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Social Sweets

How would you like a Michelin starred chef to come into your kitchen and coach you through preparing showstopping desserts to serve at your next dinner party? Or afternoon tea, or supper? Jason Atherton has done better than this. Here you have a collection of 100 of his own contemporary desserts, each of which have featured on the menus of his restaurants.

His CV reads like a fictional chef's wish list: working alongside Pierre Koffmann, Nico Ladenis, Marco Pierre White and Ferran Adria, he joined the Gordon Ramsay Group in 2001 as executive chef for Verre in Dubai. Later it was Maze in London, then his own restaurant, Pollen Street Social, which won him his Michelin star within six months, and went on to gather several prestigious awards in the years ahead.

Originally aiming his career towards 'the macho things', by a quirk of fate one day he found himself asked to work in the pastry section of the restaurant he was at. It was there that the precision and attention to detail of this branch of cookery, hijacked his original ambition and, as he says in the introduction, 'I promised myself I would become expert in all areas of the pastry section'.

Quite obviously this beautiful book is one you could trust entirely. From the breadmaking (crusty baguettes, brioche, black pudding rolls, sourdough) through biscuits (the densest brownies, scones, madeleines, shortbread) to classic desserts such as Marco's lemon tart (and yes, it's that Marco - Marco Pierre White). Some have a twist: Bailey's bread and butter pudding, sticky toffee loaf with salted caramel, Earl Grey tea souffle; but others are benchmark perfection: kugekhupf, churros, millefeuille, cheese cakes.

Are you satiated yet? Please don't be, the book is only half-finished! Next is a massive section of Restaurant Desserts - and here the recipes lengthen, so you need to take a deep breath and read carefully and study the  superb photographs. Ice creams, sorbets and then, because every good restaurant dessert menu has them - cheeses.

These are dishes that could go at either end of the menu: cashel blue with endive and pear, stilton and beetroot, baked vacherin, quark with white chocolate. Then, just as you can hardly read another bite, to make sure you have everything at the tip of your whisk, there are some basic pastry recipes,creams, curds, garnishes and jams.

It's a book packed with helpful information, brilliant recipes and you can feel Atherton's delight in this branch of cookery on every page.

Social Sweets, By Jason Atherton, published by Bloomsbury, 2015, hardcover, rrp A$39.99.


- reviewed by Sally Hammond


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