Desserts by the Yard: From Brooklyn to Beverly Hills: Recipes from the Sweetest Life Ever

Overview

Spago’s pastry chef to the stars and author of the James Beard Award-winning Secrets of Baking shares the recipes that propelled her to the top of her profession

Night after night at Spago in Beverly Hills, Sherry Yard dazzles the powerful, rich, and famous with incredible desserts. Her marvelous confections have won over patrons from Madonna to Frank Sinatra. Now the country’s premier pastry chef reveals the recipes that have made her a star ...

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Overview

Spago’s pastry chef to the stars and author of the James Beard Award-winning Secrets of Baking shares the recipes that propelled her to the top of her profession

Night after night at Spago in Beverly Hills, Sherry Yard dazzles the powerful, rich, and famous with incredible desserts. Her marvelous confections have won over patrons from Madonna to Frank Sinatra. Now the country’s premier pastry chef reveals the recipes that have made her a star in her own right and won her two coveted James Beard Awards.

Desserts by the Yard begins with inspirations from Yard’s childhood, such as My Favorite White Birthday Cake with Chocolate and Butter Fudge Frosting, and culminates in the spectacular creations she makes every year for the Academy Awards. Included here are some of Yard’s most famous recipes: the slinky crcme brulée she perfected when she worked at New York’s Rainbow Room, the coffeecake that made Campton Place Hotel San Francisco’s most popular breakfast spot, and the souffléed crcme fraîche pancakes with strawberry sauce she learned in Vienna. Don’t miss the chocolate caramel tart that Hugh Grant loves, former President Clinton’s favorite oatmeal raisin cookies, or the treat that made actress Suzanne Pleshette exclaim, “Bitch! You’re gonna make me fat!”

Desserts don’t get easier than Yard’s No-Bake Cheesecake, more decadent than Chocolate Bread Pudding with Butterscotch Gelato, or more holiday-perfect than Triple Silken Pumpkin Pie. In sidebars to each recipe, Yard shares tricks and techniques along with hilarious anecdotes that show her pluck, determination, and generosity.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Brooklyn-born Yard worked her way up to reign as Hollywood and Beverly Hills queen of sweet. Executive pastry chef of Puck's Spago empire, she annually creates 1,700 or so perfect desserts for the Governors Ball following the Oscars, such as mousse-filled chocolate boxes on power-painted red carpets the year Julia Roberts won for Erin Brockovich. But Yard hasn't forgotten the rapturous tastes of her childhood; along with celeb-studded, look-at-me tales of her lofty successes, she offers tender memories and recipes for such favorites as Italian bakery Rainbow Cookies. Yard actually delivers what every cookbook promises: news for the professional and foolproof secrets for the avid amateur. From her finger-stirred sugar-water-corn syrup caramel to her assembly-line masterpieces, every ingredient is necessary and every direction makes sense. Fruit desserts, her special passion, transport the reader to Eden. Comprehensive, well-organized and meaningfully illustrated, Yard's book may be the new dessert bible. Color photos not seen by PW. (Nov.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

Award-winning executive pastry chef Yard (The Secrets of Baking) chronicles her success and the recipes she developed as she worked her way from New York to Wolfgang Puck's celebrated restaurants in California, stopping in London and Vienna in between. Influenced by the sweets of her childhood (e.g., Girl Scout cookies), the desserts of Vienna (e.g., Sacher torte), and local farmers' market produce, Yard's 120 original and classic (with a twist) recipes cover an array of delectable cakes, pies, cookies, and frozen desserts. Among the standouts are Chocolate Macaroons with Black Currant Tea Ice Cream and Raspberries and Banana Crème Brûlée Pie. Instructions are easy to follow, and sidebars offer secrets for success. A decadent dessert book sure to inspire home cooks and professionals alike; highly recommended. (Color photos and index not seen.)
—Pauline Baughman

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780618515226
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 11/1/2007
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 7.94 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Meet the Author

Wolfganf Puck, the celebrated chef-owner of Spago, is at the vanguard of American cuisine. Born in Austria, he trained in France's finest restaurants before coming to the Uninted States in 1973. He lives in Los Angeles, California.

