Book: "The Sweet Spot: Asian-Inspired Desserts," by Pichet Ong and Genevieve Ko, (Morrow, $29.95)
What it is: If you think Asian desserts are all sticky rice and sweet bean paste, Ong wants to talk to you. How do aromatic coconut souffles, kabocha squash cheesecake with walnut crust or chocolate and Vietnamese coffee tart, with or without the condensed milk ice cream, sound? They sound divine, if you ask us. Ong is the owner of P*ONG, a dessert spot in New York. Ko is a freelance food writer and consultant to chefs and restaurants and also lives in New York. Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, a big fan of Ong's, contributed the foreword.
Praise (and quibbles): Ko's knowledgeable writing relays Ong's inspirations clearly and elegantly. The recipes here are easy to read and easy to achieve, with little requirement for one-time-only specialty wares. And we loved the prefacing lists of equipment suggestions, including an ingredient glossary that even includes brand names where appropriate. Moreover, Pate Eng's photography is simply eye-poppingly beautiful and mouthwatering to boot.
Why we think you'll like it: If you're curious about the increasingly available exotic fruits from Asian countries and the mysterious ingredients available in Asian groceries, this book will help you figure out how to use them. Matcha tea, yuzu juice and rose jam will no longer seem exotic. But even if your baking habits are more Western-centered, there's a lot here for you. A carrot cake with lime cream cheese frosting looks sumptuous and makes me wonder, "Why didn't I think of that?" Both the condensed milk and olive oil-yogurt poundcakes are on my to-bake list.