Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Demolition Desserts: An Adventure In Baking

Food. You know The Gals love it...No big mystery there. Most anything food related make our hearts throb. But when we combine our love of food with our love of books, well, we get all gooey inside. Cookbooks are inspirational. The photos make our mouths water, the descriptions and instructions urge us to the nearest grocery to collect the ingredients for that tantalizing recipe(s) from our newest cookbook. It could be a disaster or it could be the next favorite at the upcoming holiday gathering, depending on the cookbook.

My latest fav? Elizabeth Falkner's "Demolition Desserts". This is a cookbook with a punk rock sensibility. Chef Falkner has teamed up with Ann Krueger Spivak, photographer Frankie Frankeny and illustrator Ryan Falkner (her brother) to bring you a book full of amazing desserts from her restaurant, Citizen Cake.

Many chefs shy away from the realm of pastry and desserts . Falkner has never had such qualms. Her philosophy is that you should always have as much fun making desserts as you do eating them. By the looks of the recipes in this book, she's having a blast.

She starts the recipes off simply with the chocolate chip cookie, saying "A well made chocolate chip cookie is a work of art." I took her advice and chose the Chocolate Chip Espresso Cookie as my first "Demolition Desserts" venture.

Photo by L.K. Misenheimer

As you can see, it's a damned fine cookie. If you like the pairing of strong coffee with rich chocolate, then this cookie is for you. Keeping with Falkner's instructions, I kept the dough handling to a minimum. It was hard not to nibble at the dark, deeply aromatic mixture, but once those babies were out of the oven, all bets were off! And if you can control yourself long enough you will be rewarded with a delicately crunchy cookie, not too crisp and not too chewy. As Goldilocks said of Baby Bear's porridge, "It's just right"!"

One of the things I really love about this book is that Chef Falkner encourages you to think creatively when it comes to her desserts. There are no hard and fast mandates; if you want to riff on her many creations, I think that it would make her very happy. Each dessert has notes on what can be made ahead of time and how it could be pared down to a "Minimalist" version. Her advice for downsizing "A Veil of Vanilla"? (The recipes calls for tarte tatin apples, Point Reyes blue cheese crumbles, pecan caramel sauce, honey semifreddo and pomegranate.) "With all the components, this dessert is amazing, but if you layered just the apples, blue cheese crumbles, pomegranate seeds, and a little store-bought vanilla ice cream, it wouldn't suck." While the desserts are luscious some of the recipes will challenge both your technical kitchen skills and stretch your palate. When most people think of dessert, creamy grits and shaved fennel are not the typical ingredients that leap to mind yet you will find both in Demolition Desserts. We heartily endorse at least trying a couple of her more adventurous confections if only to break out of your dessert rut of run of the mill cakes, brownies and cookies.

Illustration by Ryan Falkner

This isn't just a book full of recipes and kick-ass photography. We also get the wonderful culinary manga character called "Caremi Keiki". Caremi (Chef Falkner's alter ego) would love to tag the world in chocolate if she could just find the right kind of chocolate spray paint!

Photo by Frankie Frankeny

It's that sense of whimsy that makes this book so enjoyable. From simple cookies to the jubilant "Cherries of the Corn"; from the elegance of "Apple Galettes" to the passionate "Love Letter", Elizabeth Falkner's "Demolition Desserts" has found a welcome place in my library of treasured cookbooks.

Get your very own copy of "Demolition Desserts" HERE.


Jon said...

Love the new blog gals, looking forward to the new direction.

"Just David!" said...

just found your blog!!! as a chef, i love it!!! you'll have a new loyal reader!!!

eggplant said...

Love the new blog, Gals! Definitely looking forward to reading more.

The Troll said...

Desserts are for the weak! Savory rules! But the frog coffee pic is really cool and I'm glad to see a new more holistic foodie blog from you fine gals.