The Desserts of New York by Yasmin Newman
Yasmin Newman's new book 'The Desserts of New York - and how to eat them all' is basically a foodies ultimate dream.
A prepared and pregnant Yasmin flew her family to NYC for 3 months where they lived in an East Village apartment. Over the 3 months, Yasmin, her husband, her brother and his wife, her best friend and Yasmin's mum collectively visited 169 venues eating a total of 373 desserts. Incredible.
You could only imagine how thrilled I was when this book appeared on my desk. It's not only an incredible NYC dessert guide, it also has about 45 dessert recipes for you to try create at home.
Yasmin has also very kindly created an interactive map so we can follow in her sweet footsteps.
The most asked questions I got every time I told people about the book were 'HOW did she do it?' and 'How much weight did she put on after eating so many desserts'. Yasmin covers these questions and more in the book and in her '10 point guide on how to eat them all'. With Point 9 being:
"Dress Wisely. Baggy clothes are your allies. And avoiding scales helps. Also don't think about the calories. You can diet when you're dead."
I myself had many more questions I wanted to ask Yasmin so here is an interview where she has kindly answered them for all me (and you).
JULIET: You mention that you were pregnant while you were on this mission. Did your pregnancy affect any of your dessert choices, in terms of what you could/couldn’t try?
YASMIN NEWMAN: Please, no one judge me, but not really! I was pregnant with my second child, so I was a lot more comfortable and confident with it. Most New York dessert venues champion top quality ingredients, which helped inform my decision, too. I was also in my second trimester for the bulk of the eating adventure, so I had my regular appetite and zeal for sweets.
J: I love that as well as being a guide for the best desserts; your book is also full of great recipes. Which one of these recipes are your grand kids going to say ‘this one is my grandmas recipe’ about?
YN: Ooh, I like that description! I’d have to say the chocolate crack pie – shards of caramelised crackers encasing a just-set chocolate filling, with sea salt flakes on top to set it all off. It’s one of those recipes that is so easy to make relative to its big, showstopping flavour, plus it can be made well in advance and transports like a champion, which make it a go-to on so many occasions. It also really embodies New York desserts, at least the era of our time there, with its cheeky name and combo of nostalgia and modernity.
J: What is a deal breaker in a dessert for you?
YN: As a baker, desserts that require heaps of effort but don’t match up in flavour. As an eater, dryness.
J: What is one thing about a dessert that you will always gravitate to? Ingredient/component?YN: It’s changed over the years, and continues to. When I was younger, I just couldn’t go past chocolate and had little interest in fruit-forward sweets, which are now a real favourite. Then, there are the shorter, more distinct phases, shaped by what’s around me – after New York for example, it was all about cookies and ice cream. Basically, I don’t discriminate! That said, I’ve always found it very hard to say no to a perfect pastry, like almond croissant or kouign amann. They taste so very good, but they’re not easy to make in a home kitchen, which makes me appreciate the artistry even more.
J: Which place would you say had the best overall experience in terms of atmosphere, taste, price, and service?
YN: Gosh, that’s a hard one as most places excelled in one or two things, but few in everything. Probably, Butter & Scotch. It was so cool. It’s a bakery and bar, so most of their incredible cakes, pies and shakes come with a generous slug of liquor, and you can go there just for desserts, the full New York boozy brunch experience or to drink the night away. Their tag line is Bitches Love Sprinkles, too. Another favourite was Lady M.
J: What’s the most overrated dessert?
YN: During my time in New York, probably the shakes at Black Tap Burgers and Bar. Don’t get me wrong, they are incredible to look at and a lot of fun, but when something looks that epic and is dripping with cookies, doughnuts and fudge, you kind of expect it to taste out of this world too. And it could have, but the ingredients used could have been better. You also have to wait three hours to get your hands on one, which sets expectations pretty high.
J: What is an unforgettable dessert you’ve had outside of the US?
YN: Pierre Herme’s salted butter caramel deux mille feuille. And his ‘Ispahan’ macaraon. Actually everything by Pierre Herme. I had one of those special food moments eating his desserts in Paris when time just stopped and I was completely overcome with joy by the flavour. Sounds a bit cheesy, I know, but it was really that good.
J: What’s the biggest surprise you’ve gotten from a dessert?
YN: In Sydney, we’re pretty savvy design-wise and most venues are very slick looking. In New York, I was surprised by all the shabby, old, hole-in-the-walls, especially places that were on the city’s most famous dessert lists. I came to really love NYC’s appreciation for old-school and raw, and the idea that everything doesn’t have to be perfect and polished for a dessert to really rock – the old adage is true, don’t judge a book by it’s cover.
J: What is your dessert recommendation for people who aren’t too fond of sweet things?
YN: In New York, one of my favourite desserts was the corn husk meringue with corn mousse at Cosme, a hip modern Mexican fine diner by revered chef Enrique Olvera. It was just sweet, almost savoury in parts, with distinctive flavours of charred corn husk and burnt vanilla – and pure heaven.
J: Apart from sizes, do you think there is a big difference in desserts in America versus Australia?
YN: New York is different to most of the US. Yes, their desserts are bigger than ours, but not obscene like you’ll find elsewhere in the States. In general, from the size to the style of their desserts, New York brought a real understated cool to America’s big bold gusto. As for differences, the era of social media has really narrowed the gap, which is a good and bad thing – now people don’t have to wait as long or travel as far to experience flavours and styles from overseas, but it also means there’s less distinctiveness. But I’d say New York and American desserts are generally more classic and nostalgic than ours in that 1950s Americana way, with a preference for cookies, bars (slices), doughnuts, sundaes and pies, as well as loaded with toppings.
J: Can you list a couple of your favorite desserts in Sydney and where we can find them?
YN : Sydney’s dessert scene is really sweet and growing by the minute – it’s very exciting. From a bakery viewpoint, i.e. not restaurants, some of my current faves are Shortstop Donuts, Flour & Stone’s panna cotta lamington, Andy Bowdy’s Saga, and Kepos St Kitchen’s halva brownies and dulce de leche churros.
J: So far you’ve taken us to the Philippines via your book ‘7000 Islands: A Food Philippines’ and to New York with your new book ‘The Desserts of New York. Can you give us any clues on where you will take us next?
YN: There are a few places – sweet in focus – that I’m toying with. No final word as yet, but I will make sure to let you know as soon as I do!