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


Chris Amirault
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Abooja: Glad you tackled the Racines cake! Interestingly the owner of the restaurant left to open a new place and I don't think they're still serving this one, but last time I ate there I had a very, very (very) dry chocolate cake - which was supposed to be one of those little warm melting ones. So perhaps they should go back to this one : )

The cake is supposed to crack a bit, it's normal. (Scroll down to the last picture.) So you didn't mess it up at all...

Frogprincess: It must be a chocolate festival at your house. I'm sure your neighbors are thrilled!

Edited by David Lebovitz (log)
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I got this book not too long ago, after having had a tremendous time cooking from his "Perfect Scoop" (I have made a huge number of recipes from that book, with only one disappointment, and it was a recipe that he says he got from someone else). So far, I have had exceptional results from this book, with the two latest dishes--the Banana-Mocha Cake with Salted Caramel Peanuts and the Chocolate Crack Cookies--being particular standouts. This is a great book, and David is one of my go-to recipe writers.

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Frogprincess: It must be a chocolate festival at your house. I'm sure your neighbors are thrilled!

Neighbors, what neighbors?? Seriously, it's been quite a feast at our house and we are indeed very popular with our friends and neighbors.

We all love chocolate so this book has been great so far.

I've actually tried my first non-chocolate recipe from the book last week. It was the Orange Pound Cake.

Pound cake can sound boring to some, but it's a great classic that is just perfect with coffee. This particular recipe had a great flavor thanks to the orange zest. I liked the fact that the glaze gave it an extra zing and kept it moist. Also the cake actually got better over time as the glaze permeated it.

Here is a picture.

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I made the Racines cake yesterday, it was a great chance to break into the bag of cocoa nibs I'd bought on an impulse when I saw them on sale at Whole Foods. It came out beautifully, almost looked just like the pic in the book, down to the crack in the center. I was expecting it to be denser, it was almost more like a baked mousse than an actual cake, but great. Not too sweet, lots of chocolatey goodness, and the cocoa nibs added just the right amount of contrast. I'm so excited to try out some of the other recipes! It's great to see Mr. Lebovitz posting here! It's comforting to know that if I seriously screw up a recipe, I might be able to get some feedback from the author on what I did wrong!

If you ate pasta and antipasto, would you still be hungry? ~Author Unknown

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  • 2 weeks later...

I've been continuing the chocolate festival with a few other recipes from Ready for Dessert.

The Chocolate Chips Cookies are great. They are chewy and the chocolate chunks melt when the cookies come out of the oven (I chopped semi-sweet chocolate bars). I made a couple of logs that I baked over a few days.

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I have a pretty good brownie recipe that I've been using for years but I decided to give Robert's Absolute Best Brownies a try. Well, I now have a new favorite brownie recipe. I was out of nuts so tried them with just the chocolate and I could not get enough of the wonderful texture and intense flavor. The real bonus for me is that it's a mess-free brownie that is easy to slice and doesn't fall apart.

Lastly, the Fresh Ginger Cake does not contain any chocolate, but you could think that it does because of its rich flavor. I was a little nervous having never used molasses, and because of the relatively large amount of oil in the recipe. The cake is very moist and the fresh ginger flavor is obvious, with cinnamon in the background.

Even my four-year old daughter, who claims not to like "spices", approved.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'm on a roll... I've made two more batches of the brownies, the chocolate pot de crème, and the Bahamian rum cake.

The prep for Robert's Absolute Best brownies takes less than 20 minutes, only uses one pot, and bakes in ~ 25 min, so it's my new go-to recipe for last minute dessert requests.

Brownie.jpg

The chocolate pot de crème is another recipe that takes less than 20 min to prep, and bakes in about 35 min. It's all about the mouthfeel - a thick chocolate cream explosion.

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The Bahamian rum cake is a little more involved but really worth it. It's very moist and has a delicious flavor from the rum, coconut milk, and shredded coconut.

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Edited to correct the image link

Edited by FrogPrincesse (log)
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I made the chocolate financiers (almond cakes) from The Sweet Life in Paris, Delicious Adventures in the World's Most Glorious - and Perplexing - City. The book is a hilarious read by the way, with great, and unfortunately very correct, observations of the typical tribulations of living in Paris.

