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Ready for Dessert: My Best Recipes [Hardcover]

David Lebovitz
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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"Lebovitz's chatty, down-to-earth tone is sure to steady any rattled nerves as you turn the oven on and get the measuring cups out. And for seasoned cooks and bakers, Lebovitz's recipes are classics worth revisiting."
—, The Best Cookbooks of 2010: Best Dessert

“David Lebovitz, blogging phenom and former pastry chef at Chez Panisse has written several cookbooks, but this might be his best yet. It's a compilation of all his favorites--from ice cream to cookies to cake and fruit desserts. You will also enjoy the notes with each recipe that tell stories, share tips and often produce giggles. Why? You've read his blog, and probably tried his recipes for free. Now it's time to pay the man!”
—Cooking with Amy, Top Cookbooks 2010, 12/18/10

“If there's one person you can trust to write a good recipe, it's David. My copy of Ready for Dessert is already dogeared and vandalized with all manner of sweet ingredients. His chocolate chip cookies are my go-to and his ice creams, for which he is well-known, are all outstanding. The man worked as as a pastry chef at Chez Panisse then moved to Paris. Need I say more?”
—, Favorite Baking Books of 2010, 12/16/10

“And finally, I want to mention a book from earlier in the year, highly recommended if you’re looking for a sweets book: Ready For Dessert: My Best Recipes by David Lebovitz who writes the excellent and popular blog, “Living the Sweet Life in Paris” at This is a compendium of his favorite recipes that he’s reworked and rewritten.  As ever, superb and recommended.”
—Michael Ruhlman, Books for the Holidays, 12/13/10

“You'll want to make everything in this book.”
—Washington Post's Top Cookbooks of 2010, 11/30/10

"An elegantly-composed collection of classics and contemporary riffs, former Chez Panisse pastry chef David Lebovitz's (The Perfect Scoop) latest effort hits the sweet spot. Artfully balancing accessible recipes for novices (the simple four-ingredient Chocolate Orbit Cake, the three-ingredient Peaches in Red Wine and Pistachio, Almond and Dried Cherry Bark) with ambitious-but -worth-it desserts like Banana Cake with Mocha Frosting and Salted Candied Peanuts and White Nectarine Sorbet with Blackberries in Five-Spice Cookie Cups, Lebovitz truly has something for everyone. Can't-miss combinations like Guinness-Gingerbread Cupcakes, Cherry-Almond Cobbler, and Orange-Almond Bread Pudding are sure to inspire a trip to the market, and riffs on classics like a French apple galette (updated here with frangipane, a rich almond pastry cream) and a lush Fresh Ginger Cake will appeal to bakers whose bookshelves are already groaning with cookbooks. The inclusion of Coconut Layer Cake, Vanilla Ice Cream, Meyer Lemon Sorbet, Chocolate Chocolate-Chip Cookies, and Gingersnaps (including a fat-free variety) shows that Lebovitz also knows when not to mess with a good thing. Given its breadth, depth, and accessibility, readers with a passion for baking will be hard pressed to find a better guide to desserts this year. Photos. (May)"
Publishers Weekly, Web-Exclusive Reviews, STARRED REVIEW, 6/14/10

"Each section is more of a collection of surprises than a tour of the usual baking suspects you might find in a greatest hits sort of book by another author (cheesecake, muffins, angel cake etc.).  There are unusual flavour combinations as well as intriguing takes on classic desserts."
—, 6/2/10

"Lebovitz brings his writing to life with wit and humor and offers expert advice on everything from cake to cutting boards. Plus, his recipes have that irresistible combination of simplicity and elegance."
—Portland Oregonian, 6/1/10

“Life is short, always eat dessert first.” If you’re a follower of that profound precept or just the owner of an active sweet tooth, David Lebovitz’s Ready for Dessert is a must. . . . His header notes are chatty, his directions thorough and supportive and his take on the sweet side of life inspired and inspiring."
—BookPage, Cookbook of the Month, May 2010

"Here's what I love about this book. Lebovitz has gathered a selection of 170 recipes that is both complete and eclectic, including classics and innovations. David's voice is candid, sometimes conspiratorial, often funny, and always enabling. It's the same authentic voice that has made his blog one of the most popular food sites on the web. Enjoy the sweetness."
—The City Cook, 5/27/10

