Review: The Sweet Life

The Sweet LifeI am often concerned when high-end restaurant chefs release cookbooks. In theory, I want to own them and recreate amazing dishes in my own home. In reality, I don't end up using many because they're too complicated for anyone less than a very ambitious home cook. So I was delighted as I read The Sweet Life, a lovely new cookbook from Kate Zuckerman, the pastry chef at New York City's Chanterelle. Here was a restaurant cookbook I could imagine using!

Some recipes are complex, but these are the kind of desserts you want to make when you have company, or to bring to a dinner party. Others are simply cookies and cakes you can bang out for fun on a Saturday afternoon. Interspersed with the recipes, Ms. Zuckerman provides a lot of educational information. Sections such as "Hint" help you understand how moisture effects items, "Beyond the Basics" explains more advanced topics such as citrus curds. There are many "Technique Tips" peppered and referenced through the book, so when a recipe calls for you to roll out the pie crust, or brown butter, you have a thorough understanding of the process. Did I also mention the in-depth focus on "Ingredients" such as vanilla beans and chocolate?

This is far more than a cookbook, it's a very instructional dessert manual. And oh, the desserts! For fall-themed cooking, I'm tempted by: "Spiced Apple and Sour Cream Cake," "Maple-Pecan Meringue Cookies," "Chestnut and Amaretti Cookie Pudding," "Pumpkin Soufflé," "Apple Cider and Caramel Ice Cream," and "Cider Caramel Sauce." Baking was always my first kitchen love, and the diversity of choices makes me want to fire up my KitchenAid right now.

One section in particular that caught my attention was the chapter devoted to soufflés. I've never made a soufflé because they always struck me as precariously complicated. Plus when I have dinner guests, I like to get everything done in advance so I can enjoy the meal with my company. Ms. Zuckerman's soufflés were developed for restaurant kitchens, which means they can be prepared before your guests arrive. Simply refrigerate for up to four hours, or even freeze them. Then when it's dessert time, pop them in the oven and you'll all enjoy soufflés in no time. I can't wait to try them out.

Few cookbooks actually get regular use in my kitchen, but "The Sweet Life" will no doubt become the go-to dessert guide whenever I want to cook up something sweet.