Good & sweet A new way to bake with naturally sweet ingredients

Brian Levy

Book - 2022

"Groundbreaking recipes for real desserts-sweetened entirely by fruit and other natural, unexpectedly sweet ingredients-from a pastry cook who's worked at acclaimed restaurants in New York and France"--

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New York : Avery, an imprint of Penguin Random House [2022]
Main Author
Brian Levy (author)
Other Authors
Kristin Teig (photographer)
Physical Description
287 pages : color illustrations ; 26 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages 276-279) and index.
  • Foreword
  • Introduction
  • Ingredients
  • Equipment
  • 1. Breakfast
  • Olive Oil Granola with Pistachios & Cherries
  • Coconut Crepes with Bananas & "New-tella"
  • Chestnut Flour Crepes with Apple Butter & Whipped Ricotta
  • Double Banana Bread
  • Fluffy Banana Buttermilk Pancakes
  • Sweet Corn Buttermilk Biscuits
  • Sweet Corn Blueberry Muffins
  • Perfect Currant Scones
  • Loaded Breakfast Cookies
  • Poppy Seed Jam Strudel
  • Coffee Cake with Berry Jam & Cinnamon Streusel
  • Peaches & Cream Brioche Tart
  • Ricotta-Chestnut Fritters with Sweet Cinnamon Dust
  • 2. Cookies, Bars & Confections
  • Rosemary-Lemon Shortbread
  • Salted Chocolate Buckwheat Cookies
  • Pignoli Cookies
  • 'Nana Wafers
  • New Figtons
  • Apricot Rugelach
  • Chewy Oat Bars
  • Babylonian Swirls
  • Date, Rye & Olive Oil Brownies
  • Date & Pine Nut Blondies
  • Chocolate Peanut Butter Patties
  • No-Bake Sesame Peanut Chews
  • Apple-Caramel Apples
  • 3. Starring Fruit
  • Strawberry Sweet Corn Shortcake
  • Blueberry Biscuit Cobbler
  • Stuffed Plums
  • Pineapple & Vanilla Crisp
  • Mixed Berry Crisp
  • Pear & Black Cherry Oat Crisp
  • Fig Crumble
  • Cherry-Coconut Clafoutis
  • Cinnamon & Bourbon Fried Apple Rings
  • Drunk Peaches
  • 4. Pies & Tarts
  • Farm Stand Blueberry Pie with Sweet Corn Whipped Cream
  • Pistachio-Studded Peach Galette
  • Jam Tartlets in Sweet Corn Crust
  • Finnish Blueberries & Cream Tart
  • Fig Crostata
  • Stone Fruit & Frangipane Tart
  • Bourbon Apple Slab Tart
  • Pear & Almond Tart
  • Apple Custard Tart
  • Key Lime Tart
  • Spiced Pumpkin Pie
  • Matcha Banana Custard Pie
  • Derby Date Pie
  • Mocha Tartlets
  • 5. Cakes
  • Brown Butter Banana Cake
  • Persimmon & Spice Bundt Cake with White Chocolate Ganache
  • Almond & Apple Bizcocho
  • Ricotta, Blueberry & Fig Pound Cake
  • Pineapple Pound Cake
  • Olive Oil Zucchini Spice Cake
  • Five-Spice Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
  • Figgy Cheesecake
  • Hugo Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting
  • Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake
  • Pistachio Cake
  • Fudgy Chocolate Spoon Cake
  • Peanut Butter Dream Date Cake
  • 6. Custards & Creams
  • Coffee Bean Panna Cotta
  • Milk Chocolate Mousse Clouds
  • Butterscotch Pots de Crème
  • Pear & Vanilla Bean Flan Pâtissier
  • Saffron & Lemon Rice Pudding
  • Almond & Orange Bread Pudding
  • Southern Banana Pudding Parfait
  • Persimmon Panna Cotta
  • Mango Custard
  • 7. Frozen
  • Apple & Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
  • Vineyard Frozen Yogurt
  • Hazelnut Milk Chocolate Ice Cream
  • Rice Pudding Ice Cream
  • Chestnut Ricotta Ice Cream
  • Banana-Date-Lime Ice "Cream"
  • Sesame Semifreddo with Chocolate Cookie Crust
  • Fig Ice Cream
  • Creamy Coconut Popsicles
  • Salted Dark Chocolate Sorbet
  • Black & White Milkshake
  • Peach & Moscato Sorbet
  • Affogato (Ice Cream & Espresso)
  • 8. Basics/Elements
  • Perfect Pie Dough
  • Sweet Corn Tart Dough
  • Blueberry Cookie Crust Dough
  • Sweet Pastry Dough
  • Frangipane
  • Chocolate Hazelnut Spread
  • Miso "Caramel" Cream
  • Any-Berry Compote
  • Cream Cheese Frosting
  • Plummy Chocolate Ermine Frosting
  • Vegan Milk
  • Vegan Milk Powder
  • Vegan Butter
  • Vegan Cream Cheese
  • Vegan Crème Fraîche
  • Gluten-Free Flour Blends
  • Appendix
  • Fruit States: Characteristics & Applications
  • Lists
  • Resources
  • Bibliography
  • Acknowledgments
  • Index