"Ready for Dessert promises visceral satisfaction starting with the cover, which invites you to drag a greedy finger through a cake's thick chocolate icing."
—Associated Press, 5/17/10

"You know the real reason I love David Lebovitz so much and tell you about him over and over again? Because he's a baking god. David's new book, Ready for Dessert: My Best Recipes is his best yet. . . . Now, I know that we'll have this book in our house for decades, until the spine falls apart and we have to put it together with duct tape. I'm never letting go of this baking book because every single recipe works. It is one of the few baking books I will keep forever in our home. This is my baking bible now. You should buy it too."
—Gluten-Free Girl, 5/11/10

"This is recipe writing at its best my friends."
—In Jennie's Kitchen, 5/4/10

" I have a sweet tooth for Lebovitz, a terrific writer and dessert whiz who has updated his favorite recipes for this lavish book. If you bake, do yourself a favor and buy this book."
—Houston Chronicle, 5/4/10

"Lebovitz has outdone himself with his latest recipe collection, offering readers the very best of his best."
—, 5/3/10

"If you're looking for a new best friend in the kitchen, one that'll stay a best friend for life, Ready for Dessert might just be the one for you."
—, 4/30/10

"Part of David's genius is the way he delivers the goods. He's clench-your-legs hilarious but with a strong foundation of serious culinary knowledge. A rare gem in the ever-growing field of food writers — if you haven't gotten to know his books yet, start with this one."
—Apartment Therapy's, 4/29/10

"With a bloggers tone and a skilled baker’s sensibility, pastry chef David Lebovitz shares his deliciously simple yet refined recipes in his latest cookbook Ready for Dessert. Sprinkled with endearing anecdotes, each recipe reveals Lebovitz’ compulsion with chocolate and seasonality. There’s a charming unfussiness about the book, which includes recipes like the flourless chocolate orbit cake, which was previously named the chocolate idiot cake for it’s easy-to-execute recipe. There are also some more involved recipes—like the kiwifruit, pineapple and toasted coconut baked alaska—making it a great book for beginners and experts alike."
—Los Angeles Times, 4/28/10

"Flipping through our copy, we were entranced by fudgy smudges on the plate under his banana cake, seduced by the simplicity of his red-wine raspberry sorbet, curious about the impression his chocolate chip cookies made on Parisians, and desperate to taste his best-ever brownies."
—, 4/26/10

"This is the Lebovitz book that has it all: an elite selection of cakes, fruit desserts, custards, frozen desserts, cookies and candies that encompass all the techniques you’ll ever need to make dessert. The large-format color photos are ridiculously seductive and the design and tone of the book make you believe that your fresh ginger cake, banana butterscotch cream pie or tangy lemon frozen yogurt will taste as luscious as they look here. Based on my experience with Lebovitz’s recipes, they will."
—Patricia Unterman, San Francisco Examiner, 4/23/10

"I think these just might be my new favorite chocolate chip cookie, sorry Thomas Keller but Lebovitz's cookies have got yours beat."
—, 4/19/10

"This is the Slinky of cookbooks. I've been paging back and forth, back and forth, mesmerized, spurred on each time I land on a silvery endpaper. It's an enticing, beautiful book with charm and know-how. But this book is not for a coffee table; I'd put it on a pedestal. . . . This book; buy it and bake the living daylights out of it."
—AOL Cookbook Spotlight, 4/16/10

"An absolutely gorgeous book filled with pages upon pages of recipes and photos that will motivate you to get in the kitchen and start baking."
— Cook the Book, 4/12/10

"It's a good sign for a new cookbook when the food-lovers at the table keep passing it around. . . David Lebovitz is one of a handful of authors whose books are pure gifts in the kitchen. . . . But the proof is in the pudding -- in this case, that includes coconut tapioca, orange-almond bread pudding, and kumquat sticky toffee -- and I find his recipes both unintimidating to prepare and impressive to eat."
— Al Dente blog, 4/12/10

"This book is the perfect Starter Lebovitz, if you ask me; for those of you who’ve heard about him or read his blog and laughed at his jokes and comments but didn’t know which of his cookbooks to buy first. With this, he’s retested everything, added weights and pretty pretty photographs so you get a little taste of everything he does well without having to clear out an entire bookshelf to accommodate his awesomeness. (Though he’d like me to let you know that he does not mind one bit if you do that too.)"
—, 4/12/10

"My copy of Lebovitz's book is already stained (with coffee) from just looking at it. It's the best type of food porn available: high production values (great recipes and gorgeous photography by Maren Caruso); a cast of stars (Chocolate Orbit Cake, Kumquat Sticky Toffee Pudding, App...

