I'm crazy about Summer for many reasons, a major one being the season's amazing selection of stone fruits and berries. So I was beyond excited when a close friend surprised me with a new cookbook that takes advantage of my love for fruit: Chez Panisse Desserts ($20.70). This book, which is over 20 years old, is one in a series of seven cookbooks from the kitchen of Chez Panisse, the legendary Alice Waters restaurant that's known as the birthplace of California cuisine. It's authored by Lindsey Shere, who was the pastry chef at the restaurant for more than two decades. Did its seasonal dessert recipes make for a compelling cookbook? Find out when you read more.
- Based on Chez Panisse's emphasis on fresh, quality ingredients, it only makes sense that this cookbook is organized around different types of fruit. Readers who bought an abundance of apricots can head straight to the stone fruits section on apricot desserts.
- Desserts, like Santa Rosa plum ice cream, are elegant, yet restrained.
- The back of the book is filled with reference pages: an appendix of all the fruits in the cookbook and how to use them, a primer on leavenings, gelatin, and various sweeteners, a fruit seasonality calendar, a list of essential kitchen equipment, and a bibliography.
- The book contains no photography or detailed color illustrations.
- Over 50 recipes require the use of an ice-cream maker, so readers who don't own one can only make only a limited number of recipes.
- Navigating through the cookbook isn't the easiest. The name of the chapter isn't listed at the header or footer of every page, and recipes — including ingredients — are written in an odd paragraph format, making them difficult to read quickly.
Overall Rating: If you aren't into frozen desserts, or can't appreciate cookbooks without pictures, then Chez Panisse Desserts won't be for you. Otherwise, it's a perfect example of how, even with sweets, when using seasonal ingredients, less can be more.