In The Perfect Finish (Norton), Bill Yosses, executive pastry chef at the White House, and Melissa Clark, a food columnist for the New York Times, describe their favorite recipes, what life is like in the White House kitchen, and how they came to partner on the book.
Unlike most dessert cookbooks, you not only provide recipes for special occasion desserts but you include them for "any day" baking.
Bill Yosses: From the beginning, we wanted to create a book that people would pick up and use, one that included recipes that didn't require a lot of special equipment or create a lot of dirty dishes. That was a major goal of ours, and of course we wanted to be sure all the desserts tasted good.
Melissa Clark: We also wanted to approach dishes with a home cook's eye, making sure that the great recipes Bill created over the course of his career were suitable for a home kitchen.
What's a typical day like for you at the White House?
BY: Every morning, the departments within the White House meet to go over their plans for the day. It's one of my favorite parts of the job because I get to hear what everyone else is doing. Then I move on to the kitchen, to get things ready for whatever event happens to be taking place that day. We could be serving anywhere from 10 to 500 guests, which means every day is different.
How did your partnership on this book come about?
MC: Bill and I primarily worked on the book while he was still based in New York. We had known each other since he was at Bouley, and then I wrote about him for the New York Times. We knew and liked each other before we teamed up for the book.
What are your favorite recipes in the book?
BY: The orange-scented olive oil cake with fleur de sel is original and delicious. I also love the upside-down cranberry-caramel cake, and the strawberry shortcake on the cover of the book. While these desserts may all seem familiar, each recipe has a new twist to it, such as using olive oil instead of butter, which is healthier.
MC: The flaky nectarine pie is excellent. I think the gingerbread bundt with freshly ground spices is fabulous, and the double chocolate cookies are amazing. The easy rustic stone fruit galette is also really good.
What advice do you have for beginners attempting serious baking for the first time?
BY: Start with the recipes in the early chapters. They build in complexity as the book progresses.
MC: Practice and learn. That's why I love my job so much—I'm always learning as I go.