I started with my prep at about 10:30 pm, and by 11 pm we had a batch of delicious little cakes.

Financiers can be a little dense or dry but these were neither. I love chocolate and I preferred these to the traditional version.

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  • 1 month later...

I've tried more recipes from Ready for Desserts since my last post. It seems to be my go-to dessert book at the moment.

 

Chocolate Port Truffles

These were a departure from my usual truffle recipe because they were a multi-step affair with several very messy steps (at least for me) especially the rolling and dipping part. But it was really worth the (minor) trouble. They were intense with a wonderful texture. I served them at the end of the Easter meal.

 

Blondies (which disappeared before I could take a picture).

Similar to the brownies, in that they are really fast to make. I did not let the batter cool down properly before adding the chocolate chips, so they bled a little into the cake. But that did not really matter, there were still distinctive chips in the end and the blondies were delicious.

 

Flo's Chocolate Snaps

This is a simple butter cookie flavored with cocoa powder. They were a little less snappy than what I would have thought based on their name, not that it really mattered. They are great with tea.

It was my inaugural recipe for my new Kitchenaid stand mixer!

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And the best for last...

 

Chocolate Crack Cookies

These have to be amongst the most delicious cookies I've had a chance to try.

They have a light and crumbly texture thanks to the almond powder, and an intense chocolate flavor, almost like a brownie. They really deserve their name. It's my new favorite recipe from the book!

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Edited to correct typos

Edited by FrogPrincesse
format (log)
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  • 2 weeks later...

Monsieur Lebovitz

Have you ever tried freezing the Chocolate Idiot Cake, or keeping it a wee bit past 5 days?

I made it last night to check out my oven (which has been temperamental lately), thinking if it didn't work out, I'd still have a few days to try again. But it turned out perfectly, and if I can, I'd like to keep it till Friday (which would mean keeping it for 6 days).

I could still bake another one, but since it's for a work function, I can't even bring the extra one to work so I'll be eating it all by myself! (Although I could bring this one, and then try the Racines cake for Friday!)

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  • 4 months later...

The Chocolate Spice Bread from The Sweet Life in Paris.

This twist on the French pain d'épices is intensely flavored with chocolate, plus the traditional ingredients: honey, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and whole anise seeds. It's a little dense (in a good way) and really good with coffee.

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I did not have anise so I used fennel seeds instead. I don't think that I am able to tell the difference in a cake.

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I was going through pictures and realized I had forgotten to post a few to this thread.

 

The Chocolat Idiot Cake (also known as the more PC Chocolate Orbit Cake)

 

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Slice with whipped cream

 

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The Racines Cake with The Perfect Scoop Armagnac and Prune Ice Cream

 

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Edited by FrogPrincesse
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Ooh I love the Racines Cake! It's one of my favorites...unfortunately I'm out of both chocolate and cocoa nibs right now so I'm stuck baking non-chocolatey things :hmmm:

If you ate pasta and antipasto, would you still be hungry? ~Author Unknown

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Hi Genkinaonna,

I agree with you, the Racines cake is truly exceptional.

I don't think that I could survive without chocolate in the house. My husband and daughter would never allow this to happen. We are all chocolate addicts in case this was not already obvious!

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Yeah we're addicts too...that's why we're out! : )

I have a new box of Cacao Barry 64% Callets on order from chocosphere...5 Kilo box should last us a couple of months, as long as I keep it up too high for the kids and out of eyesight of my husband...

If you ate pasta and antipasto, would you still be hungry? ~Author Unknown

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Moving on to winter desserts with the Butternut Squash Pie.

A couple of weeks ago, I got a confection squash, a type of kabocha squash, in my CSA that I needed to use. I had already made squash soup, so I decided to make a squash pie for a change. Kabocha is quite close to butternut in taste.

The squash was baked in the oven and then mixed with a blend of spices that is similar to the blend used for the chocolate spice bread (cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, and some black pepper). Heavy cream, milk, eggs and brown sugar are added to complete the filling. Two other ingredients, vanilla extract and Cognac which I have not seen in other squash pie recipes, really round up the flavor.

