Pros: Stunning (and stunningly delicious) desserts; amazing photos; playful flare
Cons: Not for the casual cook!
Rating: 5 out of 5
Elizabeth Falkner is the highly creative pastry chef behind three well-known San Francisco establishments: Citizen Cake (beware—website plays sounds on arrival), Citizen Cupcake, and Orson. In Demolition Desserts she shares some of her illustrious creations with home cooks everywhere.
True to Ms. Falkner’s reputation as a renowned pastry chef, these recipes are neither simple nor quick. However, neither are they unnecessarily complex, and there are some minor shortcuts (Freudian slip—I first typed ‘shortcakes’ there) you can take if you’re in a hurry.
For example, one of my favorite recipes from this book is a stunning s’mores brownie recipe. Delightfully, the book includes recipes for homemade marshmallows and graham crackers so that you can go all-out. However, if you’re in a hurry and in need of an impressive dessert, believe me, you’ll still impress people if you make this recipe using purchased marshmallows and graham crackers. Likewise, you can make your own eggless lemon curd with which to fill buttermilk cupcakes (don’t forget the meringue topping!), but if you find yourself short on time, the cupcakes will still wow people if you pick out a high-quality store-bought lemon curd.
Don’t take too many shortcuts, though, because it’s worth it to go all-out on these recipes when you have the chance. The date cupcakes filled with toffee and topped with a coconut cream cheese frosting will make you think you’ve died and gone to heaven—probably right before they send you into sugar shock, naturally.
A long time ago I reviewed what should have been a similar cookbook put out by Charlie Trotter: Charlie Trotter’s Desserts. The difference between the two books, however, is the difference between night and day. That book was filled with nearly impossible-to-reproduce stunners using impossible-to-find ingredients and containing obvious mistakes. This book is, by comparison, quite practical, and obviously meant to see use. Sure, these are fancy recipes that take real work and occasionally use specialty ingredients. However, there are plenty of instructions included to make sure you can reproduce them beautifully. I haven’t found a single mistake in the recipes we’ve used, and I just love the cartoons (by Ms. Falkner’s brother) included in the book—the touch of whimsy is delightful.
If you’re the kind of cook who loves to do more than just gaze longingly at fancy food photography, then this is the fun, delicious cookbook you’ve been longing for.