I love David Lebovitz. Have I mentioned this?
Well, apparently, I have mentioned how much I love David Lebovitz, just a few times in the last five years. Why do I keep wanting to tell you about how great this man is?
It could be his charm, his debonair style, his kindness, his sharp wit, his impeccable sense of good chocolate, his funny-as-hell writing, his love of butter and sugar creamed together, his evocative photographs, his self deprecation, or that he has his very own iPhone app. Those are all lovely, plus there’s much more.
(He did say once that he was going to marry me, but that was before Danny, so I’ve let that go.)
You know the real reason I love David Lebovitz so much and tell you about him over and over again? Because he’s a baking god.
David’s new book, Ready for Dessert: My Best Recipes is his best yet. He took his favorite desserts from his first two books, which are now out of print, updated them, wrote hilarious headnotes, and added new confections as well. The first night after it arrived in our home, I took this book to bed with me. (Danny understood.)
We’ve been baking out of it ever since, trying as many recipes as we could and then giving away the goodness as fast as we could. Everything that David created was so tender and sweet, lush and perfectly seasoned that I could have eaten everything. Thank goodness, I didn’t.
In fact, most of the recipes we made were trial runs for the desserts Danny made at his restaurant. You see, David’s recipes convert to gluten-free like a dream. See that towering golden cake up there? That’s a rosemary olive oil polenta cake with a lemon syrup. That’s gluten-free. And it’s moist and yet holds, unusual with the rosemary yet very old, comforting and surprising both. Danny has been making this at the restaurant for a couple of weeks now.
Oh, have I mentioned that Danny is making gluten-free desserts for The Hardware Store? And many of them are dairy-free too? Before this cake was a caramelized rhubarb upside-down cake. Also David’s. Danny’s thinking about making the nonfat ginger cookies for ice cream sandwiches this summer, because David wrote that they make the best ice cream sandwiches he has ever eaten. Next week, there might be an apple-frangipane galette or a chocolate-cherry fruitcake with tomato jam. Who knows? We do know we’re turning to David for inspiration first from now on.
Now, I know that we’ll have this book in our house for decades, until the spine falls apart and we have to put it together with duct tape. I’m never letting go of this baking book because every single recipe works. It is one of the few baking books I will keep forever in our home, along with Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours. This is my baking bible now.
You should buy it too.
One of the things I love about David’s desserts is that they are essentially humble. Oh sure, there are the occasional flourishes where you can tell he’s an especially talented pastry chef. (He did work at Chez Panisse for years, you know.) Mostly, though, he understands what people crave and offers recipes for sweet creamy buttery salty baked goods with quality ingredients and not that much fuss.
A few weeks ago, I wanted to bake cookies with Lu. Nothing impossible. No new recipe. Just a peanut butter cookie. We make the flourless peanut butter cookie sometimes, but I felt in the mood to make a softer peanut butter cookie, one that melted on the teeth. David had one, of course. I simply mixed up equal parts of superfine brown rice flour, tapioca flour, and sweet rice flour and put them in my kitchen scale. When they added up to the number of grams David’s recipe called for in all-purpose flour, I stopped. I threw in a teaspoon of xanthan gum. That’s it. The rest of the recipe was exactly the same.
This is where I want you to stop and really listen. Ready?
Every single recipe of David’s that I tried required no more fiddling with gluten-free flours than I listed above. Because David’s baked goods are so precisely made and meticulously written, they all work. And because lists his ingredients in grams, which are more precise than ounces, you can use the same amount of grams of your favorite gluten-free flours, add a bit of xanthan gum, and you’re done.
You can bake. You don’t have to add an extra egg, or milk or something with protein. You just make his recipes as written, substitute gluten-free flours for the regular flours (and when he calls for AP flour and cake flour, just add up the total number of grams and use that amount of gluten-free flours) and start enjoying cakes and cookies again.
You won’t need me soon. Just buy yourself a kitchen scale and David’s book and you can bake gluten-free, contentedly, for years on end.
See that peanut butter chocolate chip cookie? Want one? Buy Ready for Dessert: My Best Recipes.
Black and White Cookies, gluten-free, adapted from Ready for Dessert: My Best Recipes
Do you remember that Seinfeld episode where they talked about the black and white cookie? Or the scene in Sex and the City where Carrie nibbles on a black and white cookie while talking about her Russian lover? Sense a theme? These are New York cookies. If you’ve never lived in New York, you might not ever have seen these. You have two options: you can fly to NY and try to find some or you can make these.
And if you’re gluten-free, you couldn’t eat the ones in NY anyway. They’re full of gluten.
The cookie part is soft and cakey, instead of crisp and buttery. It’s a little like a tea cake, a tiny cake smooshed down to the size of the palm of your hand. These are from David Lebovitz’s recipe. And they are evil.
Because they are so good. A soft, cakey cookie with a hint of lemon, thick frosting with cocoa powder on one half, vanilla on the other. Oh lord. I waited until friends came over to frost them so I could give almost all of the cookies to them. (The cookies are good but the experience of eating them isn’t complete without the frosting.) I saved one for Danny, though.
I might have eaten one myself too.
70 grams superfine brown rice flour
70 grams tapioca flour
70 grams sweet rice flour
60 grams potato starch
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
90 ml (6 tablespoons) whole milk (I used soy milk for these)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
grated zest of 1/2 lemon
115 grams (1/2 cup or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
130 grams (2/3 cup) granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
250 grams (2 cups plus 2 tablespoons) powdered sugar
2 teaspoons plus 2 more teaspoons light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
45 ml (3 tablespoons) water
20 grams (3 tablespoons) unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
Preheat the oven to 375°. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper.
Whisk together the brown rice flour, tapioca flour, sweet rice flour, and potato starch together. Add the xanthan gum, baking powder, and salt.
In another bowl, mix the milk, 1 teaspoon of the vanilla, and the lemon zest.
If you have a stand mixer, pull it out here. (If you have a large bowl and biceps, you can do this the old-fashioned way too.) Cream the butter and sugar together in the stand mixer on medium speed until they are smooth. Beat in one egg at a time, letting the mixer run between each one. When you have added both of the eggs, mix in half of the flour mixture, then the milk mixture, then the rest of the flour mixture. Mix until they are all combined.
Drop 2 tablespoons worth of batter, which will be quite thick, onto the baking sheet. Make each mound of batter 2 inches apart from each other. Bake the cookies, rotating the baking sheet halfway through, until the cookies feel just set in the middle, about 15 minutes. Let them cool on the baking sheets.
To make the frosting, mix 2 cups of the powdered sugar with 2 teaspoons of the corn syrup, the lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of the vanilla, and water until the frosting is smooth. (This might take a minute in the stand mixer.)
Take half of the frosting out of the stand mixer and put it in a separate bowl. Put the remaining 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar into the small bowl of frosting and mix until it is spreadably thick.
Add the cocoa powder and the remaining 2 teaspoons of corn syrup to the frosting in the stand mixer bowl. This will be your “black” frosting. If the frosting feels too thick to spread, add a teaspoon of water at a time until you have reached the desired consistency.
Turn over all the cookies. You’re going to frost the bottom of the cookies, the flat part. Using a butter knife or small spatula, frost the bottom half of each of the cookies with the white frosting. Spread the black frosting over the second half of each cookie. Let the cookies sit for a minute.
Voila! A black and white cookie.
Makes about 22 cookies.