About the Author

David Lebovitz is a pastry chef, author, and creator of the award-winning food blog Trained as a baker in France and Belgium, he worked for twelve years in the pastry department at the famed Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, California. Room for Dessert, his first book, was an International Association of Culinary Professionals award nominee. He is also the author of The Sweet Life in Paris and The Perfect Scoop. David writes, blogs, and leads culinary tours from his home in Paris, France.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Each year, hundreds of cookbooks are released, which means that inevitably, many must go to make room for the new. But I was always surprised, and delighted, to hear from so many people that mine were the ones in their collection that they used the most.
When I began writing cookbooks over a decade ago, someone told me, “If a book has one great recipe in it, then it’s a good book.” So while I considered calling this book David’s Greatest Hits, that idea was (wisely) nixed by the powers that be. But, from all the positive feedback my cookbooks have received, I don’t know if that title would’ve been all that far off. Over the years, I’ve heard again and again from enthusiastic home bakers that many of the recipes from my first two books were their all-time favorites.
Room for Dessert was released in 1999. I hadn’t written a book before, but was thrilled when the New York Times singled it out for praise in a very crowded field of cookbooks. It was also lauded by colleagues such as food writer Arthur Schwartz, who complimented the book as “deceptively slim,” meaning it packed an expansive variety of desserts in a very approachable, and not at all daunting, format.
My second book, Ripe for Dessert, continued that philosophy with an emphasis on baking with fruit. I’m very keen on incorporating fruits and berries into my desserts and know that many people share my affection for fruit desserts. The book came out in 2003 just as Americans were rediscovering the rewards of using regional ingredients. At the same time, there was a rising national awareness about healthy eating. Although it was certainly not a diet book, fruits played a central role in all of the desserts, rather than just an ornamental one, and the recipes let home bakers put to delicious use the new abundance of fruit available in farmers’ markets and at their local grocers. Shopping baskets overflowed with long-forgotten varieties of heirloom apples, unusual and exotic tropical fruits, deep-red cherries, and soft, tangy raspberries, all of which simply begged to be used during their all-too-brief seasons. I also included recipes starring some of the more elusive fruits—such as quince, figs, and persimmons—which were slowly becoming more familiar as they made their way from upscale farmers’ markets into mainstream grocery stores.
And it wasn’t just home bakers who were using my books. I got a great thrill out of spying a flour-dusted copy of one of my books on a shelf in a restaurant or bakery kitchen. It was tremendously gratifying to know that the recipes met the demanding standards of professionals.
After a long run, both Room for Dessert and Ripe for Dessert went out of print. In the meantime, through my website and blog,, I was able to introduce my recipes to a whole new audience and to those who were disappointed that my books were no longer available. Needless to say, when I was offered the chance to update the recipes and present them in this all-new edition, I jumped at the opportunity to do so.
Like so many other things, techniques, tastes, and even the availability of ingredients change over time. At first, I thought I’d just revisit a few recipes and make some minor changes. But as I flipped through the pages, invariably I’d land on a recipe and say, “Hmm, I wonder what that would be like if I reduced the sugar, and melted the butter instead of creamed it?” Or, “What about sharing those cookies I made last Christmas that everyone loved?” Off to the kitchen I would go to try out these new ideas.
So just about every recipe has been revised in some way—ingredients were added or swapped out with another or techniques have been changed. Plus, I couldn’t resist including a dozen new recipes, ones that have become favorites of mine, which I hope will become favorites of yours as well.
As a baker, my strongest influence was Lindsey Shere, the founding pastry chef at Chez Panisse, whose ideas prompted some of my favorite desserts in this book, including Blanco y Negro (page 176) and Champagne Gelée with Kumquats, Grapefruits, and Blood Oranges (page 114), as well as her now-classic recipe for Chocolate Pavé (page 25), which she kindly allowed me to share. Some of these recipes were from our repertoire at Chez Panisse, and like many good recipes, they’re the result of a variety of influences, an appreciation for delicious desserts, and years of kitchen experience.
