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11 May 2010

Ready for Dessert

rosemary polenta olive oil cake

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.

peanut butter chocolate chip cookie

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.

gluten-free black and white cookies

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.


At 12:00 AM, Blogger Eat the Love said...

I adore David Lebovitz. Not only is his blog excellent and engaging and personably, but as you stated before, his recipes just plain work. Rock solid and ridiculously easy.

The one recipe I have used over and over again (and which my friends have constantly raved about it and are always excited for me to make - no matter how many times I make it) is his recipe from The Great Book of Chocolate. It's for Flo Braker Congo Bars. Crowdpleaser all the time.

I can't wait to run out and get Ready for Dessert. I haven't been to the bookstore yet, but maybe I'll run out during lunch tomorrow...

At 1:35 AM, Anonymous Jane, The Heritage Cook said...

Hi Shauna,

My family is moving away from gluten and I love the challenge of finding delicious recipes for them. In your post on David Lebovitz' Ready for Dessert, you said that all you had to do to convert his recipes to gluten free was to change the mix of flours and add some xanthan gum. Do you have a standard mix that you use? I am hoping to find something that I can mix up ahead of time and keep like I do my AP flour. Also, have you tried a gluten free pie crust? Any success?

Thanks for your inspiration and help!

At 4:13 AM, Blogger Sirena said...

Shauna, part of the reason I love your site is that it features something for everyone: vegans, veggies, dyed-in-the-wool carnivores (and porkivores), etc... But the all-time coolest thing is reading the instructions you give for converting anything to gluten-free- the recipe equivalent of teaching your kid to wheel along on their new bike, with the training wheels, and quietly letting go, so that your readers can speed along on their own, on the fly, baking and making things they never thought they'd have again. That's the generosity of your website! I can't wait for your next book. And, I can't wait to pick up a copy of David's. Yum!

At 4:39 AM, Anonymous janet said...

Thank you for this wonderful, inspiring, get-your-mixer-out people post. I too adore baking, and have yet to buy one of David Leibowitz's books, but will now. I also want to say how much I love the recent posts about wonderful cookbooks, another passion of mine. And thank you for such a great blog -- the only one I read regularly -- both because you're a beautiful writer and because you just happen to write about gluten-free cooking, which helps me cook for my 13-yr. old daughter who was recently diagnosed with celiac disease. Looking forward to many more posts and cookbook introductions.

At 5:32 AM, Anonymous Winnie said...

I love David L, too...I've made more recipes out of Perfect Scoop than any other cookbook I own. Ready for Dessert sounds wonderful, and I'm intrigued by how easily you've been able to convert his recipes to GF. Those black and white cookies look mighty amazing. I'm from NY and they bring back childhood memories, though I haven't had one in years. Will have to make them, for sure.

At 6:45 AM, Blogger SamFan1 said...

David's recipes are terrific! I made strawberry-rhubarb sorbet from The Perfect Scoop for Mother's Day. Quick, easy and very, very tasty! Can't wait to get the new book!

At 6:45 AM, Blogger Jenn Sutherland said...

I, too, worship at the sugar altar of David Lebovitz...his ice cream cookbook changed my kitchen (and all of those recipes convert to dairy-free like a dream when using coconut milk). This one will definitely be the next one on my Amazon list!

And I'm thrilled to hear that all the measurements are in weight - it really does make GF baking a dream, and not a handicap to be worked around! Hooray!

At 6:54 AM, Anonymous Coco @ Opera Girl Cooks said...

I have been reading David Lebowitz' blog for years -- he is indeed a baking god! What a great review -- sounds like a fantastic cookbook.

At 7:49 AM, Blogger jeanette from everton terrace said...

You had me at peanut butter cookies. It's been so long. I am so excited about this cookbook, you've explained the substitutions so easily, I feel I could go into my kitchen and whip out some cookies, no big production. Wait, that might not be such a good thing after all....just kidding. I'm very excited to buy this cookbook, as always, thank you.

At 7:49 AM, Blogger Ms. F said...

These are absolutely gorgeous. I'm just wondering about the water you add to the black icing: Does the temperature matter? I ask because I always end up using a tablespoon of boiling water in my icing to break up the wayward little knots of sugar that I have learned to live with (and work around) since I misplaced my sifter in a move.

p.s. I adore David Lebovitz too! Luckily, I have an understanding hubby who I think might share my crush (certainly if he knows what is good for him!).