INTRODUCTION I'll never give up dessert. The taste of vanilla ice cream is one of the things that, to me, makes life worth living. One of the pure joys. A perfect savory dish can feel like alchemy: humble ingredients combined and manipulated to produce gold. But a dessert done right is sparkling diamonds. Dessert, never a necessity, always a luxury, can be magic. As a kid, I was attracted to the prospect of magic's existence. Not magicians performing tricks, but real magic: the fairytale witch and warlock variety. I was entranced by the irresistible magical radishes that were the object of Shelley Duvall's character's obsession in the Faerie Tale Theatre production of "Rapunzel." I clandestinely combed my elementary school library's shelves for books of spells. To no avail. A few years later, however, I discovered the Food Network and cookbooks, wherein there were plenty of bubbling cauldrons, incredible transformations, and "abracadabras" involved. By high school, I'd be lulled to sleep by the broadcasted voices of David Rosengarten, Sara Moulton, or the Two Fat Ladies. Shortly after college, I went through a couple of rounds of interviews to be an editorial assistant at Gourmet magazine, but when I didn't get an offer, it occurred to me that experience in a professional kitchen could be an advantage for my next magazine job supplication. So, I was off to France to intern in the kitchen of Michel Rostang's bistro just outside of Paris. The kitchen was tiny, and I was encouraged to watch and do a little bit of everything. But mostly, I was eyeing the desserts: French classics like macarons, crepes Suzette, baba au rhum. When I returned to New York, I took the first office job that I could find. But, still convinced that Gourmet was my destiny (I can get a little obsessive), and also now craving the excitement I'd experienced in the kitchen as well as a (free) pastry education, I contacted some of the top pastry chefs in Manhattan. In tattered cargo shorts and flip-flops, I met Gina DePalma in the Babbo dining room and swiftly felt at home. I started working nights and weekends alongside Gina and her two assistants. Gina didn't want to overwork her staff (and I wasn't being paid), but I wanted to be there all the time, to learn as quickly as possible. Months later, when one of the assis-tants quit, I was hired full-time. Mornings, I'd ghost through the sleeping dining room, empty but for a humming vacuum and its handler, into the kitchen, all fluorescent lights and stainless steel. I'd turn the convection oven on to 300°F before floating upstairs to change into my work whites. Then, for a precious while, I'd have the kitchen all to myself, until a couple of prep cooks and a dishwasher would join. Each hour brought more bodies, more clamoring pots, savory aromas, dirty jokes, and cries of "leche!" when someone would notice my pot of milk on the point of boiling over. In my pastry corner, mostly hidden behind a wall of stacked bins (flour, sugar, brittle, nuts, amaretti, biscotti. . .), I'd whisk and fold, roll and cut, melt and pipe, spin and freeze, beat and bake. Evenings, I'd prepare sauces and garnishes as I waited for the first wave of squawks from the pastry order printer. The line cooks were gener-ous with me; pastry had a unique status in the kitchen, and they knew that when they made me a pork chop (Pete), or beet farrotto (Chris), or squid ink spaghetti with shrimp, chile, and chorizo (Marcello), the favor would be returned with strawberry gelato or peach crostata or saf-fron panna cotta. At the end of the night, I'd treat myself to a velouté of whichever ice cream had mostly melted over the course of service, and I'd take a little cake for the road, intending to give it to my sister the next day but inevitably eating it while I waited for the subway train to arrive to get me home at two in the morning. After a couple of years of preparing and plating multiple-course desserts for up to three hundred diners per night in a shiny, well-stocked restaurant kitchen, I sought to focus intimately on a few ingredients by working on several farms through-out Spain and France. Upon arriving at the sec-ond such "farm," in Catalonia, I was informed that only one crop grew there-- Swiss chard-- and that the rest of our food supply would be har-vested from the local supermarkets' dumpsters. I discovered that, as inspiring as a Michelin- starred pantry had been, limitations, too, could impel creativity. Devising and preparing meals for my half- dozen fellow workers and myself according to the dumpster's daily bounty became the major focus of my days. The important lesson I learned here, beyond being less wasteful, was that there are almost always alternative routes, outside of long-established recipes, to delicious dishes. Two years later, after working in catering and as a private chef and having spent a hell of a lot of time assembling a portfolio that included some photos and drawings of my pastry work, I was a graduate student in architecture at Yale. It won't shock any of my architecture school friends that I've written a cookbook; some of my favorite memories of New Haven involve making dinner for classmates, which I did a couple of times a week, and of getting my Saturday kouign-amann at the farmers market. When it came to architec-ture itself, what excited me the most was designing the perfect kitchen and café, or researching under-ground communal ovens in North Africa. Needless to say, my enthusiasm for food and experimentation with alternative ingredients and techniques