After seeing recipes that included whole-grain flours in cookies and cakes, I was intrigued by this book, and decided to get it, not knowing what a master Alice Medrich is at creating perfectly balanced recipes that focus on flavor and texture. After this book, I hold Alice as the gold standard in baking. I am collecting her other books and hope that Alice will someday do an ice cream book.
There is nothing that is overly sweet in this book, a flaw of many other dessert books. Alice allows the ingredients to shine, and has created recipes that provide more than just sweetness or richness. One of the points made throughout this book that I really agree with is that richer is not always better. Many think that having tons of eggs and loading up on the heavy cream will automatically make ice cream better, but Alice correctly points out that this is not always the case, and that in many instances, eggs get in the way of flavor, as does the use of too much sugar. She has done the recipe-testing to back it up as well! All of her recipes are extensively tested, and having tried out so many of them, I can vouch that anyone can feel sure about trying out a recipe for the first time and getting excellent results. I love reading her insights into why things work, as well as her discoveries that often go against the norm (for example, how cold infusions proved superior to hot infusions).
Her lebni tart is cheesecake-smooth, but with the characteristic tang of yogurt, perfectly balanced with a sweet, buttery, vanilla-flavored crust.
The brioche is feather-light, just sweet enough, and very buttery, but without tasting at all greasy.
Then there's her quark souffles. They're just lightly sweetened, with the slight tang of the cheese not being at all lost, and indeed, just perfect with berries.
As for those recipes with whole-grain flours, Alice points out how she created them not for health reasons, but for the textural benefits, as well as the interesting flavor they provide.
Her nibby buckwheat butter cookies are among my favorite cookies ever. They have a perfectly sandy yet crunchy texture, and the cacao nibs almost make these taste like a grown-up chocolate chip cookie.
The kamut pound cake is fantastic, especially with fleur de sel and black pepper sprinkled on top.
The cornmeal-buckwheat scones are also a must.
And I can't review this book without pointing out that her lemon squares are perfection. I have been spoiled by these and nothing else will ever do. Sweet, buttery crust, tangy, perfectly smooth and velvety lemon curd. Between the lemon squares, the lebni tart, and the brioche, those are three recipes that are worth the price of the book alone!
Do yourself a favor and get this book. As simple as the content seems, you'll find this deceiving as soon as you get a taste of any of the recipes.