At 7:53 AM, Blogger Magistra said...

I have been meaning to buy a scale, but just keep putting it off. But now... I'm going to order one today. Every time I see a black and white, I mourn a little. This is the recipe that has convinced me I MUST have a scale.

At 7:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Black & Whites are my 7 year old sons FAVORITE EVER cookie and boy he has missed them.. My 2 year old and I just made the cookies and I have to say doing so was much, much easier than expected. Thanks for another great recipe.

At 8:15 AM, Blogger Marianne Richardson said...

Actually, you CAN eat GF Black and White cookies in NYC -- Rissoteria has them! But let's face it, homemade is always better, and if David Lebovitz's book has got it, I'm sold.

I am Loving the scale. I am loving the confidence it gives me to convert wheaty recipes to GF ones. Thank you for listing ingredients by weight!

At 8:32 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

I just so happened to have ordered his book last week! I can't wait to try it out. It should arrive in the mail any day now.

Thanks for adding your tips on weighing the gluten free flours to the exact weight of the flours in his recipe, it's so simple, yet I never would have thought of that!

I love baking :D

At 8:53 AM, Blogger Calli said...

Ooh, I've got to get that book. Thank you, Shauna!

However! If you're in NYC, you CAN get a gluten-free black & white! I've eaten one. <3

The place is tiny (I'd never been to NYC before, or sat that close to a stranger!) and packed to the gills with delicious gluten-free stuff - and they do mail order for some of the baked goods (I just checked).

At 9:26 AM, Blogger jenA said...

HALF-MOON COOKIES! my aunt always made these (and brought a can of black olives for me) to every holiday dinner. They were as yours are: soft and cakey, perfect for shoveling one whole cookie in your mouth at once. So excited to make them GF now :)

At 9:44 AM, Blogger Deanna said...

I adore David. When I need a dessert recipe I always go straight to him. I love knowing that whatever he says is going to work. And he saved me the other day in a caramel making incident.

At 9:52 AM, Anonymous Caroline said...

I've got a gluten (and occasionally dairy) free cake business in London and can't believe I've only just discovered David Lebovitz. He and Dan Lepard are my baking heroes. I would love to meet them.

David wrote a lovely piece on Paris Food Market recently which I sent to my sister who used to live there. She's now a fan too.

At 9:56 AM, Blogger caroline said...

If the NYC black and white cookie had a west-coast cousin, I'm sure it would look like these-- more laid-back and less concerned about appearances.

Anyway, I was looking forward to my lunch of homemade baba ghanouj with veggies and grilled brown rice chips, but now you've ruined it with that rosemary olive oil polenta cake. I can't get it out of my mind!

At 12:22 PM, Blogger Alicia said...

I may have to bake from his book, while waiting for yours to come out!!

At 12:45 PM, Blogger afalasco said...

Constant source of not just cooking inspiration but life inspiration - love the day by day appreciation for the simple things in life!

What kind of kitchen scale do you recommend?

At 12:55 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Oh wow! everything looks so delicious. I'm sitting here drooling and wishing I could have a slice of rosemary olive oil polenta cake- now.I will definitely be getting a copy of this book. I've been too afraid to bake since going gluten free but I'm definitely going to try it. As for not being able to eat a black and white in NYC? Not so! Risotteria on Bleeker is a dedicated gluten free restaurant and makes a killer black and white. You can even have them shipped!

At 8:28 PM, Blogger Courtney Walsh said...

Wow. These all look amazing. I am going to have to check that out!! I hate to admit I've never heard of this man! (I know, I've been living under a rock. A rock full of gluten.)

Thanks for posting this...I love to back. Truly, I thought I was going to have to stop baking after I found out I couldn't eat gluten anymore. I was so wrong!

At 9:24 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

You are so right about David Lebovitz' recipes. I converted his White Chocolate Cherry Scones to gluten free by using my own mix, which is similar to yours. They were a huge hit with friends who don't need to eat gluten free. I love them because of the cornmeal, buckwheat, white chocolate and cherry combo. So good!

My substitute for the AP flour is: 1 part brown rice flour, 1/2 part potato starch and 1/2 part tapioca starch. It works great.

At 1:38 AM, Blogger Shuku said...

