      2. Once apples are sliced, drain water and add the juice from the remaining lemon, as well as the remaining 50g of sugar, over the apples. Stir to coat.
       
         
       
      Assembly:
      1. Remove pie base from the freezer.  Dock with a fork and brush on egg white.  Place back in the freezer and allow to set for for about 5-10 minutes.
      2. Pour the entire recipe of apple butter into the pie base and even out with an offset spatula.
      3. Arrange apple slices over the apple butter.
      4. Remove remaining pie dough from the freezer and cut designs in while still cold. Transfer to the surface of the pie and seal overhanging edges.  Trim excess dough.
      5. Brush top pastry with egg yolk (beaten with any remaining egg white) and bake in a 365˚F oven for 60-70 minutes.  Crust should be shiny and golden brown.
      6. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before removing from tin.
       
      Some notes:
      The reason for using salted butter is I think the flavor incorporates a little better into the mix than if I were to use unsalted butter and added salt.  That being said, you could do that instead, though your recipe would then have 7 ingredients The addition of apple butter here takes the place of the normal apple pie filling, which is usually thickened with cornstarch and is typically quite sweet.  By using the apple butter, I push the flavor of apple forward beyond what you would find in a typically apple pie.  Also, the apple butter acts as a glue of sorts so that my slices are always clean, so no need to resort to adding thickeners or extra sweeteners. I'm always looking for a way around blind baking, and using an egg white seal has worked out very well for me. The egg white creates a water-tight layer between the crust and the filling, so no matter how wet my filling is, the crust will always bake crispy and won't get soggy for as long as the pie is around. Feel free to change this up as you see fit.  Obviously you can spices to this (I recommend cinnamon, clove, and cardamom) but the beauty of this pie is that it's really not necessary.  Although at first blush it may seem one-noted, the harmony between the flaky, almost savory crust and the bright and refreshing filling is one that doesn't need any help, in my honest opinion.  

       
      So there you have it! My 6-ingredient apple pie, sure to become a go-to for me, and hopefully for you as well!
       
    • By ResearchBunny
      Posted 6 hours ago Dear EGulleters,
      ResearchBunny here. I've just found you today. I've been lolling in bed with a bad cold, lost voice, wads of tissues, pillows, bedding around me. I spent all of yesterday binge-watching Season 2 of Zumbo's Just Desserts on Netflix from beginning to grand finale. I have been a hardcore devotee of Rose Levy Beranbaum since the beginning of my baking passion -- after learning that she wrote her master's thesis comparing the textural differences in cake crumb when using bleached versus unbleached flour. I sit up and pay attention to that level of serious and precision! While Beranbaum did study for a short while at a French pastry school, she hasn't taken on the challenge of writing recipes for entremets style cakes. That is, multi-layer desserts with cake, mousse, gelatin, nougatine or dacquoise layers all embedded in one form embellished with ice cream, granita, chocolate, coulis. After watching hours of the Zumbo contest, I became curious about the experience of designing these cakes. Some of the offered desserts struck me as far too busy, others were delightful combinations. I was surprised that a few contestants were eliminated when their offerings were considered too simple or, too sophisticated. So I'd like to hear from you about your suggestions for learning more about how to make entremets. And also, what you think about the show. And/or Zumbo.
      Many thanks.
      RB
      ps. The show sparked a fantasy entremet for my cold. Consider a fluffy matzo ball exterior, with interior layers of carrot, celery, a chicken mince, and a gelatin of dilled chicken broth at its heart!
    • By TexasMBA02
      After batting about .500 with my previous approach to macarons, I came across Pierre Herme's base recipe online.  After two flawless batches of macarons, I've been re-energized to continue to work at mastering them.  Specifically, I want to try more of his recipes.  My conundrum is that he has, as far as I can tell, two macaron cookbooks and I don't know which one I should get.  I can't tell if one is just an updated version of the other or a reissue or what the differences really are.  I was hoping somebody had some insight.  I have searched online and haven't seen both books referenced in the same context or contrasted at all.
       
      This one appears to be older.

       
      And this one appears to be the newer of the two.

       
      Any insight would be helpful.
       
      Thanks,
       
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