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A Sweet Quartet: Sugar, Almonds, Eggs, and Butter
North Point Press
Published: October 23, 2002
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From Publishers Weekly
The author of Bread and Chocolate returns with another book that combines nonfiction and recipes. Rather than the autobiographical sketches in her previous book, however, here Gage folds in essays on four of baking's primary
ingredients. The four central essays each follow a similar pattern: a trip to a producer, such as a hatchery or almond farm; a discussion of artificial substitutes such as aspartame or margarine; a dollop of history and science (e.g., an investigation of
bitter versus sweet almonds), often followed by folklore on the subject. The recipes, from Palmiers to Green Almond Panna Cotta to Classic Shortbread, are clearly the product of a practiced hand (Gage owned a patisserie in San Francisco for 10 years).
Logically, Gage has attempted to include recipes that present these ingredients in their most elemental form, but sometimes the choices for such a limited group seem odd. The sugar chapter includes recipes for Green Tea Granita and Popcorn Balls with
Cashews, as well as for two pound cakes that, as Gage notes, could also have been filed under butter or eggs. A final chapter on all four ingredients, which includes one recipe an elaborate Croquembouche blends the four to their best and communal
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Former owner of San Francisco's well-known Patisserie Fran aise, Gage (Bread and Chocolate) traces the four building blocks of baking-sugar, almonds, eggs, and
butter-from origin to kitchen. Dividing her book into four corresponding sections, she examines the history of sweeteners, natural and artificial; takes a behind-the-scenes look at egg and chick production; explores the circular connection among bees,
honey, almonds, and humans; and chronicles the evolution of buttermaking from... read more
A baker celebrates the four elements that make dessert possible
Fran Gage calls sugar, almonds, eggs, and butter "the DNA of
desserts." Simple as they seem, they make possible a profusion of pastries and other sweets, from the elemental lollipop to the ethereal realms where marzipan, meringue, and puff pastry hold sway.
No one appreciates this fabulous foursome better
than Fran Gage, who relied on them for her daily output during the ten years she owned and ran her acclaimed San Francisco bakery, Patisserie Francaise. Nor could anyone do a better job of ferreting out how each found its way into the kitchen and yielded
up its alchemy, influenced by technological innovation, genetic manipulation, and government intervention--not to mention human error and, of course, the weather. In A Sweet Quartet, she tells the story of each ingredient, from its origins to its
transformation into culinary gold, drawing upon her travels, tastings, experiments, and remembrances. Each section ends on a sweet note, with a baker's half-dozen of recipes that show off the multiple talents of the ingredient. The book concludes with a
look at the meaning of desserts, from ancient times to the present day, and--the piece de resistance--ideas for a dessert buffet.
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