Confession: desserts just aren’t my thing. That’s why I’m grateful we have Chris Hoelck on the Fine Cooking staff. Both a talented copy editor and home baker, desserts are his thing. (So is marathon running, which is why he can get away with it.) All this is to say that when Chris is excited about a baking book, I am excited about a baking book. Lately, it’s the newest one from Tish Boyle. Chris, who has been a Boyle groupie since she was editor of Chocolatier magazine, was on me for a copy of Flavorful as soon as he got wind it was coming out. That most of the recipes will automatically appeal is almost a given. Boyle asked countless restaurant pastry chefs about which of their desserts sell best. She came up with nine basic flavor categories and arranges her chapters accordingly: vanilla, berries and cherries, apple, citrus, sweet cheese, nuts, caramel, coffee, and chocolate. The only one that may surprise is sweet cheese, but not when you consider the popularity of cheesecake. Yet there are indeed welcome surprises within the chapters: a strawberry sorbet flavored with fennel, an apple crostata baked in a whole-wheat rosemary crust, and scones flavored with orange and cardamom.
Ingredients are listed in weights as well as volume, as most serious bakers (hello, Chris) prefer weighing ingredients. A wide range of recipes means there are both easy-to-make desserts for someone like me and more challenging projects for someone like Chris. And based on the number of recipes he’s flagged to make (and bring in to work to share), it’s clear that he’ll be baking from Flavorful for a long time to come. That’s good news for my taste buds and bad news for my pants size. Maybe I’ll start running marathons, too, right after I eat one of the Lemon Buttermilk Cupcakes that Chris brought in.
Chocolate Pudding Parfaits with Cacao Nib-Streusel Topping
The pudding is supereasy to make and quite yummy, but what’s best about the recipe is the crunchy, bitter, and sweet streusel and the fact that you make more than you need for the parfaits. Boyle recommends serving it on ice cream, and it’s a tasty snack on its own.
Walnut Layer Cake with Cream Cheese-Spice Buttercream
Impressive to look at, the four layers of this cake get brushed with a Kahlúa syrup that makes it incredibly moist. A little more icing would have made it even better, but it’s still a keeper.
Photos by Andrew Meade
Flavorful: 150 Irresistible Desserts in All-Time Favorite Flavors, by Tish Boyle (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; $35)