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Dessert Circus: Extraordinary Desserts You Can Make at Home

Dessert Circus: Extraordinary Desserts You Can Make at Home

by Jacques Torres, John Uher (Photographer), Kris Kruid, Christina Wright, John Uher (Photographer)

Master the building blocks of dessert making and you can create anything. That is the simple philosophy of Jacques Torres, host of the public television series Dessert Circus and executive pastry chef at the world-renowned Le Cirque 2000 restaurant. In Dessert Circus he stays true to his principles. Learn how to temper chocolate (simply bringing


Master the building blocks of dessert making and you can create anything. That is the simple philosophy of Jacques Torres, host of the public television series Dessert Circus and executive pastry chef at the world-renowned Le Cirque 2000 restaurant. In Dessert Circus he stays true to his principles. Learn how to temper chocolate (simply bringing melted chocolate to the right temperature) and you can make Chocolate-Covered Almonds. Learn to make sorbet (no harder than buying an ice cream machine) and you can make a Palette of Sorbets, a chocolate palette artfully topped with five different fruit sorbets. Master the recipe for Classic Genoise cake and you have the starting point for everything from Banana Moon Cakes to a raspberry mousse-filled ladybug.

Jacques explains it all in clear, plain language, like a teacher at your side. He doesn't just tell you what to do, he tells you why you are doing it that way. Dessert Circus isn't just a stunning collection of a hundred astonishing desserts, it is a primer in the basics of dessert chemistry. You will learn about ingredients and how they react when mixed, kneaded, chilled, or heated and be taught the red flags of warning—the signs that something is not going right—and what you might be able to do to save the situation.

Dessert Circus satisfies your every craving. Chocoholic? Revel in homemade Peanut Butter Cups. Want something simple and homey? How about Decorative Shortbread Cookies or Old-fashioned Macaroons? If you think creaminess is the hallmark of a dessert to die for, open up to classic Creme Brulee and soon-to-be-classic Tiramisu. There are fruit desserts (try Roosted Whole Peaches with Fresh Almonds and Pistachios), pastries, (Napoleons, Baba au Rhum), and frozen finales.

But that's not all. Jacques has included recipes for all his signature desserts. Appreciate the architecture of New York City without ever leaving your kitchen by making The Manhattan, chocolate cake layered with a bittersweet chocolate cream constructed in the shape of a skyscraper. Enjoy winter any time of year with The Snowman, a little man made not out of snow but snowy white meringue and filled with tart lemon curd. If you're really feeling your baking oats, there is the final chapter, For the Truly Adventurous. Make a Cookie Tree, a Croquembouche (a pyramid of small cream puffs), or a wedding cake for sixty.

Each recipe is rated for its level of difficulty so you can start with desserts that match your level of experience and work your way up to those more challenging. Every recipe is accompanied by a color photograph of the finished dessert and step-by-step photographs where appropriate.

If you love dessert, you'll love Dessert Circus.

Editorial Reviews

From the renowned pastry chef of New York's Le Cirque 2000 comes this stunning collection of dessert recipes, which run the gamut from elegantly simple to rather wildly ambitious. Clear, step-by-step instructions make even the most complex items doable in the home kitchen. A companion volume to Torres's PBS series, Dessert Circus is particularly valuable because it enables home cooks to learn a great deal about the whys and hows of dessert cookery as they turn out truly fabulous creations.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
1 ED
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Product dimensions:
8.00(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.05(d)

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Read an Excerpt

Basic Buttercream 2

6 cups (40 ounces; 1,138 grams); enough to fill and frost two 8-inch round cakes

I borrowed this recipe from my friend Chef Dieter Schorner who was one of Le Cirque's first pastry chefs. His recipe is especially handy as a frosting for wedding cakes because it is very white. It is smooth, creamy, light, and easy to handle. When color is not a concern, this buttercream may be flavored in a variety of ways--with coffee extract, jam, nut paste, ganache, zest, etc.

One of the techniques used in this recipe is that of making an Italian meringue. I like to make an Italian meringue because the heat of the sugar kills any bacteria in the eggs.