I was fortunate to work with the same people for nearly thirteen years, and I learned almost everything I know from working with them, most notably Mary Jo Thoresen, Lisa Saltzman, Shari Saunders, Diane Wegner, and Linda Zagula. Every day was a collaboration—there was no finer dessert “think tank” than the pastry team at Chez Panisse.
At Chez Panisse, some of the world’s best cooks were welcomed into the kitchen to collaborate with us, including Bruce Cost, Marion Cunningham, Niloufer Ichapouria King, Richard Olney, Jacques Pépin, and Shirley Sarvis, as well as our own chefs, David Tanis, Catherine Brandel, Paul Bertolli, Jean-Pierre Moule, Peggy Smith, Gilbert Pilgram, and, of course, Alice Waters, who wrote the introduction to my original book.
Pastry whiz Nick Malgieri likes to say, “Bake something. You’ll feel better!” And nothing could be truer. People constantly ask me, “Why do you bake?” It took me over a decade (I’m a slow learner) to come to the conclusion that baking is about sharing. The best bakers I know aren’t merely armed with a bunch of recipes, but baking is truly their passion, as it is my passion. We just love to do it, not just for ourselves, but for others—I’ve yet to come across a dessert recipe that makes only one serving. Cakes, pies, and batches of cookies are meant to be shared.
When people tell me “I can’t bake,” I’m truly puzzled because baking is the least fussy of the culinary arts. Sure, you need to measure carefully, but 1 cup of sugar is 1 cup of sugar. Eight tablespoons of butter isn’t really open to interpretation. To me, baking has much of the guesswork taken out of it. (I often think the world would be a safer place if people would drive with the same exactitude and precision that they think is necessary when baking.)
As much as I’d like to be baking right beside you, I can’t be. You’ll often need to make some of your own judgment calls, but there’s no need to panic. The French have a wonderful term, au pif (“by the nose”), that is used to describe cooking or baking in that fashion. If the cookie recipe says, “Bake for 11 minutes” and in your oven they look done at the 10-minute mark, take them out. (I’ve never met two ovens that bake the same, no matter how fancy they are.) Your pears may not be as sweet as the ones I call for. Or you might have decided to use one of the newer high-percentage chocolates or European-style butters available these days, both of which can alter textures as well as baking times. So once in a while, don’t be afraid to do a little bit of baking “by the nose.”
Although lots of things have changed over the years, my tastes remain the same. I still crave chocolate cakes that have the “screaming chocolate intensity” that I wrote about ten years ago. I still don’t think that desserts need to be fussy or overly elaborate. And I’m even more convinced nowadays that it’s easier to make something tasty if you start with good ingredients and do as little to them as possible. So if you’re going to take the time to make a dessert, select your ingredients with care. I’m confident that no one ever tasted something delicious and sighed, “Gee, I wish I had used cheaper ingredients.”
So here’s a collection of many of my all-time favorite recipes, the ones I turn to over and over again. It’s not often that one gets a chance to revisit his or her work, update it, and make it even better. Thankfully, I got the chance, and I couldn’t be happier to have the opportunity to share these recipes with you, once again.
If you’re going to take the time to bake a cake or churn up a batch of homemade ice cream, the results should truly shine. My desserts don’t have a lot of fussy decoration. Instead, they impress with pure flavors, so it’s imperative that you begin with good-quality products. But you need not go broke buying the most expensive or exotic ingredients. Good-tasting chocolate costs only slightly more than the mediocre stuff. And ripe fruit in season is a lot cheaper and infinitely better tasting than its out-of-season counterpart. There’s absolutely no reason to use rock-hard blackberries from the other side of the world or apples that have spent eight months in storage when there’s so much to choose from that’s fresh and local.
There’s been a spate of “premium” or “European-style” products on the market, everything from baking flours and sugars to high-fat butter. Aside from a few recipes that benefit from high-percentage chocolate, I don’t use specialty ingredients when creating recipes since the results can vary widely and I strive for everyone to have the same results that I do. If you do want to use them, just keep in mind that they’ll sometimes behave differently and you may have to rely on your baking instincts when working with them.
“Organic,” “locally produced,” and “sustainable” are important factors to consider when shopping. I don’t...
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