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Read an Excerpt

Brooklyn Inspirations I grew up out in the far reaches of Brooklyn, in a wonderful neighborhood called Gerritsen Beach, near Sheepshead Bay. We lived catty-corner to my grandma’s house, where my mom had grown up. My dad, a Brooklyn firefighter, grew up in the same neighborhood. It was a safe place to be, a spit of quiet blocks bounded on two sides by Plum Beach Channel, which flowed into Raritan Bay, and on the other by the Brooklyn peninsula. Gaggles of kids played and ran around like street rats, unsupervised, moving freely in and out of the unlocked houses of friends and relatives. We knew the first and last names of everyone in every family. Communication between parents and kids was through the screens of open windows, not cell phones. Even when we were little, we were allowed to cross the quiet street by ourselves, but if we wanted to cross busy Gerritsen Avenue, where Victoria’s Pizzeria and Genal’s Toy Store were, we had to shout for an adult. Our house was a two-story clapboard that sat on two lots. On the second lot, my dad built a deck and put in an above-ground pool that was the envy of the neighborhood. I shared a bedroom, and a birthday, with my older sister, Terry, and eventually we shared the same bedroom with two more sisters, Laurie and Lynne.
As in most of the Irish families on our block, meat was the focal point of our meals, and my father ruled the grill. My mom did not like to cook, and our vegetables always came out of a can. But we did sit down to a family dinner every night at a table where manners were of the utmost importance.
When we were little, if we were good, we got to help set the table. Putting out the salt and pepper shakers was what I liked to do best, until I became old enough to prepare my parents’ after-dinner Chock Full o’Nuts instant coffee. This was the moment I lived for each night. I memorized how each of them liked their coffee (my first recipe!), and, using a special red measure, I carefully measured one and a half spoonfuls for Dad, 1 spoon for Mom. I crushed the instant powder with the back of the spoon (my own special technique), before pouring in the boiling water and then put cream in Dad’s cup but left Mom’s black.
If there is any foreshadowing of my destiny as a pastry chef, the coffee ritual was it. I have almost no memory of homemade desserts—since my mother didn’t bake. We rarely even had dessert, other than store-bought cookies. On special occasions, we were treated to cookies from Leon’s Bakery and birthday cakes from Leon’s or from the faraway Ebinger’s Bakery, in another Brooklyn neighborhood. We loved to go to our local Carvel’s for ice cream, where we ate chocolate-dipped cones, and on special occasions pistachio floats and wet walnut sundaes. On summer evenings, the only thing that could get us out of the swimming pool was the sound of Mr. Minkie’s Good Humor cart, with its bells clanging or the promise of a lemon ice (page 000) from Victoria’s Pizzeria. I remember the sweets from my childhood so vividly that today I re-create many of them in grown-up versions, like the rainbow cookies that always go out on my Spago cookie plate.
When I was four and my sister six, we got a Susie Homemaker oven for our birthday. It was a miniature oven, equipped with baking trays and a book of recipes, that actually worked. You would be wrong to assume that this marvelous toy marked the beginning of my career. Because I was the younger sister, I was relegated to the task of assistant (call that dishwasher). My older sister was in charge, and because Terry loved peanut butter, everything she chose to bake had a secret ingredient—peanut butter. I was certainly a frustrated baker at an early age, though not a baker. However, I always did like mixing things up. In fact, by the time I was eight, I was begging my parents not for a Barbie doll, but for a Sears chemistry set for Christmas When I look back on all the jobs I had as a teenager in Brooklyn, I can see that my professional training began long before I knew what I was being trained for. In high school, I worked part-time as a dental assistant. I was trained on the spot to use dental tools; to be spotlessly clean and organized; and to do things in a precise way. Dr. Landesman’s office was a quiet place, where I had to concentrate at all times. On my days off, I sold hamburgers at McDonald’s. The manager said they looked for not-too-tall girls with pretty smiles, and apparently I fit the bill. McDonald’s was the polar opposite of the dentist’s office—loud, bustling, and filled with people of all nationalities, not just the Irish and Italians I grew up with. And yet the same degree of importance was placed on precision and on systems, from making French < fries to tying up a garbage bag. I loved to draw in high school (indeed, I demonstrated a larcenous taaaalent for making fake bus passes that loooked so authenttic that they were accepted), and my teachers said that I should apply for an art scholarship. I had my heart set on fashion school, but my mother was not one to have a “starving artist” in the family. She wanted me to have a skill that would assure some kind of employment, and she made sure I took secretarial classes like steno and Dictaphone, along with Typing I and II.
After high school, I got a job as a receptionist in the grants department of Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn. After five years, I had become a research grants associate, with my own office (baby blue with a royal blue swivel chair) and a hefty salary. I might have stayed at the medical center, not particularly happy in that world, but unwilling to give up a good job, had a car not barreled into me one day when I was driving home from work. I landed in the hospital for a month, in traction, which provided me with a lot of time for reflection.
While I’d been drifting along in my workaday world, I realized that I had developed a burning passion—a love of baking. I regularly sent cookies along with our grant applications awaiting signatures. I was forever fiddling around with recipes. By the time I got out of traction, I decided to resign my position. For the first time in my life, I had a plan. And thanks to a fat settlement check from the insurance agency, I had the means to carry it out. I enrolled in New York City Technical College, at the bottom of the Brooklyn Bridge, on the Brooklyn side.

