By Claudia Fleming with Melissa Clark
(Random House, $40)
Originally released in 2001 while Claudia Fleming was at the height of her fame at Gramercy Tavern in New York, The Last Course became what the The New York Times described it as a “cult classic” for pastry chefs and enthusiasts. For years it was out of print, but at the end of 2019, it was re-released to a new generation of bakers (or perhaps those who simply missed out the first time). There are 175 recipes, organized in a way that reflects her style of focusing on a singular ingredient and building around it. The chapters read like a flavor-inspiring grocery list: berries, nuts, spices, etc., rather than the typical pastry technique organization of many other cookbooks. All the classics are there: sweet-corn ice cream, maple flan, and of course, the chocolate caramel tart recipe that inspired numerous copycats. The recipes are approachable yet sophisticated and can be served alone or with the various serving suggestions she provides. Even almost 20 years after the book’s initial release, Fleming proves her flavor-forward approach to pastry stands the test of time, and any pastry lover would be glad to finally snatch up a copy for their cookbook collection. Check out her Maple Flan recipe!