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Pure Dessert: True Flavors, Inspiring Ingredients, and Simple Recipesby Alice Medrich
In pursuit of pleasure
Faced with an overly sweet, complicated dessert or one made with mundane ingredients, I sometimes long instead for a bowl of good plain yogurt drizzled with honey and sprinkled with walnuts or pistachios, a piece of bittersweet chocolate, or some ripe figs.
I haven’t given up dessert, but when I eat it, I want it to taste as good as that bowl of yogurt or piece of chocolate. I want the soul satisfaction and the sensual pleasure of real flavors. The best chefs cook savory food simply, with the best ingredients. That’s how I like to eat. Why don’t we make more desserts that way?
The dessert repertoire needs an infusion of new and better ingredients and new approaches to working with them. High-quality ingredients of all sorts are available now. Fresh, delicate cheeses (cow, goat, and sheep) can redefine cheesecake. Interesting grains should not be reserved for heavy loaves and health food: their toasty, nutty flavors can bring nuance and depth to indulgent buttery cookies, delicate wafers, and moist, tender cakes. Organic yogurts, milks, and creams can transform ice creams and sherbets. Great chocolates and cocoas can elevate simple desserts, as will flavors captured from fresh flowers and herbs, coffee beans, and tea leaves.
Pure Dessert is a collection of simple, ingredient-driven recipes for cakes, cookies, tarts, ice creams, and other desserts, made from fresh, artisanal, organic, natural, or otherwise distinguished “real” ingredients. Such ingredients are increasingly abundant in better supermarkets as well as in the obvious places: farmers’ markets, cheese shops, gourmet and natural food shops online, and a growing number of urban and suburban gardens.
Authentic ingredients are important because they taste good. Simple recipes are essential because they allow us to savor that goodness. The emphasis on flavor means desserts that are often (but not always) less sweet and/or less rich than mainstream desserts. If they are less sweet and rich, it is primarily in pursuit of pleasure. Incidental health benefits are just bonuses.
My pure desserts are simple, relaxed, convenient, and elegant. These accessible, home-kitchen–friendly recipes include tips to ensure success and notes that reveal the method to my madness. Pure desserts are for busy people who love food and care about what they eat, for people who are curious and open to new tastes, and for those who appreciate the details that make the difference between a good dessert and a great one.
Pure desserts can stand alone or be mixed and matched for special occasions. Sour Cream Ice Cream, Tropical Lace Cookies, and strawberries is worthy of a dinner party, but each component is delicious on its own. Pure dessert recipes are brief and inviting, and they welcome improvisation.
The media proclaim the message: organic, natural, local, “slow, ” hand-crafted, and authentic. So what more could we ask for? Here are recipes and techniques that are simple, and as easy for the home cook as the chef. That’s the cherry on the top.
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