Scant 1/2 cup (3.7 ounces / 106 grams) Water
2 1/4 cups + 3 tablespoons (17 ounces / 485 grams) granulated sugar
5 large egg whites
2 1/4 cups + 1 tablespoon (18.5 ounces / 520 grams cold) unsalted butter, cubed

The first step is to start cooking the sugar. Pour the water and sugar into a 1-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan and place over medium-high heat. When bubbles start to form around the edge of the pan, insert a candy thermometer in the mixture. When the sugar reaches 245°F (118°C), begin to whip the egg whites.

Place the egg whites in a large mixing bowl and whip with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until foamy and slightly soft peaks.

The sugar is ready when it reaches 250°F (121°C), what is known as the soft ball stage. Make an Italian meringue by pouring the cooked sugar down the side of the bowl while you continue to whip the egg whites. Do not pour the hot sugar onto the beaters, or it will splatter. Continue whipping the meringue on medium-high speeduntil the outside of the bowl is warm but not hot, about 5 minutes. Add the butter all at once and beat on medium speed until incorporated. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and whip until the buttercream is thick, smooth, and shiny, about 10 minutes. At this stage, you can add flavoring, if desired. If you are not going to use all of the buttercream for your recipe, flavor only the amount you will use.

The buttercream can be used immediately or can be stored in the refrigerator for three to four days or in the freezer for several weeks if held in an airtight container. If it has been chilled or frozen, allow the buttercream to come to room temperature before using, then whip it with an electric mixer on medium speed until it returns to its initial volume and is once again thick, smooth, and shiny.

Cassis Sticks

18 Pieces

Kris and I really have an appreciation for Champagne, We try to bring its festivity to any occasion. I think the subtle flavor of cassis really complements the taste of Champagne. This is a very fast and easy way to add a simple touch of elegance to any dinner party or brunch.

2/3 cup (5.3 ounces / 150 grams) water
Generous 1/3 cup (2.5 ounces / 75 grams) granulated sugar
1 cup (5.3 ounces / 150 grams) frozen whole cassis

Combine the water and sugar in a nonreactive medium-size saucepan and place over high heat. Bring to a boil and add the cassis. Stir gently to combine and remove from the heat. Pour the mixture into a 5 X 9-Inch loaf pan or a rectangular shallow dish about the same size; it should make a layer about 1/2 inch thick. Place in the freezer until solid, about 2 hours. (At this stage, the mixture can be stored in the freezer, well wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to three weeks.)

To unmold, dip the pan in hot water for about 5 seconds. Run a sharp paring knife around the edges to loosen the sides of the frozen mixture from the pan. Center a small cutting board over the pan and flip over the board and pan at the same time so the pan Is on top. Lift the pan. If the pan does not come off, you will need to dip it in water again. Use a serrated knife to cut the frozen mixture into 1/2-inch-wide strips about 3 inches long (or to fit in the glass you are using). Place one cassis stick in each glass and add Champagne. As the cassis sticks melt, they add a delightful fruity flavor to the champagne.


If you can't find cassis, use fresh blueberries.

Dessert Circus. Copyright © by Jacques Torres. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

What People are Saying About This

Andre Soltner
Out of my hundreds of pastry and cooking books, Jacques Torres' Dessert Circus will be at the top of my shelf. I tried many of his recipes, and they all worked like miracles. Bravo!
Finally Jacques is sharing his remarkable recipes with all cooks -- amateurs and professionals alike. I have a tremendous amount of respect for his work, and it is with great admiration and awe that I recommend Dessert Circus. I am sure it will be used and appreciated for years to come.
Jacques Pepin
The pastry of Jacques Torres makes me happy! 'Enthusiastic,' 'exuberant,' and 'passionate' are words too mild to describe this dedicated professional completely devoted to his trade. His thorough training in the classics gives him the sure hands needed to experiment and express himself in fanciful and delightful dessert creations. You will love this book.

Meet the Author

Jacques Torres is the Executive Pastry Chef at Le Cirque 2000. He was voted James Beard Pastry Chef of the Year and has received the coveted Meilleur Ouvrier de France, France's highest award for a pastry chef. He is also the Dean of Pastry Arts at the French Culinary Institute in New York City and the host of the National Public Television series Dessert Circus.

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