D is for diet – and dessert

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“Perfect Light Desserts,” by Nick Malgieri and David Joachim; William Morrow; $29.95.

What it is: Nick Malgieri, a highly respected baking author, has collaborated with healthful-cooking pro David Joachim to produce recipes for calorie-conscious bakers – as well as the people those folks bake for. Anybody who has suffered through an applesauce-laden, artificially sweetened mock chocolate cake understands the allure of a book subtitled “Fabulous Cakes, Cookies, Pies and More, Made with Real Butter, Sugar, Flour and Eggs, All Under 300 Calories per Generous Serving.” Sure, it’s a mouthful, but unlike that aforementioned cake, it’s easy to swallow. Many recipes lean toward naturally lighter treats (biscotti, for example) but heavy hitters like chocolate pudding get their waistlines trimmed too. Though applesauce does show up, there’s plenty of the fattening stuff to assuage seasoned bakers. Each recipe has nutritional information; many have color photos too.

Praise (and quibbles): These desserts can hold their own on the buffet table. Our up-till-now favorite carrot cake recipe produces 12 slices, each with 750 calories and 46 grams of fat. Ouch. This book’s old-fashioned carrot cake produced a rich crowd-pleasing bundt cake with 16 slices (290 calories and 8 fat grams per slice). Granted, there’s no cream cheese frosting but it wasn’t missed. The holiday fruitcake (186 calories/3 fat grams) proved equally satisfying. Though we thought the chocolate rum cake had a gummy texture, tasters enjoyed it.

Recipes are clearly written and the elegant but no-nonsense prose occasionally will make you laugh: “No matter what type of banana cake you’re making, one thing is essential: The bananas have to be really ripe or you might as well use potatoes.”

Why we think you’ll like it: Though there are many fine recipes for low-calorie desserts, it’s nice to have one trusted resource for so many of the classics that people request.

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