Monday, December 21, 2015

Book review of "Flavorful" by Tish Boyle

I'm excited and honored to be doing a book review, right here on my blog, of Tish Boyle's newest book called "Flavorful: 150 Irresistible Desserts in All-Time Favorite Flavors". Tish Boyle is co-editor of Dessert Professional magazine, an experienced pastry chef, and has written many cookbooks and co-authored several others. If you've never heard of her, you might be living under a rock :) 

As you may or may not know, I'm huge fan of Tish. One of the most popular posts on my blog to this day is still the Brioche Cake with Caramel Custard Cream, from her book The Cake Book. I baked several recipes from that book, which you can find here, and each one has turned out great, every time! That's what I like about Tish's recipes: they're always reliable!

When I heard about her new book, Flavorful, I was really excited. This book is divided into nine "flavor" categories: vanilla, berries and cherries, apple, citrus, sweet cheese, nuts, caramel, coffee, and chocolate. Any time the mood strikes for something specific, you just go straight to that chapter. Brilliant!

The book itself is beautifully designed. The cover is very well chosen because it draws you to the book immediately. I really love the thick and glossy paper. It feels nice when you page through the book. That's the one thing I really like in hard copies vs digital versions. The photographer is nothing short of an artist. The photos are absolutely gorgeous and they accompany almost every recipe. Each photo is more mouthwatering than the previous one.

At the beginning of each cookbook, you'll find a chapter on ingredients and baking equipment. This book has one too. What I like about Tish's version is that she kept short and concise. It's good reference material, whether you're a novice baker or a more experienced baker. There's also a small chapter on basic recipes which includes things such as Almond Cream and Quick Puff Pastry.

This book covers a variety of flavor combinations. From the traditional chocolate-peanut butter pairing, or raspberry-almond pairing, to something more exotic like strawberry-pink peppercorn, or pistachio-coconut. I really got a sense that Tish was doing a lot of "outside the box" creative thinking while working on this book. I found it very refreshing and innovative.

There is also a lot of variety in the type of desserts offered in this book. From bars, cookies, tarts and cakes, to puddings and candy. There's so much to choose from. It literally has something for everyone, even the picky eaters. You don't like fruity desserts? No problem. May I suggest the Tiramisu Parfaits? Not a chocolate fan? No big deal. May I suggest the baklava? Can't have gluten or it's too hot to bake in the summer? Easy! Make yourself a Double-Espresso Panna Cotta. And the list goes on and on.

As with any of Tish's books, the recipes are very well-written. Each recipe has a small introduction. I always enjoy reading those. The ingredients are given in both weight and volume measurements, and are listed in the order they're used. The instructions are properly organized by the various chronological steps, and are very detailed and clear.

I always like to bake at least one recipe from the book when I do a book review. It was hard to pick just one recipe because there are so many delicious ones to choose from. I settled on a recipe from the Sweet Cheese chapter, the Japanese-Style Cheesecake. It's been on my list for a while now, ever since I saw it fly by on social media. Knowing that I would be using Tish's recipe, I had no anxiety about trying something new for the first time. She graciously gave me permission to post the recipe on my blog, to share with all of you. I took this cheesecake to work where it was very well received. My small adaptation are in blue.

Japanese-Style Cheesecake with Fresh Blackberries, pointed ends up :)

Japanese-Style Cheesecake with Fresh Raspberries
(source: Flavorful by Tish Boyle; printed with permission from the author)

This incredibly light cake bears little resemblance to dense, american-style cheesecakes. Whipped egg whites give it a souffle-like texture, but once chilled, the cheese and butter int he cake firm up, turning it into the softest, lightest cheesecake in the world. The recipe comes from my friend Lace Zhang, an amazing baker from Singapore who owns Baked by Lace, a home-based bakery specializing in cakes and cupcakes.

Makes one 9-inch cake, serving 8
(I cut really thin slices and got 28 small servings)

Japanese-style cheesecake
1/3 cup (38 gr) cake flour
2 Tbsp plus 1-1/2 tsp (20 gr) cornstarch
1-3/4 cups (375 gr) cream cheese, cut into 1-inch chunks
1/2 cup (125 gr) whole milk (I used 1% milk because that's all I had)
4-1/2 Tbsp (63 gr) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
5 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup (150 gr) granulated sugar, divided
1 tsp (2 gr) finely grated lemon zest (I used the zest of a whole lemon which was 3 gr)
2-3 tsp finely grated orange zest (I used the zest of a medium sized orange which was 5 gr)
1/2 tsp (2 gr) vanilla extract

2 cups (226 gr) fresh raspberries (I used blackberries)
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Make the cheesecake

