Ripe for Dessert, 100 Outstanding Desserts with Fruit: Inside, Outside, Alongside  David Lebovitz

256 pages; 30 Color photographs, Hard Cover

Harper Collins, New York, New York, June 2003

Reviewed by Reviewed for Good Cooking by Esther Muhlfelder, Spring 2003

From time to time Good Cooking receives cookbooks for review even before they are released to the public.  That was the case with this pre-release copy of Ripe for Dessert.  You will notice it was reviewed in March but wasn't released by the publisher until last month.  It is literally hot off the press!  The following is Ester's review of the book.

Ripe for Dessert, 100 Outstanding Desserts with Fruit: Inside, Outside, Alongside by David Lebovitz is written by a pastry chef passionate about fruit (any form…fresh, dried, candied) and its combination with baking ingredients to create fantastic, intense and unusual fruity flavors. This is his second book. His recipes definitely bring desserts to new levels. But watch for the season when choosing the fruit to use!

I particularly enjoyed the introduction the author gives to each recipe. The stories he tells and images he uses in describing the fruit, their smell, color, and ripeness make you already savor their taste. I couldn’t wait to jump into the kitchen and begin baking. Just by reading the recipe of a “Totally Orange Allspice Cake with Brown Sugar Glaze” you can smell the orange as it is cooked until tender and almost taste the strong orange flavor. The recipe is very easy to follow, and since I had all the ingredients in the house it took me no time at all to start the production. The result…a very moist orange flavor caramelized glazed cake, very delicate with an elegant taste. Try it. You will see how much you and your guests will enjoy the exotic mix of spices. Be prepared…everyone will want the recipe!!

David's “Totally Orange Allspice Cake with Brown Sugar Glaze” 

I wanted to make a cake that would be very orangey, but not too buttery, a cake that would resemble a sformato, the unmolded Italian pudding-souffle. An idea from Giuliano Bugialli provided the jumping-off point, and here is the result.

The Cake:
1 medium navel orange, (about 1/2 pound)
1/4 tsp. plus 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/3 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ground allspice
8 tbsp. (1 Stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup currants, tossed in 1 tbsp. flour

The Glaze:
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
3 tbsp. heavy cream
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

1. To make the cake: Slice the orange in half and put it into a small saucepan. Add enough water to cover completely and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the orange is limp, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. (You should be able to pierce it easily with a sharp knife.) You can also cook the orange halves in a microwave oven on high power for 12 minutes. Finely chop the orange in a food processor (but do not puree) and set aside.

2. Position the oven rack in the center of the oven preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 by 2-inch cake pan.

3. Sift together the flour, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, baking powder, baking soda and allspice.

4. In a standing electric mixer, or by hand, beat together the 8 tablespoons of butter and granulated sugar until creamy and smooth, about 3 minutes.

5. Add the eggs and vanilla and continue to beat. Mix in half of the dry ingredients, the milk, and chopped orange. Stir in the remaining dry ingredients and the currants.

6. Transfer the batter to the prepared cake pan and bake for 50 minutes until it feels slightly firm in the center. Cool before glazing.

7. Remove the cake from the pan and set it on a platter or cooling rack.

8. To make the glaze: Melt the 2 tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan. Stir in the brown sugar, and cook for 2 minutes, without stirring. Add the cream and salt and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Let the glaze cool for a few minutes.

9. When the glaze has cooled to lukewarm and has thickened somewhat, pour it onto the center of the cake and spread it to the edges with a butter knife or icing spatula, encouraging some of the glaze to drip down the sides.

This is the result that Ester had from following the recipe

Most of the recipes in this book come with notes, serving suggestions and variations. I found these remarks very educational. It is very helpful to know which other fruits would do well to substitute, when these desserts are best served, or when you can make part or the whole recipe in advance. 

Recipes are very easy to follow with clear explanations. I have made several and always experienced the same feedback from family and friends, “very tasty and especially unusual”. And the best part is that they are easy to make once you gather all the ingredients. 

