Pure Dessert: True Flavors, Inspiring Ingredients, and Simple Recipes


A refreshing change in every respect

When you are working with great ingredients, you want to keep it simple. You don’t want to blur flavor by overcomplicating. This is why Pure Dessert, from the beloved Alice Medrich, offers the simplest of recipes, using the fewest ingredients in the most interesting ways. There are no glazes, fillings, or frostings—just dessert at its purest, most elemental, and most flavorful.

Alice deftly takes us places ...

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A refreshing change in every respect

When you are working with great ingredients, you want to keep it simple. You don’t want to blur flavor by overcomplicating. This is why Pure Dessert, from the beloved Alice Medrich, offers the simplest of recipes, using the fewest ingredients in the most interesting ways. There are no glazes, fillings, or frostings—just dessert at its purest, most elemental, and most flavorful.

Alice deftly takes us places we haven’t been, using, for example, whole grains, usually reserved for breads, to bring a lovely nutty quality to cookies and strawberry shortcake. Pound cake takes on a new identity with a touch of olive oil and sherry. Unexpected cheeses make divine soufflés. Chestnut flour and walnuts virtually transform meringue. Varietal honeys and raw sugars infuse ice creams and sherbets with delectable new flavor.

Inspired choices of ingredients are at the heart of this collection of entirely new recipes: sesame brittle ice cream, corn-flour tuiles with tangy sea salt and a warming bite of black pepper, honey caramels, strawberries with single-malt sabayon.

To witness Alice’s idea-stream as she describes how she arrived at each combination is to instantly understand why three of her books have won Best Cookbook of the Year. She’s an experimenter, tinkerer, and sleuth, fascinated with trial and error, with the effects of small changes in recipes, exploring combinations tirelessly and making remarkable discoveries. Does cold cream or hot cream do a better job coaxing out the flavor of mint leaves or rose petals? Why is it that dusting a warm brownie with spices gives it an enticing aromatic nose, whereas putting the spice in the batter blurs the chocolate flavor? Do cooked strawberries or raw make for the better sorbet?

Loaded with advice and novel suggestions, with great recipes and eye-catching, full-color photographs that show off these simple, straightforward desserts, Pure Dessert is an education and a revelation. Thank you, Alice!

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781579652111
  • Publisher: Artisan
  • Publication date: 9/5/2007
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 805,523
  • Product dimensions: 7.69 (w) x 10.28 (h) x 0.98 (d)

Meet the Author

Alice Medrich is truly a star in the baking world, having won more cookbook-of-the-year awards and best in the dessert and baking category awards than any other author. She received her formal training at the prestigious Êcole Lenôtre in France, and is widely credited with introducing the chocolate truffle to the United States when she began making and selling them at her influential Berkeley dessert shop, Cocolat. She has since left the retail world, devoting much of her career to teaching and sharing her expansive knowledge about baking.

She is the author of Flavor Flours, Seriously Bitter Sweet (a complete revision of her 2003 IACP-prize-winning BitterSweet), Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts, Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies, Pure Dessert, and Chocolate Holidays.

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Table of Contents



Before You Start 1

The Flavors of Milk 34

The Flavors of Grain, Nuts, and Seeds 56

The Flavors of Fruit 98

The Flavors of Chocolate 134

The Flavors of Honey and Sugar 170

The Flavors of Herbs and Spices, Flowers and Leaves 198

The Flavors of Wine, Beer, and Spirits 230


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In pursuit of pleasure

Faced with an overly sweet, complicated dessert or one made with mundane ingredients, I sometimes long instead for a bowl of good plain yogurt drizzled with honey and sprinkled with walnuts or pistachios, a piece of bittersweet chocolate, or some ripe figs.

I haven’t given up dessert, but when I eat it, I want it to taste as good as that bowl of yogurt or piece of chocolate. I want the soul satisfaction and the sensual pleasure of real flavors. The best chefs cook savory food simply, with the best ingredients. That’s how I like to eat. Why don’t we make more desserts that way?

The dessert repertoire needs an infusion of new and better ingredients and new approaches to working with them. High-quality ingredients of all sorts are available now. Fresh, delicate cheeses (cow, goat, and sheep) can redefine cheesecake. Interesting grains should not be reserved for heavy loaves and health food: their toasty, nutty flavors can bring nuance and depth to indulgent buttery cookies, delicate wafers, and moist, tender cakes. Organic yogurts, milks, and creams can transform ice creams and sherbets. Great chocolates and cocoas can elevate simple desserts, as will flavors captured from fresh flowers and herbs, coffee beans, and tea leaves.

Pure Dessert is a collection of simple, ingredient-driven recipes for cakes, cookies, tarts, ice creams, and other desserts, made from fresh, artisanal, organic, natural, or otherwise distinguished “real” ingredients. Such ingredients are increasingly abundant in better supermarkets as well as in the obvious places: farmers’ markets, cheese shops, gourmet and natural food shops online, and a growing number of urban and suburban gardens.

Authentic ingredients are important because they taste good. Simple recipes are essential because they allow us to savor that goodness. The emphasis on flavor means desserts that are often (but not always) less sweet and/or less rich than mainstream desserts. If they are less sweet and rich, it is primarily in pursuit of pleasure. Incidental health benefits are just bonuses.

My pure desserts are simple, relaxed, convenient, and elegant. These accessible, home-kitchen–friendly recipes include tips to ensure success and notes that reveal the method to my madness. Pure desserts are for busy people who love food and care about what they eat, for people who are curious and open to new tastes, and for those who appreciate the details that make the difference between a good dessert and a great one.

Pure desserts can stand alone or be mixed and matched for special occasions. Sour Cream Ice Cream, Tropical Lace Cookies, and strawberries is worthy of a dinner party, but each component is delicious on its own. Pure dessert recipes are brief and inviting, and they welcome improvisation.

The media proclaim the message: organic, natural, local, “slow, ” hand-crafted, and authentic. So what more could we ask for? Here are recipes and techniques that are simple, and as easy for the home cook as the chef. That’s the cherry on the top.

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 11, 2008

    Pure Dessert

    Rarely do I stumble on a cookbook from which I want to make every single recipe. I'm very happy to share this gorgeously illustrated tome with everyone. Medrich's talent is for illuminating familiar flavourings with new insight, and organising new combinations with such elegant logic that they seem instantly familiar. Hence the likes of a dark chocolate and citrus tart with jasmine tea-infused cream a rosewater and mint ice cream that shuns eggs for a cleaner flavour and a coconut palm sugar and rum layer cake that wouldn't look out of place on a Peranakan dining table. I cannot think of the recipe for little crepes stuffed with fresh cheese and caramelised in butter and sugar without salivating. Chapters are organised by key flavours rather than type of dish: milk, chocolate, herbs and spices, honey and sugar, fruit, spirits and alcoholic beverages, and grains, nuts and seeds. Inveterate bedtime cookbook readers will find many nuggets of useful information scattered throughout the text - for example, adding too much egg yolk to tuile cookie batter blunts its flavour, and rich, malty brews make better beer ice creams than very hoppy beers. Who knows?

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 31, 2008

    mmm Really raspberry coconut tart

    I have only made a couple of things form this book but each one has been excellent....cn't wait to get her ookies and brownie's book next week :)

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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