I'm not a baker by nature - well, I was great with breads till my diagnosis, but sweet things have generally eluded me since then. Your brownies were the first thing I made in years (last year!) and oh, they were so good they made me cry. I follow David's blog occasionally, and I love it. Now, seeing THIS book come out? I think I'm going to cry all over again. I'm great with gluten-free -cooking- conversions but baking is like a whole new world. NOW I can justify buying that kitchen scale! Better yet, they HAVE the book in the local Kinokuniya - and I have a gift certificate from my birthday. I am -so- buying it!

At 7:41 AM, Blogger Shila said...

Tasty and beautifully written (as always!) post.

I'm trying to restrain my cookbook purchasing habit, or else I would have bought Ready for Dessert on the spot. It now is very high on my "want this now!" list, though!

I can't agree with your praise of David Lebovitz enough. From reading his blog and hearing him speak in SF, I have to agree
that he is funny, humble, and generally delicious all around.

Thanks for sharing your experiences with Ready for Dessert!

At 11:53 AM, Blogger Tara Barker said...

I too am a member of the David Lebovitz fan club. I'd love to go to Paris and go on one of his tours! Thanks, Shauna, for being so diligent and testing out so many of his recipes as gf versions - I'm sure it was hard work. ;) I'll bet your friends and neighbors are appreciative of all your work, as well!

To Jane, The Heritage Cook: as just a bit of shameless self-promotion, my gluten-free baking blog has both an all-purpose gluten-free baking mix (at the end of this post: and a gluten-free pastry flour blend (at the end of this post: The second link also has the recipe for my super-flaky (and easy!) gluten-free pie crust. When using these blends as a 1:1 substitution for regular flour in a recipe, I generally add 1/2 tsp xanthan gum to the recipe for every cup of flour called for. As you may have found, there are a lot of formulas for gf baking mixes out there - you may need to try a couple before you settle on one that matches your family's tastes best. Good luck!

At 12:19 PM, Blogger Jennywenny said...

Its such an awesome book, I cant wait to bake everything in it! The one disappointment for me is that the pictures are so wonderful I want them on every page with every dessert, but I know that makes it more expensive, so maybe its for the best...

At 12:29 PM, Blogger I Am Gluten Free said...

If ever there was a testimony that convinced me immediately, it's today's post. I am going to send you this comment and then order the book. Thank you once again Shauna for making GF so accessible and normal.


At 2:33 PM, Anonymous Sho said...


I have to get on over to the gram side already.

Oh those black-and-whites! Yum! I had gluten-free black-and-whites on Passover because they were also GF.

Another thing, a lot of places around here offer GF pizza. I am deeply appreciative, but it does not compare to what I make at home, and I do not even have your latest pizza recipe (hopefully, I will have it in September.)

A lot of the reason I do not want to bake much is that I cannot resist having all the homemade goodies around. Your post on weight issues hit home. I also wonder if you are psychic because there was an article just today on Oprah's show--something about a book and not dieting...

Okay, you are not psychic but finely tuned in to issues that we need to hear about.

Take care,


At 6:57 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Okay, I've tried your brownie recipe (they didn't last the afternoon at my house, and none of the non-GF people had any idea they wer GF) and your flourless peanut butter cookies (heaven), so if you say this is good, it's bound to be good! Thanks for the conversion hints- I'm very new to all this and it's been quite a steep learning curve, but when the learning involves chocolate, I'm SO there...! Like someone else said, i love the challenge of making food that is delicious and gluten free. When I first began this process because of my childrens' diagnoses I was convinced I could make food that tasted every bit as good if not better, and I am so, so happy I was right! My kids don't feel the least bit deprived- thank you, thank you, thank you.

By the way, your brownies are traveling to a kindergarten end of the year party tomorrow morning. I'm sure they won't make the return trip.

At 10:21 AM, Anonymous Susan said...

If you were just begging to cook for your family which of his books would be a good first pick?

At 9:04 PM, Blogger Magistra said...

I finally bought a scale because of this recipe. And it was definitely worth it. These are delicious!

At 4:39 PM, Blogger who knows? said...

I bought a scale, checked this book out from the library, and measured the flours just as you said. Now I have a lucious GF Fresh Ginger Cake. I can't wait to try more of his recipes. I'm going to have to buy this book! Thanks for all your cooking and baking help!


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