Chocolate-Dipped Frozen Custard Cones Makes 8 cones

On the boardwalk in Atlantic City, we ate frozen custard cones dipped in chocolate. I used to love to watch the ice cream man dip the cones, one after another. Frozen custard looks like soft serve ice cream, but it has more body. Made with egg yolks, milk and a small amount of cream, this one has a dense, rich taste and a satiny texture.

2 cups milk 1/2 cup heavy cream 4 large egg yolks 3/4 cup sugar 1/4 teaspoon salt 2 to 3 tablespoons honey (to taste), preferably a mild honey like clover 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

For the chocolate dip 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped 1/3 cup vegetable oil

1. Prepare an ice bath: Fill a large bowl halfway with ice, add a little water, and nestle a medium bowl inside the ice. Place a xx-quart container in the freezer.
2. In a medium nonreactive saucepan, combine the milk and honey. Place the pan over medium heat and bring it to a simmer; do not boil.
3. Meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar in a medium bowl. Remove the hot milk from the heat and slowly add 1/2 cup of the milk into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Once the milk is incorporated into the egg yolks, and the eggs are warmed (tempered), pour the mixture back into the hot milk, whisking constantly; use a rubber spatula to scrape all the eggs into the pan.
4. Place the pan back over low heat, insert a candy thermometer or an instant-read thermometer, and immediately begin stirring the custard sauce with a heat-resistant rubber spatula. Stir in figure eights, all around the edge of the pan and into the center until the consistency is like thick cream; the temperature should reach 180sF. To test for readiness with the spatula, dip it into the sauce, pull it out, and run your finger across the back of the spatula—your finger should leave a clear trail.
5. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and strain the custard into the bowl in the ice bath. Stir in the salt. Stir the sauce occasionally for 5 to 10 minutes to cool evenly, until the temperature drops to 40sF. The sauce will become thicker as it cools. Cover tightly and place in the refrigerator to chill. (The sauce can be made a day in advance.) 6. Stir the heavy cream and vanilla extract into the cold custard, and freeze in an ice cream maker following the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to the chilled container and place in the freezer for at least 2 hours to firm.
7. Make the chocolate dip: Shortly before serving, combine the chocolate with the vegetable oil in a microwave-proof bowl and melt at 50 percent power or melt in a heatproof bowl set over simmering water in the double boiler. Stir until the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat and cool to 80s F. The chocolate will still be runny.
8. At least 2 hours before serving, scoop the frozen custard into cones. Hold in the freezer. Just before serving, dip into the chocolate and serve immediately.

Note: If you have leftover chocolate dip, keep it refrigerated. Reheat in the microwave at 50 percent power or in a double boiler when you want chocolate sauce for ice cream.

Zeppoli Makes about 24 zeppoli, serving 6 to 8

Zeppoli are Italian donuts. Brooklyn has a different Italian festival every weekend in the summer. At the San Gennaro Festival, vats of bubbling oil are everywhere, filled with fleets of floating batter for zeppoli. Vendors fill paper bags with the warm zeppoli, then dust them with confectioners’ sugar and shake the bags to coat. When I became a pastry chef I developed my own grown-up version, made with ricotta and milk. The tasty zeppoli are very tender.

