Sweet Dreams


A new cookbook highlights the best of New Orleans’ classic desserts

In the event that your sweet tooth is acting up or you’ve destroyed your diet by polishing off the last remnants of Halloween candy and you’re struggling to be strong, you may want to think twice before reading any farther. The scrumptious, alluring pages of Kit Wohl’s quintessential New Orleans dessert cookbook, New Orleans Classic Desserts: Recipes From Favorite Restaurants (Penguin Publishing, 2007), are guaranteed to send your senses into sugar shock, and it’s one that you won’t want to escape.

After you stop salivating over the luscious photos of tantalizing pies, cakes, puddings, custards, candies, cookies, flambés, ices, ice creams, accompaniments, sauces and garnishes culled from exemplar restaurants and establishments in New Orleans, you’ll want to prepare these treasured treats at home. And to make the possibility of getting the recipes just right in your kitchen, each one was simplified and created with the nonprofessional cook in mind. The hard part will be deciding which confection from this blissful collection to try first.

Desserts play an important role in providing sparkle at the end of a well-orchestrated meal, especially a holiday meal. Thankfully, New Orleans Classic Desserts provides plenty of ideas for perfectly sweet finales. Brennan’s Bananas Foster, a well-respected member of the New Orleans dessert pantheon, is a surefire way to add pizzazz to dinner’s close. The bewitching meld of cooked bananas dancing in dark rum, cinnamon sugar, banana liqueur and vanilla ice cream rises to a higher level of enchantment when ignited and flambéed tableside in blue-orange flames.

Freshly baked homemade pies scent a home with warm, ambrosial deliciousness and ramp up the comfort element during the holidays. If that’s the vibe you’re after, chef Leah Chase’s Sweet Potato Pie is a must-try. A succulent sweet potato filling, enhanced with condensed milk and melted butter, nicely fills a unique pie crust laced with chopped pecans, making it a wonderful dessert choice for Thanksgiving. Another excellent homage to New Orleans is Camellia Grill’s Pecan Pie, a family favorite for many. This rich, brown-sugar delight is lovingly crafted with an abundance of fresh pecans and vanilla extract. It is a dessert that should definitely not be left off the Thanksgiving menu.

Wohl’s gorgeous cookbook includes a trio of notable bread puddings from famous New Orleans restaurants. Aficionados regard Bon Ton Café’s Bread Pudding, packed with raisins and smothered in a sumptuous whiskey sauce, the city’s best. Bread Pudding Soufflé at Commander’s Palace elevates often-dense pudding to new (and lighter) heights with a little help from meringue. Palace Café’s White Chocolate Bread Pudding, a decadent ivory confection cascaded in an exquisite white chocolate sauce and dotted with chocolate curls, is almost too sinful to swallow. But aren’t the holidays made for succumbing to such devilish delights?

Other amazing sugary showstoppers among the 46 recipes include chef Donald Link’s Brown Butter Banana Tartlet, Arnaud’s Crème Brûlée, Sister Mary’s Classic Pralines, chef Susan Spicer’s Peach Melba Ice Cream Sandwich, Angelo Brocato’s Cantaloupe Ice, chef John Besh’s Pot du Crème Café au Lait With Beignets, Ron Kottemann’s Roman Chewing Candy and the most longed-for and prized cookies ever out of New Orleans: McKenzie’s Turtles, a crumbly confectioners’ sugar-dusted pecan cookie heaped with a thick mound of velvety chocolate buttercream icing that will elicit plenty of “Mmmm, mmmm goods” from those lucky enough to get their mouths on one.

Beautifully photographed and artfully designed, New Orleans Classic Desserts is worthy of coffee table status. It makes a great gift for friends and family during the holidays, especially for those who love to entertain at home. It’s also the perfect way to send a little slice of New Orleans to loved ones out of town. Nothing could be sweeter!