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Cookbook Watch: 'Ready for Dessert' by David Lebovitz

August 21, 2010 |  6:16 am

55229972-28155054[1] I have worked at the Los Angeles Times for nearly 18 years. It’s a collegial, friendly, trustworthy place. I think nothing of walking away from my desk with my wallet, purse or other valuables in plain sight. And I have never had something stolen -- until now.

When I left work one night, there was a copy of David Lebovitz’s new cookbook, “Ready for Dessert,” sitting on my desk. Within a span of 12 or so hours, someone walked off with it (with my notes still in it).

And I have to say, I totally understand.

The cover photo by Maren Caruso alone is a show-stopper: A banana layer cake as it is being slathered with glossy mocha frosting. Perhaps the most beguiling element of the photo – at least to my eye -- is the smear of frosting on the back of the spatula. It’s as if someone had happened by and ran their finger down the length of it for a 'lil taste.

That’s the kind of kitchen I like to be in.

“Ready for Dessert” is a greatest-hits album of sorts for Lebovitz, an occasional Times contributor whose blog is must reading for anyone who loves food, loves to read about food, or ever thought about running away to Paris. The cookbook includes well over 100 recipes for desserts that are familiar -- chocolate chip cookies -- and unusual -- Guinness-gingerbread cupcakes. Click here to get a "taste" for the cookbook and a sample of recipes.

Many of the recipes may be recognizable to Lebovitz’s fans but have been updated in some manner. Like those chocolate chip cookies: Lebovitz now advises shaping the dough into logs and allowing them to rest in the refrigerator for a day or so until firm, and then shaving off discs for baking. He says the rest improves the final product. Who am I to argue?

Santa Claus, take note: This is a cookbook for both the experienced baker and the novice, like myself. I know that everyone -- Lebovitz included -- says that baking is one of the easiest and most reliable ways to cook because it’s so exact. But I also know that I have, on many occasions, tried to follow a baking recipe exactly and ended up with a dessert that was edible but not quite perfect.

Lebovitz’s newest cookbook starts about with a glossary of ingredients, techniques and cookware needed, but instead of being a bore, it’s empowering. It’s also entertaining, as are the notes on almost all of his recipes, explaining how it has transformed over the years, or simply came into being. (The Racines cake began as a recipe on the wall in a men’s bathroom in Paris, no joke.)

I do have one complaint about the cookbook, but it’s also a compliment: I wish every single recipe came with one of Caruso’s photos.

-- Rene Lynch
Twitter.com / renelynch

Photo: The cover of "Ready for Dessert." Credit: Maren Caruso