somewhat quirky book, that is part cookbook, part journalism, and
part narrative essay. A Sweet Quartet examines four building
blocks of the pastry kitchen: sugar, almonds, eggs, and butter.
(Author Fran Gage, a pastry chef, acknowledges that flour and
chocolate play equally large roles in the pastry kitchen, but can
tend to overshadow these sometimes overlooked ingredients.)
Gage presents the history, science, lore, manufacture, and
cooking qualities of the four ingredients, and provides a modest
number of recipes that spotlight each ingredient. All the recipes
look good, but again, there seems to be an eclectic quirkiness to
their selection. They are certainly not the 33 most fundamental
baking recipes that use these four ingredients. Instead, they were apparently
chosen to show the versatility of the ingredients. Sugar recipes
range from pound cakes to Green Tea Granita to Peppermint Lollipops.
Egg recipes include obligatory meringues and a soufflé,
but also Licorice Ice Cream.
The would be a lovely gift or purchase for any reasonably serious
baker who has ever given more than passing thought to the
ingredients he or she uses. Everyone will learn things they didn't
know about sugar, almonds, eggs, and butter.