Wednesday, August 24, 2011


There are cookbooks, and there are cookbooks.

The first are fun to look at, with expert photography and recipes that seem impossible to recreate. In short, they're the perfect coffee table books for food lovers.
Cookbooks, on the other hand, have meaning. Whether you've only tried out one or a hundred recipes, you've created a special relationship with all those characters on paper.

The first time you open it, curiosity abounds. The choice of the first recipe to try can be difficult if you're prone to shouting in delight  that "everything LOOKS SO GOOD" and jumping around, clapping your hands. Are you looking at me? Alright, yes, I'll plead guilty. I tend to do that when I get excited. 

Once you've settled on a first recipe, you think it over. Buy the ingredients. Try to make it as much of a success as possible. You might end up with an awful excuse for a cake, or on the other hand something pretty exceptional for a first try--either way, it leaves an imprint. 

Here's where it gets fun. Have you ever seen a cookbook that would seem like the first type, only to reveal itself as a wonderful example of a cookbook you find pleasure in actually cooking from? It gets better: a cookbook with recipes that seem difficult but end up being crowd-pleasers? 

Not even kidding. 

Enter Sweet Marx, a treasure trove of 108 desserts from famed French chef Thierry Marx. Although he's known in France as one of the chefs to popularize molecular gastronomy, his selection of desserts come across as new takes on classics more than crazy concoctions--and that's a good thing. Each one of his desserts, beautifully styled by his partner in crime Mathilde de l'Ecotais, may seem tedious because it's an alliance of a number of elements. In truth, however, everything comes together pretty quickly and flows together. You might need some special equipment--like a Siphon at times--but even if you don't have it, you can just leave some things out and it won't ruin the recipe. It'll just become a slight variation, a personalized version of the dessert.

The recipe I chose was the Cap Citron, an insanely light and refreshing dessert that brings lemon and yogurt together for a perfect Summer treat. I did make a few changes, namely serving the cake with currant sorbet instead of the suggested lemon; the profusion of red currants in the garden in Saint Dié "are to blame", but I don't think anyone was complaining.

Give this recipe a try--and I'll let you know how the other 107 recipes go. And meanwhile, for all the boys out there, here's a tip: if you find a girl who loves to bake, I can assure you that getting her a nice cookbook is the way to go. Not only will it make her squeal with delight and think you're pretty awesome, but most importantly, you've got a potential 108 desserts that she'll want to try out just for you. Doesn't that beat going to the bakery every day?

Cap Citron
adapted from Sweet Marx
serves 10

Note: I halved the recipe to make 5 individual desserts. Also, measurements are in grams--it pays to be precise in this case and using a kitchen scale is one of the keys to success.

Yogurt Cake
375g eggs
300g sugar
zest of 1 lemon
300g flour
40g baking powder
150g almond powder
250g whole-fat plain yogurt

Preheat oven to 180°C / 350°F.

Beat eggs, sugar, and lemon zest together in a mixer. Incorporate yogurt.
Sift flour, baking powder, and almond powder together. Pour over wet ingredients; mix until batter is homogeneous.

Pour into individual or one large baking frame and bake approximately 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool completely and slice cake to have a layer 0.5 cm thick (mince was a little thicker, which wasn't an issue).

Set aside.

Lemon Cream
250g eggs
150g sugar
140g fresh lemon juice
4 sheets gelatin (2g per sheet)
250g unsalted butter, softened
200g Italian meringue

Beat eggs and sugar together in a bowl.

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat lemon juice, and add egg mixture. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Add gelatin (if using sheets, soften them in cold water first).

Let cool to 40°C / 105°F in the fridge. At that point, add butter and Italian meringue with the help of a mixer. 

Pour onto yogurt cake, which should be back in the frame at this point.

Yogurt Cream
12g gelatin
600g whole-fat plain yogurt
130g heavy cream, very cold
150g Italian meringue

Heat gelatin and a few spoonfuls of yogurt together until tepid in the microwave. 

Whip heavy cream to stiff peaks. Mix remaining yogurt with the first yogurt mixture in a large bowl. Add Italian meringue and whipped cream.

Pour on top of lemon cream.

Refrigerate until serving. Remove frame and serve with sorbet and foam, if using.

Ginger & Star Anise Foam (I omitted the star anise here) - Optional
Note: You'll need a siphon for this part
80g egg whites
120g sparkling water
4g ginger
2 stars anise
60g lime juice
60g lemon juice
120g sugar
20g cane syrup
5g kappa carrageenan (gelling agent, I didn't have any and used agar-agar in its place)

Mix eggs whites and sparkling water.

Crush ginger and star anise in a mortar. Add lemon and lime juice, sugar, and cane syrup. Filter and add kappa.

Bring to a boil in a saucepan and pour over egg white/sparkling water mixture, stirring as you pour. Place in a siphon with two gas cartridges and keep at 50°C/120°F until use.

Lemon Sorbet - Optional
900g mineral water
250g sugar
150g tapioca maltodextrin
20g green tea leaves
200g lemon juice
40g glycerin

In a saucepan over medium heat, bring water, sugar, maltodextrin and green tea to a boil. Cover with plastic wrap and let infuse for 10 minutes.

Filter mixture over lemon juice and glycerin. Let sit and process in an ice cream maker.

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claudia said...

this is definitely something i want to try!

Grace said...

i've always been impressed with the classiness and sophistication and elegance of french desserts. looks like a great book full of tasty treats!

Reeni said...

So many components - all delectable! I like the small size, makes them elegant and special. Your advice to the boys was right on!

Kerstin said...

The layers are so pretty! Looks perfect for a dinner party :)