Sherry Yard, the executive pastry chef for Wolfgang Puck Worldwide, has created a mouthwatering, memorable dessert bible in Desserts by the Yard: From Brooklyn to Beverly Hills-Recipes from the Sweetest Life Ever. Beginning with some vintage photographs, there is a glowing foreword by Wolfgang Puck, an introduction by Sherry, and helpfully enough, notes on ingredients and equipment at the front, rather than the back, of the book.
The cookbook is divided chronologically, beginning with Sherry’s childhood in Brooklyn. Her introductions are nostalgic, and she includes updates of her childhood favorites such as rainbow cookies, frozen chocolate-coconut bars, charlotte russe, chocolate-dipped frozen custard cones, and mom’s cuisinart chocolate mousse. Nostalgic in origin, Sherry has turned these into elegant creations, but her clear writing and step-by-step instructions make the recipes easy enough to follow, and most call for common ingredients.
The next section, New York City, chronicles her experiences working in the Rainbow Room, and includes showier (and more difficult) desserts such as chocolate souffles, baked Alaska, chocolate velvet, chocolate truffle cakes, and chocolate devil’s food cake with chocolate filling. Chocoholics will find this section the most rewarding, although many recipes are time-consuming.
The other sections cover Sherry’s adventures in Vienna (including the prerequisite apple strudel), the Asian-themed Chinois on Main, with its exotic Asian fruit concoctions such as mango pudding, yuzu lemon-lime meringue pie, Mandarin granita, and passion fruit sorbet (this was probably my least favorite; besides the forbidden rice pudding, an update on Thai sticky rice pudding, I don’t see myself making any of these), a London interlude, and recipes taken from Sherry’s special events catering, including the Academy Awards (rather plain chocolate boxes mounted with sugar Oscar statuettes).
This is truly a dessert cookbook for everyone, and Sherry thoughtfully includes several savory recipes as well, such as honey-glazed cornbread and crispy herbed flatbread. For fans of ice cream (sadly, I don’t own an ice cream maker, so I haven’t tried to make these), there are numerous recipes for gelato (butterscotch, Meyer lemon, pistachio, coconut, stracciatella) and ice creams, including exotic choices such as black currant tea, Calvados, coffee, and yuzu curd.
Sherry’s writing makes this a delightful travelogue, and her down-to-earth style includes touches of humor (if she writes an autobiography about her experiences as pastry chef, I’ll be first in line to read it!). Her recipes are clearly written (I have several bookmarked to try in the near future), beautifully photographed, and most are simple enough for the beginning home baker to attempt (although some call for more sophisticated touches such as spun sugar adornments, or complicated puff pastry bases). Some do call for hard-to-find and expensive ingredients such as Asian fruits, but most are doable by the average home cook with access to a decent grocery store (Sherry does recommend using top-of-the-line Cluizel chocolate, since desserts are one area where you can’t skimp on ingredients and expect a stellar outcome using Nestle).
Verdict: this is an absolutely lovely volume with something for everyone, whether you’re a chocoholic, someone looking for a little nostalgia, or a daring pastry chef looking for new challenges (the Oscar desserts are labor-intensive and exacting).
My Amazon Affiliate link: Desserts by the Yard: From Brooklyn to Beverly Hills: Recipes from the Sweetest Life Ever