Yotam Ottolenghi (right) and his cookbook, "Sweet" Yotam Ottolenghi (right) and his cookbook, "Sweet" Yotam Ottolenghi, known in London for highly acclaimed restaurants Ottolenghi and Nopi, is also the author of five cookbooks. 'Sweet' is his first cookbook entirely devoted to desserts. (Photo: Peden + Munk/Wikipedia)

How 'Sweet' it is: Inside Yotam Ottolenghi’s new dessert cookbook

Israeli chef reveals secrets behind his most sought-after baked goods.

Three-hundred sixty-eight pages of content devoted entirely to dessert? It's enough sugar to give Willy Wonka a toothache, but make no mistake: Yotam Ottolenghi's "Sweet" cookbook is as much a work of art as a culinary treasure chest. Page after page of gorgeous, exquisite confections, flanked by charming and lovable backstories and deep appreciation for the art of baking ... and that's just the introduction.

"Sweet," published this month by acclaimed Israeli-British chef Ottolenghi and his colleague, Malaysian-Australian pastry chef Helen Goh, is a show-stopping collection of cakes, cookies, pastries, tarts, pies, puddings, cupcakes and, if you're feeling particularly youthful, a few lollipops and ice cream sandwiches.

Blackberry and star anise friands Blackberry and star anise friands are little French cakes made with copious amounts of butter. (Photo: Peden + Munk)

Ottolenghi is beloved in the food world for savory vegetarian masterpieces served at his signature London restaurants, Ottolenghi and Nopi, but what some devotees might not know about him is that he started out as a pastry chef. With his collaboration with Goh, Ottolenghi returns to his roots, releasing his fifth cookbook but the first one devoted entirely to dessert.

"There's nothing like a perfectly light sponge cake flavored with spices and citrus, for example, or a mega-crumbly confectioner's sugar-dusted cookie, straight out of the oven, to raise the spirits and create pure joy," Ottolenghi writes in the intro. "These are the moments we rejoice in, celebrating the sweet things in life."

Mont Blanc tarts Mont Blanc tarts are named after the highest mountain in the Alps. (Photo: Peden + Munk)

Evident in all aspects of the Ottolenghi brand is an unapologetic sense of abundance. And in "Sweet," the chef makes no bones – nor apologies – about the amounts of sugar his desserts call for. So how does he reconcile this with evidence of such unhealthy levels of sugar in today's diets, and with its strong correlation with obesity and poor health?

For Ottolenghi, there's one principle at work here, and one that overrides any fear that his recipes might do more harm than good: What you see is what you get. "People will make responsible choices about what and how much to eat as long as they are not consuming things without realizing it – hidden sugars, hidden salts, hidden elements with names we can't even pronounce, let alone understand what they are," Ottolenghi writes in the preface, titled "Our Sugar Manifesto." "There is nothing wrong with treats, as long as we know what they are and enjoy them as such."

Clockwise from top left: Louise cake; chocolate peanut butter s'mores; Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh. Clockwise from top left: Louise cake; chocolate peanut butter s'mores; Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh. (Photo: Peden + Munk)

And enjoy we will. From crispy brown butter almond tuiles to chocolate peanut butter s'mores (a recipe our own Israeli Kitchen chef, Sarah Berkowitz, adapted beautifully for us), from rhubarb and blueberry galettes to baked ricotta and hazelnut cheesecakes ... there's no flavor pairing too wild, no ingredient too obscure for Ottolenghi and Goh's eclectic palette. And like all the best recipes, the ones featured in "Sweet" come straight from home – more specifically, from Ottolenghi's Israeli upbringing.

"Sitting alongside our grilled vegetables, grain salads and the rest of the savory dishes inspired by (business partner) Sami Tamimi's and my childhoods in Jerusalem were a bunch of sweet treats that were not at all fluffy or airy," Ottolenghi says. "Fruit galettes, little cheesecakes, Amaretti cookies, Danishes and muffins, tarts filled with citrusy curds and all manner of chocolate delights – these were rapidly rallying a crowd of lively devotees keen to augment their salad box with a little (or big) sweet finale."

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