tugged me back into the kitchen-- my own kitchen (albeit with Babbo's KitchenAid mixer that Gina had gifted me and that I still use to this day), where I was free to test limits, make inedible junk, and experience the odd epiphany. When I was a pastry cook at Babbo, we served hundreds of guests per night, but perhaps my favorite part of service was experimenting with new recipe ideas-- between expeditiously plating the well- practiced dishes for diners-- and feeding the results to the eager line cooks. I love a kitchen breakthrough. Several years ago, as I savored a lavishly sweet and flavorful mango, a question struck me: Can't I make a sweet dessert out of this? The fruit was as sweet as I'd want any dessert to be, so why did I (and millions of other people) rely on mounds of sugar to produce sweet dishes? We take for granted that sugar-- in the form of cane sugar, maple syrup, honey, etc.-- is going to go into our desserts or our sweet breakfast dishes. But why not look elsewhere, mine the wide world of sweet, ripe fruits? I had to start experimenting, and it started with a mango custard, for which I harnessed the natural, flavorful sweetness of the fruit. I began by pureeing the overripe fruit and simmering heavy cream with the fragrant seeds of a vanilla bean and lemon zest, reducing its water content by about half to make up for the juice that the fresh mango would contribute. I whisked in egg yolks, the mango puree, a pinch of salt, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Straining through a sieve guaranteed a heavenly smoothness to the custard, which would finally be baked in ramekins set in a water bath. Once chilled, I topped the custards with generous spoonfuls of the pure mango puree, a balance of bright sweetness. The result was a dessert the color of sunshine that delighted with its creamy texture, its sweet, tart, elegant blend of flavors. And the finishing touch to the custard would be a bit of mastiha (aka mastic), the resin of a tree that is in fact a close relative of the mango but is extracted only on the Greek island of Chios. When that attempt worked, I wanted to make more desserts like this, and I searched high and low, mostly in vain, for existing recipes. Why didn't these recipes exist? I wondered. The answer to that why would gradually make itself known in the form of a pile of failed experiments: Because it is not easy. Feeling encouraged by the mango custard, I moved on to trying less obvious sweets (ones that aren't outwardly fruit desserts): a fluffy cake, for one. That's when things got weird. But hints of success kept me going. There were successful versions of dishes like a sticky toffee pudding that's every bit as rich, chewy, and sweet as the original is meant to be-- all without a speck of added sugar. Working without sugar in this frenzy of exper-iments reminded me of all the functions cane sugar normally serves: In addition to sweetening, it enhances subtle flavors, it provides structure, it keeps things moist, it keeps things fresh. It adds texture (crunchiness, chewiness), color, and flavor when caramelized. There was no single understudy that could swoop in to cover all of these roles. A lot of auditioning was going to be required. I had to focus on the breakthroughs: There were things I couldn't do for want of sugar (meringue!), but it was amazing how many things I could make with-out it. Indeed, because it was such a challenge to replace such a versatile ingredient, the moments of success were that much...sweeter. I designed a calculator-- with an internal (and ever-growing) database of ingredients-- that even now helps me get started to transform a traditional recipe full of added sugar to one sweetened only with fruit, grains, nuts, and the like. When I successfully made a sticky toffee pudding (one of my all-time favorite desserts) whose richly sweet, caramel flavors had been achieved with only dates, brown butter, miso paste, and organic milk powder, I knew I was onto something (see page 135). I'd searched high and low for records of the kind of recipes I was attempting--real desserts made sweet chiefly by fruit-- and came up empty handed. The closest I'd come was a book from the 1980s that replaced all sugar with fruit juice concentrate, which was, needless to say, not at all in the whole foods spirit toward which I was leaning. I concluded that if the recipes I wanted were going to exist, I'd have to invent them. And I knew I couldn't be the only person to find this idea intriguing. So why not, I thought, save people thousands of hours experimenting by sharing these new recipes in a book? For a recipe to make the final cut, I decided, I'd have to answer yes to each of the following questions about it: 1) Would I order it at a restaurant?, 2) Would I want to make it from a cookbook?, and 3) Is its taste