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper and butter the parchment paper. Wrap the outside of the pan with a piece of aluminum foil (18-inch-wide heavy-duty foil is best); this will prevent water from leaking in during baking. I like to use my 9-inch silicon pan instead of foil by putting my springform pan inside of it.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and cornstarch and gently whisk to blend.
  3. Place the cream cheese, milk, and butter in a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water and whisk until the cream cheese is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove the bowl from the pot and allow the mixture to cool for 10 minutes. I did this step in the microwave using low-power mode.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and salt until blended. Graulally whisk in 1/2 cup (100 gr) of the sugar and whisk vigorously until well blended and pale. Whsik in the cream cheese mixture, zest, and vanilla until combined. Add the flour mixture in three additions, whisking just until blended.
  5. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites at high speed until they form soft peaks. Gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup (50 gr) sugar and continue to whip at high speed until the whites are glossy and form stiff peaks. Fold one-third of the whipped whites into the cream cheese mixture, then fold the cream cheese mixture into the remaining whites.
  6. Scrape the batter int othe prepared springform pan. Place the pan in a roasting pan and pour enough very hote water into the pan so that it comes about 1 inch up the sides of the springform pan. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, until the cheesecake is a light golden brown on top, puffed, and set in the center (it should wobble a little, but shouldn't look liquid - jiggle the pan slightly to test). Turn the oven off, prop the door open with a wooden spoon, and let the cake cool in the oven for 1 hour.
  7. Remove the springfom pan from the roasting pan and let the cake cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes.
  8. Run a sharp knife around the edge of the pan and remove the side of the springform pan. Carefully invert the cake onto a serving plate (the browned top will now be on the bottom). Peel off the parchment paper. Refrigerate the cake for at least 4 hours before serving.
Garnish and serve the cheesecake
  • Cover the top of the cake with the fresh berries, pointed ends up. Dust the cake lightly with sifted confectioners' sugar right before serving. It can be served cold or at room temperature. I had some leftover whipped cream and decided to use that in between the cheesecake and the berries, for an extra layer of flavor and creaminess.
Step-by-step pictures (these photos are mine)

Getting the dry ingredients for the cake ready

Cream cheese, butter, and milk ready to be melted together

After a quick stay in the microwave, I got this creamy mixture

Split the eggs while they're cold and then let them come to room temp in a warm water bath

Finely grated lemon and orange zest

Egg whites beaten to stiff peaks

Egg yolk mixture

Batter is ready to be poured into the springform pan

Ready for the oven

After 55 minutes, it was done. Turn off the oven and let cool for 1 hour.

It's cooling

Whipped cream on top for extra creaminess

Blackberries on top

A slice of that gorgeous cheesecake

The perfect bite. Bon Appetit!

Final thoughts/tips:

  • This cake received great reviews at work: "this is really light", "it's not too sweet", "great lemon flavor", "interesting texture, almost spongy like cake", "great cheesecake"!
  • Hubby liked it too. He thought it was more "cake-like" than "cheesecake-like", He also would have liked it to be a bit sweeter. He gave it an 8 out of 10 rating.
  • I was really excited about tasting that I had a hard time waiting to dig in but I did anyway :) I really liked the texture a lot. It reminded me a bit of an angel food cake. It was almost a cross between an angel food cake and a traditional cheesecake. The citrus flavor was phenomenal. The lemon/orange combo worked so well in this recipe. I didn't miss the crust at all. If I had to put a crust on it, I would likely opt for a thin sponge cake rather than a graham cracker crust.
  • Something I'd play with next time: try to use all cornstarch and make it gluten-free so my gluten intolerant friends can taste it. I'm thinking that it wouldn't be hard to replace that little bit of cake flour, which is already low in gluten, with more cornstarch. Will have to try it and find out :)
  • Tish Boyle also has a wonderful blog, Sweet Dreams, with lots of recipes. You can find her blog HERE.
  • Whether you're a novice baker or an experienced baker, with Tish by your side, guiding you through every step, you will have a successful baking session every time. No wonder her book Flavorful made it to NPR's list of "11 cookbooks for kitchen dreamers".

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Tish Boyle and her publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, again, for sending me a copy of the book to do this review. I'm looking forward to baking many more recipes from it.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All opinions expressed in this blog post are 100% mine.


  1. Sounds like a nice and interesting book.
    Happy Holidays, Hanaâ!

    1. Thanks Karin! Do check it out, when you get a chance. I hope you had a good holiday season too :)

  2. How lucky you are, and you chose an amazing recipe!! I have company coming soon and this looks like the perfect dessert.


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