2 cups all-purpose flour 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/4 teaspoon salt 2 tablespoons sugar 2 large eggs 2 cups ricotta 1 cup milk 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest Vegetable oil for deep-frying 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

6 paper lunch bags

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt to combine well (you can also sift the ingredients into the bowl).
2. Combine the sugar and eggs in another medium bowl and whisk until smooth. Add the ricotta and whisk to combine well. Add the milk, vanilla, nutmeg, and lemon zest and combine well. Whisk in the flour. Combine well. (The batter can be made up to 4 hours ahead.) Cover the batter tightly with plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or longer.
3. In a wide deep pot fitted with a deep-fry thermometer, heat the oil over medium-high heat to 350sF; or heat the oil in a deep fryer. Set a wire rack over a baking sheet. Carefully spoon tablespoonfuls of the batter into the hot oil in batches. Cook 2 to 2 1/2 minutes, flipping over every 30 seconds, until golden brown on both sides and puffed. Using a mesh skimmer or a slotted spoon, remove the zeppoli from the oil and drain on the rack.
4. Divide the zeppoli among the 6 to 8 paper lunch bags. Add 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar to each bag, close up the top, and shake to coat the zeppoli. Serve hot.

No-Bake Cheesecake Makes 24 mini cheesecakes

My mom had some decidedly unusual techniques in the kitchen. Up there with the wackiest of them was warming opened cans of vegetables on a cookie sheet in the oven. She figured, “Why dirty a pot if I don’t have to?” I called it Popeye cooking. We would run downstairs to the pantry every night before dinner to collect that evening’s canned vegetables. Green beans were a regular (though they were more often brown by the time Mom got through with them), and creamed corn was our favorite. By now you’re probably wondering why I’m prefacing a recipe for cheesecake with a story about heating cans of vegetables in the oven. It’s because of what happened the time Mom and I were making no-bake cheesecake for Thanksgiving. Mom told Dad to put the cans of vegetables into the oven, which he dutifully did. The only problem was, no one had opened the cans. Forty-five minutes later, the oven door burst open and out flew a can of creamed corn, heading straight for the plate-glass sliding door. It flew past Grandma and the crudités, barely missing Mom and me and the cheesecakes. The cheesecakes were unharmed. Mom used whole vanilla wafers for this, but I’ve refined her recipe by making the little crusts out of vanilla cookie crumbs.

12 vanilla wafer cookies 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature 1/2 cup sugar 2 tablespoons sour cream 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice 12 strawberries, halved or quartered (depending on the size)

1. Pulse the cookies in a food processor until you have crumbs. Line the cups of two mini muffin pans with paper liners and spoon a layer of cookie crumbs into the bottom of each.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with an electric hand mixer, beat the cream cheese and sugar at medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. On low speed, beat in the sour cream and lemon juice until well combined, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
3. Spoon or pipe the filling into the cups. Refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours, or overnight. 4. Before serving, top each cheesecake with a strawberry piece or two.

Macadamia Nut Baklava Makes one 12-x-17-inch pan

This macadamia nut version of baklava is always on the menu at Chinois on Main. Working with phyllo dough can be laborious. The sheets sometimes tear, they can easily dry out once you’ve separated them, and I find it frustrating at best when I have to pull them all apart and then restack them to make baklava. So I’ve figured out an easier, more logical way to do it. Here’s the trick: after unrolling the dough from the package, I fold the stack in half like a book and place it on a large sheet of parchment, with the seam in the center of the parchment. I begin to “read” the book by turning the pages, buttering each one after I turn it and sprinkling on the nut filling at intervals.

For the baklava 3 cups (14 ounces) finely chopped macademia nuts (or your favorite nuts) 1/2 cup sugar 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves 1 16-ounce package phyllo dough 12 ounces (3 sticks) unsalted butter, melted

For the syrup 3 cups sugar 2 cups water 1/2 cup honey 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice Pinch of salt