My yield was way too large and, in addition to a 9-inch pie, I was able to make two small individual pies, and could easily have made a third one if I had not run out of pastry dough. Note that I am using French tart pans which are not very deep, and may explain my "problem".

Another minor issue had to do with the pie dough. I baked it blind with weights first, and then without the weights. Usually I poke it with a fork so it does not attempt to escape from the pan. I did not do this and ended up with a large bubble.

The pie was very flavorful. We ate it cold with some whipped cream.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Squash pie is nice but I can never get enough chocolate. So I made the Chocolate Pavé from Ready for Dessert this weekend. It's a fairly light chocolate cake that is cut into rectangular pieces, like paving stones (pavés). I made sure not to overcook it and it was ready after only about 25 minutes in the oven.

The recipe says to dip a fork in chocolate to create abstract patterns on the cake. My melted chocolate was very thick, so this was really impossible. I ended up adding water to the chocolate. The cake looks a little "rustic", but that's probably ok for a dessert that was created at Chez Panisse. It tasted very good and was not dense as pavé cakes can sometimes be.

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Slice with pool of crème anglaise

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  • 2 weeks later...

Looks good, FrogPincesse, especially with the creme anglais.

Thanks!

Last week I had a pound of dates that I was trying to find a use for. I found a recipe for a Date-Nut Torte in Ready for Desserts, not something I would usually go for. But since I had all the ingredients, I decided to give it a try.

My dates were very sweet and sticky (a good thing for dates), so it was a little hard to get them not to stick together as a giant mass. I followed his advice to use a little flour which helped. These were local Medjool dates. I've been having a hard time finding anise seeds so I substituted fennel seeds. The recipe has the particularity of not containing any eggs.

Here is the cake ready to be baked.

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After baking. The top became a little crispy which gave the torte a nice texture.

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The first bite hit me as incredibly sweet and rich (maybe I should have reduced the amount of sugar a little since my dates were so sweet). But then the taste really grew on me. I found they were perfect cut into small pieces and enjoyed with coffee.

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Edited by FrogPrincesse (log)
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  • 5 weeks later...

It's time to post about my latest baking adventure with David Lebovitz. During a trip to Paris earlier this year, I went to the excellent baking supply store G. Detou and picked up a giant bag of "sucre perlé", aka beaded sugar, with the idea to make chouquettes, which are little sugar puffs. Six months later, the bag of sugar was still languishing unopened in my pantry, so I decided to give it a go. Having had success with gougères last year, I realized that chouquettes were just a sweet version of the same thing. The recipe I chose was from The Sweet Life in Paris, Chocolate Chip Chouquettes.

What I like about this recipe is that it's a one-pot recipe which is extremely simple. The most involved part was making sure that the chouquettes were completely covered in pearl sugar before baking them. Also chouquettes are special to me because they remind me of my great grandmother who used to buy them on Sundays as a special treat. I had not had them in years since you never see them in bakeries here (not even French bakeries).

Here they are before going into the oven.

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Here they are out of the oven, nicely caramelized.

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They are great as is, and best the day of.

The next day, they make a great vehicle for ice cream, for a delicious twist on profiteroles.

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  • 7 months later...

I tried David Lebovitz's banana bread/cake from his website.

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The little back specks are cocoa nibs. There is also a touch of cinnamon. It's very moist and not dense or overly sweet as some recipes are. Excellent with a cup of coffee.

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  • 2 months later...

When I make ice cream with egg yolks I always look for good recipes using egg whites. Also I realized that I had bought way too much almonds by mistake and needed to use them. I've made financiers and macarons so far, but recently I found another gem, the Croquants from Ready for Desserts.

I was very skeptical at first. The batter of egg whites + flour + sugar was very thin and I could not picture what these cookies were going to look like in the end (the book does not have a photo).

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But I decided to trust David Lebovitz and I was amazed when I saw them rising in the oven. They were little crunchy delights. Light and crisp, with a toasted almond flavor.

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Outstanding with a cup of espresso!

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Edited by FrogPrincesse (log)
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