Desserts: Mediterranean Flavors, California Style

Cindy Mushet, Author Scribner Book Company $30 (352p) ISBN 978-0-684-80054-7
If there's a complaint to lodge against this cookbook--which is full of outstanding, fresh ideas for all kinds of desserts--it's Mushet's overly broad interpretation of her subtitle. For example, Coconut Rice Pudding Br l e with Mango in Lime Caramel Sauce sounds fabulous--but does it really qualify as Mediterranean? However, many of these desserts do rework old-world classics with great style and wonderful results. Chocolate, Hazelnut and Orange Torte gives a new take on Italian gianduia. And while purists may consider it something of a travesty to transform Gelato Affogato (simply gelato doused with a shot of hot espresso) into an American-style sundae with whipped cream, liqueur and chocolate curls, the travesty is a delicious one. A chapter on fruit desserts makes use of California's bounty with such dishes as Figs with Espresso-Sambuca Sabayon and Shaved Chocolate and Citrus Compote in Spiced Champagne Broth. An entire chapter on phyllo creations includes Snake Pastry with Fig, Almond Paste and Lemon (inspired by a North African dessert), Sour Cherry and Almond Baklava and a Konafa with Tangerine-Lime Syrup. Supplementary materials are excellent throughout--the phyllo chapter benefits from several pages of tips on working with the tricky dough as well as instructions for chopping nuts (better done by hand for baklava, but so much easier in the processor) and using a candy thermometer for the most accurate results. Mushet (former publisher of the quarterly Baking with the American Harvest) may not create the most traditional desserts, but she does come up with some of the tastiest. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/04/2000
Release date: 09/01/2000
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