1. Make the baklava: Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350sF. Brush a 12-x-17-inch half sheet pan with butter.
2. Combine the chopped nuts, sugar, cinnamon, and ground cloves. Divide into 6 equal portions.
3. Assemble the baklava: Take the phyllo dough out of its package and open out the roll on a large sheet of parchment, so that a long side of the dough is toward you. Then fold the entire roll in half, folding the left side of the dough over the right, so it looks like a book, with the spine in the middle of the parchment. Starting with the top “page” of dough, turn over 7 pages, brushing each page with melted butter as you go. After brushing the seventh page, cover it with one sixth of the nut mixture. Turn 3 more pages, brushing each sheet with butter and pressing down firmly over the nut mixture. Cover the third page with another sixth of the nut mixture. Turn 7 more pages of dough, brushing each sheet with butter and pressing firmly down over the nut mixture. Top with another portion of the nuts. Continue to turn pages of dough, brushing each one with butter, until the dough is opened out flat, with one side filled and the other unfilled. Brush the top left-hand sheet of dough, top this page with a portion of the nut mixture, and begin to “close the book”: turn 7 more pages, brushing each page with butter, and then top with a portion of nuts. Turn 7 more pages, brushing each page with butter, press down firmly, and top with the remaining portion of nuts. Turn the remaining pages of the book, brushing each with butter, until you have finished “reading” the book and it’s closed. Lift the parchment paper, with the baklava, onto the half sheet pan, and cut away any paper that hangs over the edges of the tray.
4. Starting 2 inches in from a corner, make diagonal cuts in the baklava with a sharp knife or offset serrated knife, 2 inches apart, making sure you cut down all the way through the bottom of the baklava. Turn the pan and make diagonal cuts in the baklava, again 2 inches apart, to make diamonds. Place in the oven and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until crispy and golden brown.
5. Meanwhile, make the syrup: In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, water, honey, lemon juice, and salt and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat and simmer until the syrup reaches 225sF. Remove from the heat.
6. When the baklava is ready, remove from the oven. Pour the warm syrup all over the baklava. Serve hot, warm, or room temperature. Store the baklava at room temperature airtight for up to 5 days.

Rhubarb, Apple, and Fennel Crumble Serves 6

Mike Cirrone, of See Canyon Ranch in the San Luis Obispo Valley, sells Jonagold apples as well as Braeburns, Fujis, Granny Smiths, and Pink Ladies at the Beverly Hills Farmers’ Market, and I use them for everything from crumbles to pies and tarte Tatins. I love to combine fresh fennel with apples. The fennel contributes a licorice flavor, crunch, and spice to the crumble, and grating the two on a box grater makes for a tender, melt-in-your- mouth texture.
At the restaurant we always bake our crumble toppings separately, then bake the filling, sprinkle the crumble over the top, and heat through just before serving.

For the filling 1/3 cup sugar 1/4 cup light brown sugar 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour 1/2 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped out and reserved (optional) 1/4 teaspoon ground star anise 1/4 teaspoon salt 3/4 pound rhubarb, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick (3 cups sliced) 1 1/2 pounds (3 or 4) Braeburn or Fuji apples, peeled, cored, and grated on the large holes of a box grater 1 8-ounce fennel bulb, quartered, cored, thinly sliced, and grated on the large holes of a box grater 1/2 cup apple juice

For the crumble topping 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar 1/4 cup light brown sugar 1/8 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg 3/4 cup all-purpose flour 1/2 cup instant oatmeal

4 ounces (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

Vanilla ice cream or crcme fraîche for serving

1. Make the filling: In a large skillet over medium heat, combine the sugar, brown sugar, flour, vanilla bean seeds, ground star anise, and salt and stir together. Add the remaining ingredients and heat, stirring occasionally, until the apples, fennel, and rhubarb are tender and the mixture is bubbling and slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat.
2. Make the topping: Combine the confectioners’ sugar, brown sugar, salt, nutmeg, flour, and oatmeal in a food processor or a medium bowl and pulse or whisk together. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is crumbly, or rub between your thumbs and fingers until the mixture is crumbly, pressing any larger clumps between your thumbs and forefingers. Refrigerate until ready to use.
3. Place the rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350sF. Butter and sugar a 10-inch ceramic pie dish or a 2-quart baking dish and coat/sprinkle with sugar.
4. Fill with the apple-rhubarb mixture. Top with the crumble topping. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until browned and bubbling, turning the dish halfway through. Serve hot, with vanilla ice cream.

Sherry’s Secrets Bake the topping and filling separately—that way, the topping will always be crisp.
Follow steps 1 and 2 as directed, and preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the crumble topping on a sheet pan and bake for 30 minutes, or until browned and crisp. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Store in the freezer if not using right away.
Fill the buttered and sugared baking dish with the rhubarb-apple mixture. Place in the 350°F oven and bake until bubbling, about 30 to 40 minutes. Top with the baked topping and heat through, or run very quickly under the broiler.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    Just Average

    I have Sherry Yard's book The Secrets of Baking, and I LOVE IT! It is an amazing book. So, I was very excited about getting Desserts By The Yard, but it certainly doesn't live up to Secrets. Deserts By The Yard is a collection of recipes. It is not written in the educational and informative way that Secrets is. It is somewhat of a memoir, and the recipes are arranged in the chronology of her life, which is not particularly useful for the average home cook. There are some great recipes, but The Secrets of Baking by Sherry Yard is a far better buy.

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