Lebovitz saves his witty banter for the introductory paragraphs -- including a Los Angeles cooking class moment when someone in the audience screamed at the sight of the copious amount of butter he was using in a cookie dough (he used only a paltry half stick). Please tell us it wasn't any of you?
The first chapter is simply enough dubbed "Cakes," but in it you'll find anything but. There's a ricotta-orange-aniseed cheesecake, an Indian-inspired pistachio-cardamom cake, and that passion fruit-orange pound cake that we must try. Not because we're particularly pining for passion fruit, but because the Pastry King has dubbed passion fruit among his Holy Trinity (along with chocolate and fried chicken).
Oh, and that chocolate ganache-topped banana cake sprinkled with candied peanuts (a fancied up layer cake version of mom's banana bread) -- it's already in this weekend's baking queue. Lebovitz notes he came up with the layer cake for a showgirl pal in Paris as a thank you for letting him backstage (we'll leave it at that). We can't get past the utter brilliance of turning that quintessential 1970s loaf into such an elegant Saturday night dessert.
As you can see, Squid Ink has hardly gotten past those two-dozen cakes, particularly that seriously seductive ginger cake taken by photographer Maren Caruso. This is food porn at its best.
There is also a generous section of the book dedicated to pies, tarts and fruit desserts like the Peanut, Butter and Jelly Linzertorte and a peach-Amaretti cookie crisp. There are cookies and candies of course, from Lebovitz's version of "classic" chocolate chip (perfectly shaped in a pastry chef-approved parchment rolled log) and Scharffen Berger chocolate co-founder Robert Steinberg's intensely fudgey brownies.
The remainder of the book is filled with custards, both chilled (if only we had a permanent stash of butterscotch flan and chocolate pots de crème) and frozen (butterscotch-pecan, Mexican chocolate and caramel ice creams). The booozy post-dinner offerings include a grapefruit-champagne sorbet and a watermelon-sake version, as well as this chocolate-banana creation that he calls the "world's easiest ice cream." You don't even need an ice cream maker.
No Machine Chocolate-Banana Ice Cream
From: Ready For Dessert by David Lebovitz.
Makes: About 3 cups
Note: Lebovitz warns not to skimp on the alcohol. It prevents the ice cream from freezing rock solid.
6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole or low-fat milk
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons Irish cream liqueur, such as Bailey's Irish Cream
3 very ripe bananas, peeled and cut into chunks
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3 tablespoons dark rum
1. In a small heatproof bowl, combine the chocolate and milk. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and stir occasionally until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove the bowl from the heat.
2. Pour the liqueur into a blender or food processor fitted with the metal blade. Add the bananas, rum and the melted chocolate mixture and puree until smooth.
3. Pour the mixture into a shallow plastic container, cover, and freeze until solid enough to scoop, at least 8 hours, preferably overnight.