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COOKBOOKS: FAMOUS DESSERT RECIPES

By Patricia Boccadoro

PARIS, 25 APRIL 2008-Gail Monaghan's Lost Desserts is just that; a book of recipes from days gone past, updated and modernized for today's cook. In it one can find, as stated in George Lang's foreword, "all manner of chiffon pies, cheesecakes, upside down cakes, and homemade ice-creams."

Monaghan has painstakingly resuscitated puddings and pies from restaurants which closed down years ago so those of us who are still around to remember can once again enjoy Blum's Coffee Cake Crunch, Escoffier's Mont Blanc, Trader Vic's Flaming Tahitian Ice Cream or Chasen's Banana Shortcake made in their own home in the blink of an eye, or, in the case of some recipes, the best part of a week-end.

However lost, as far as many readers are concerned, can also refer to that delicious sounding carrot cake torn out of one of the Sunday newspapers, but then left lying around for the weekly help to scoop up into the trash can, as well as that scrumptious recipe for the "foolproof" melt-in-the-mouth cheesecake from a friend's Aunt Fanny, who thoughtlessly died last month taking her secret with her. Both these treasures seem to have been unearthed by Monaghan and are alone worth the purchase of the book.

Without following too literally in the footsteps of George Lang's wife, who allegedly had 80 birthday cakes made for her husband's birthday, (his 80th?? It seems amazing he reached it… ), this book would seem to be the ideal gift for Jean, a friend who has been asked to make a Tarte Tatin * for the umpteenth time for her daughter's parties. But upon following up the story, it appeared that she so excels in that particular pudding, that no one in the family wants to eat anything else! Maybe THEY should be given the cookbook.

However, while many of the delicacies can be praised, others do leave one shuddering. Who needs, "an angel cake of every conceivable flavor and color of the rainbow"?

And who wants to labour for hours on some of these complicated fancies, when as much pleasure can be had by gazing at Eric Boman's splendid photographs. And not least, Monagham's amusing and chatty anecdotes which precede each recipe will brighten many a dreary day.

European readers, however, are in for a tough ride, for those who are smart enough to master the "sticks" of butter and "cups" of flour will basically have a tough time with setting their ovens to "500" degrees. What about adding a conversion table for those not wizard in arithmetic for a second edition?

* Incidentally, here is Jean's Tarte Tatin:

Half a stick of butter
Half a cup of brown sugar
A kilo of cooking apples, preferably English Bramleys
Pastry lid, bought or homemade, flaky pastry or shortcrust

Preparation time: approximately 10 minutes

Melt butter and sugar in a Tarte Tatin dish, preferably Le Creuset, preferably orange, and sauté quartered apples until lightly caramelized. Leave to cool, and then top with pastry and bake approximately 35 minutes at 180 centigrade (350 farenheit), or as instructed on you pastry packet.

Turn upside down when cooled, and eat with lashings of crème fraiche.

Lost Desserts: Delicious Indulgences of the Past Recipes from Legendary and Famous Chefs
By Gail Monaghan
Photographs by Eric Boman

Hardcover: 200 pages
Rizzoli (November 2007)
ISBN-10: 0847829839
ISBN-13: 978-0847829835
$45.00

Patricia Boccadoro is a senior editor at Culturekiosque.com



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