ert how sweet it is This month we're getting our just desserts and they're just divine from the easy to the elaborate, from homespun hand-me-downs to glamorous restaurant reproductions. With so many fabulous new cookbooks devoted solely to desserts and so many options for satisfying those sweet tooth cravings, it's hard to know where to start.

So, let's start with a winner a big winner and a big book. In the Sweet Kitchen: The Definitive Baker's Companion by Regan Daley, won the IACP Cookbook of the Year Award 2001, which is sort of like an Oscar and a Pulitzer Prize rolled into one. Daley really means it when she calls her book definitive; more than half of the almost 700 pages are devoted to a wonderfully thorough examination of tools, techniques and ingredients. In a cookbook that's surprisingly fun to read, this talented pastry chef really struts her stuff in the ingredients department. The ingredients go from the obvious (flour sugar, eggs and butter) to a detailed discussion of flavorings, nuts, fruits and sweet vegetables, including one of best ingredient substitution charts and flavor pairing charts I've seen. Then come the recipes 140 in all and there goes your diet. These sweets, from the somewhat traditional, like Really, REALLY Fudgey Brownies, to the sublimely sophisticated, like Fresh Fig and Pistachio Frangipane Tart with Honeyed Mascarpone, are too good to pass up. Daley believes anyone can equal the experts, as long as they know what they are doing and they use the highest quality ingredients. Daley's exuberant, excellent guidance teaches you how to do both.

Sybil Pratt has been cooking up this column for more than five years.

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