Growing up I had always tasted my mother’s candied orange and lemon rinds, but I never made them until discovering David’s simple recipe: The trick is to cut the slices of lemon or orange very thinly. I found it best to use small navel oranges and let them cook for 45 minutes instead of the 30 minutes needed for the lemons. They are great to serve with a genoise or pound cake, on toast, with ice cream, or by itself. Rolled inside French pancakes with a splash of warmed Grand Marnier they turn breakfast into a special treat.

David's “Quick-Candied Lemons” 

I always candy a few lemons at a time. Although I use them in the previous recipe for Superlemon Soufflé, the chopped pieces are wonderful in place of the blackberries in the Graverstein Apple and Blackberry Crisp or simply draped next to your favorite lemon tart. 
Once Lindsey Shere, my pastry guru, gave me one precious bergamot, an uncommon citrus fruit, from her bergamot tree, and it candied beautifully. So feel free to substitute other citrus, such as oranges or tangerines.

2 to 3 lemons, preferably organic 
2 cups sugar
I cup water

1. Slice the lemons as thinly as possible. (I use a serrated steak knife.) Discard any seeds.

2. In a nonreactive saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a boil. Add the lemon slices and reduce the heat to a rolling simmer. Cook for about 30 minutes, until the slices are translucent.

Note: The candied slices can be kept in their syrup in a covered container, under refrigeration, for about 2 weeks. After that, they lose their appealing flavor.

Another winner is: “Cranzac Cookies”. If you like chewy cookies try these coconut/cranberries cookies made with Lyle’s Golden Syrup (cane sugar syrup that I found at Bread & Circus now Whole Foods Market. All the ingredients are mixed by hand and take 12 minutes to bake.

David's Cranzac Cookies

Anzac is an acronym for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps-the down-under force that fought in World War I. The original Anzac cookie recipe was developed back then to provide the soldiers with a nutritious energy boost, the precursor to the ubiquitous energy bars. I've adapted a recipe that appeared in Cooking Light magazine and added dried cranberries.

The Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup dried shredded coconut, sweetened or unsweetened
1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dried cranberries 
3 tablespoons water
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) 
unsalted butter, melted 
1/4 cup Lyle's Golden Syrup 
(available in well-stocked supermarkets)

1.  Position the oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, toss together the flour, oats, brown sugar, coconut, baking soda, salt, and dried cranberries.

3.  Stir in the water, melted butter, and Golden Syrup until the dry ingredients are thoroughly moistened.

4.  Roll the cookie dough into 1 1/4-inch balls. Place the balls on the baking sheet, about 1 inch apart, and flatten them into 2-inch disks.

5.  Bake the cookies for 12 minutes, until light brown. Rotate 
the baking sheet midway through baking to make sure the cookies bake evenly. Once cool, store the cookies in an airtight container for up to 3 days. The dough can be made in advance and refrigerated for up to 1 week or frozen for longer.

Variation: Substitute 1/2 cup raisins or dried cherries for the dried cranberries.

This is the result that Ester had from following the recipe.

Notes: I found the following corrections: “Lemon-Ginger Crème Brule, page 108; number 4: The author omitted adding the remainder of the half & half mixture into the eggs; or the eggs into the half & half to combine all, before it should be strained.

”Free-Style Lemon Tartlets with White Chocolate”: I enjoyed the lemon filling, but the tartlets are best if more butter is added into the dough. The recipe calls for 1½ cups of flour for 5 tablespoons of butter. The result is a very crispy thin crust, but I would have preferred it flakier.

Also, it is difficult to find a recipe in the book. The index is divided very nicely by fruit category but does not specify the page on which each recipe is found. I believe since this is an uncorrected proof pages will be added upon final review.


Good Cooking would like you to know that David Lebovitz received much of his training at Alice Waters' legendary restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California-well-known for its commitment to top-quality, organic ingredients and absolute dedication to foraging for the freshest and most perfect ingredients available. He spent over twelve years at Chez Panisse in the pastry department creating desserts to compliment the seasonal menus which changed on a daily basis.