irresistible? This book is for people who, like me, love dessert, real dessert-- cakes and cookies, custards and ice creams, tarts and crumbles-- but who also happen to care about their health and want to limit the amount of added sugars they mindlessly eat. There are, of course, alternatives: Don't eat sugar, period, or (worse) practice self-control and eat tiny amounts of it. My Grandma Marge, for instance, could sate her sweet tooth with a single mini Hershey's bar after dinner. (She also had to take pills to slow her metabolism. We should all be so lucky as to have either one of these quirks.) I, on the other hand, can eat a box of Fig Newtons in one sitting. In Good & Sweet, I will tell you the story of how, through years of research and experimentation, I came to use the natural sweetness of fruits, grains, and other whole-food ingredients to convert my favorite sweet treats into nutritious foods that contain no added sugars or artificial sweeteners. I imagined a world without sugar-- that is, without cane sugar, maple syrup, honey, agave nectar, or other near-pure sugars-- and pondered how to fill that world with delicious, satisfying--and, yes, sweet--desserts, breakfasts, and snacks. The answers lay mostly in fruit, along with other natural ingredients whose sweetness is often over looked. The result is a collection of original recipes and a guide to my secret ingredients and techniques. This is not a "sugar- free" cookbook; the recipes in Good & Sweet are not about what they lack but rather about what they gain from their integral inclusion of fruit and other flavorful, enriching ingredients. By excluding a staple baking ingredient and reworking recipes, so much is gained: flavor, nutritional value, and a nudge toward mindfulness about ingredients. The innovations I have developed required hundreds of hours of experimenting that the average health-conscious baker does not have the time or interest to execute, but the resulting recipes will nonetheless offer you the exhilaration of novelty in addition to delicious results. Along with the health benefits of sweetening recipes with mainly fruit, the baker will enjoy interesting twists in flavor and in the experience itself of baking. It also works to teach about the manifold roles that cane sugar normally plays in a conventional baking recipe, and the limits of working without it. Dessert has to be irresistible, or there's just no point. So, despite my healthward leanings, I am not here to convince you to crave, say, carob and stevia when your sweet tooth comes calling. Such ingredients certainly wouldn't satisfy me, and I don't expect they'd do much for you either. And since you've browsed the recipe list, you know that I'm not here to convince you to stop eating dessert either. I'm here to give you desserts that you'll love. I know sugar and all of its tricks. It's an incredible, shape-shifting ingredient that is easy to work with; there's a reason it's a default component of so many traditional desserts. I've worked with its crystalline granules by the binful in distinguished restaurants. But I also know another world of desserts that exists, one where there is no need for cane sugar or coconut sugar, for maple syrup or honey. It's a world that few bakers have explored and even fewer have returned to tell the tale of. Maybe you've heard: Sugar isn't all that good for you. I'm no doctor or nutritionist, but I'm convinced of sugar's damaging effects based on-- in addition to countless studies I've read-- the way I feel after eating a bunch of it (hung over), as well as strong evidence that the longest- living, healthiest peoples in the world don't eat much of it. The wide and growing variety of sweeteners in the baking aisle of the grocery store (even in my little village market in Connecticut) indicates that people are definitely interested in exploring their noncane options. But the problem with the options on these shelves is they're either a) weird chemicals or "ancient natural sweeteners" plus weird chemicals OR b) scarcely nutritionally different from cane sugar. The ingredients that I use in these recipes to eliminate the need for added sugars are not found in the sweetener section, because they are not one-trick ponies. Grease up your grocery cart wheels, because you'll be heading toward the produce, the dried fruits, nuts, flours, and grains. You might need a few items from the freezer, the dairy fridge-- and oh, back to the baking aisle, because you'll need some spices. In short, you are amassing a collection of ingredients that will impart not only their inherent sweetness but also their unique flavors to the decadent treats we are about to make. Excerpted from Good and Sweet: A New Way to Bake with Naturally Sweet Ingredients by Brian Levy All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.