Sweet Alchemy: Dessert Magic by Yigit Pura

Yigit (rhymes with “sweet”) Pura is a sugar fiend … and a pastry dynamo! His striking desserts have sparked excitement and devotion throughout his career, from the top pastry kitchens of New York and San Francisco to the winner’s podium on Top Chef: Just Desserts . His sugar showcase is Tout Sweet Patisserie, his pâtisserie and dessert laboratory on San Francisco’s Union Square.

Now, in Sweet Alchemy , Yigit shares his approach to pastry and his sweet formulas for the very first time. He demonstrates how fun and, in fact, simple it can be to combine straightforward basics into beautiful, multilayered desserts.

Each ingredient-driven chapter (sugar, butter/flour, eggs/dairy, fruit/flowers, and chocolate) contains new twists on traditional recipes, such as Butterscotch Sauce, Sweet Almond Tart Dough, and Baked Berry Meringue Kisses. These playful sweets can be served on their own or combined into irresistible mélanges such as the Negroni Creamsicle, a composition of Citrus- and Vanilla Bean-Scented Panna Cotta, Grapefruit-Campari Gelee, and Ruby Red Grapefruit Supremes, or the Sexy Chocolate Coupe, a chocolate extravaganza that marries Dark Chocolate Cremeux to Bittersweet Flourless Chocolate Cake.

This book brims with innovative recipes and classic techniques that will elevate your pastry game and bring you into Yigit’s world. You’ll definitely be inspired to create your own sweet alchemy!

(Editor’s note: We encourage you to support your local independent bookstore, but for your convenience, you may also use our affiliate links for IndieBound and Amazon to purchase Sweet Alchemy. Purchasing via these links will support EatDrinkFilms.)

Reprinted with permission from 
Sweet Alchemy by Yigit Pura, © 2014. Published by Chronicle Books. Photography © 2014 by Frankie Frankeny.


Honey Baked Crispy Phyllo Squares

Makes about 10 squares

I lovingly refer to these as deconstructed baklava blocks. Phyllo is the backbone of many Turkish desserts, and I have fond memories of it. When I was four years old, I would watch in wonder as my mom, my aunts, and my grandma stretched fresh phyllo on the table top and then layered them to make crispy, sweet baklava. Pistachio was always my favorite! Like raising a child, stretching fresh phyllo into its paper-thin wonder really does take a village (or at least a large family). I thank Buddha for good-quality store-bought phyllo every time I pull it out of the freezer.

Phyllo is so wonderfully crisp, and when baked with butter and glazed with the honey syrup, it’s addictive! I find this preparation much easier than the traditional baklava, as the squares are more manageable, and they can get really golden brown and crispy. You can use them to give texture to your parfaits, layer as a mille-feuille or napoleon, or even place a lovely stack on a cheese platter. Whatever you do, enjoy them, and imagine that a wide-eyed, four-year-old Yigit is watching you make them.


Grated zest of 1/2 orange
100 g/1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
2 g/2 1/2 tsp ground Ceylon cinnamon
1 g/1/4 tsp ground green cardamom
6 sheets phyllo dough
100 g/2/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
40 g/1/4 cup light honey

Preheat the oven to 325°F (165°C). Line the bottom of a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Clean a 24-by-18-in (60-by-45-cm) cutting board or set up a separate, parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Combine the orange zest with the 100 g/1/2 cup sugar in a small bowl; with clean hands, rub the orange zest into the sugar to release the essential oils. Add the cinnamon and cardamom to the sugar and mix to combine.

Lay two sheets of phyllo dough onto the work surface, use a pastry brush to apply a thin layer of the melted butter, and then sprinkle liberally with a layer of the scented sugar. Lay another two sheets of phyllo dough on top of the first layer and press lightly. Add more melted butter and then scented sugar, the final two sheets of phyllo, and a final layer of butter and scented sugar. You should have used all the butter and scented sugar by now.

Cover the layered phyllo completely with damp paper towels, to prevent the fragile dough from drying out and cracking, and place it in the refrigerator for 10 minutes, or until the butter returns to a solid state.

When the butter is cooled to solid, remove the phyllo layers from the refrigerator and remove the paper towels. Use a pizza cutter or a very sharp knife to cut the layers into 2-in (5-cm) squares. Place the squares onto the prepared baking sheet and cover them with another piece of parchment paper. Weigh the top parchment paper down with another baking sheet. Alternatively, you can lay the phyllo squares on a silicone baking sheet and lay another sheet of silicone directly on top to weigh them down.This will ensure that the phyllo squares will puff just enough to be flaky and crispy while still maintaining a crisp, linear look.

Bake for 10 minutes. The squares should begin to lightly brown, especially along the edges. Remove the top baking sheet and rotate the bottom baking sheet 180 degrees, then bake for another 10 to 12 minutes, until the squares caramelize evenly through the center and become crispy, flaky, and golden. Remove from the oven; let cool at room temperature.

While the squares are baking, heat the honey in the microwave for 20 seconds or until liquid and easy to spread. Alternatively, place it in a small saucepan and heat over low heat for one minute. When the squares are finished in the oven, brush them very lightly with the warm honey and sprinkle with granulated sugar immediately.

The squares are best served fresh. If needed, you can store them in an airtight container for up to three days in a cool, dry place, but if you do this, I recommend waiting to glaze them with the honey until just before serving so that they don’t get soggy. Refresh them in the oven before brushing them with the honey.

Sweet note: When working with phyllo dough, always keep a clean, moist kitchen towel over the sheets when you are not handling them. Phyllo dough is very thin and will dry out quickly, becoming brittle and impossible to work with.



Pistachio–Vietnamese Cinnamon Brittle

Makes six to eight servings

This may cause cavities, but it is well worth it. A classic candy preparation, this brittle is simple to make and absolutely addictive. Use it as a garnish or break it up into larger pieces, pile it into cellophane bags, and send to friends as treats. The green pistachios spread through the brown brittle give a sweet, nutty flavor and a mosaic look to the crunchy confection, while the Vietnamese cinnamon lends a distinctive warm spicy flavor, making this a more mature candy. I like to fill an airtight container with smaller pieces and keep it within reach for a little bit of tasty brittle as a treat throughout the day. In my kitchen at Tout Sweet you often hear people saying, “I have to walk away from the brittle.”


350 g/2 3/4 cups whole, shelled green pistachios
4 g/1 tsp Maldon sea salt
8 g/1 1/2 tbsp ground Vietnamese cinnamon
2 g/1/2 tsp baking soda
5 g/scant 1 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
350 g/13/4 cups granulated sugar
120 g/1/2 cup water
75 g/3 tbsp plus 2 tsp corn syrup or glucose syrup
225 g/1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 200°F (95°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the pistachios on the sheet. Toast in the oven for about seven minutes; they should be crispy but still green.

In a small bowl, combine the sea salt, Vietnamese cinnamon, baking soda, and vanilla bean paste. Line a second baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper and spray the lining with canola oil. (You may have made brittle in the past with aluminum foil lining. I highly recommend that you give up this tradition, as the foil will stick to your brittle and you may be picking it out for the next 75 hours—or so it might seem.)

In a stainless-steel or enamel-coated 8-qt (7.5-L) saucepan, combine the sugar, water, and corn syrup. Make sure the sides of the saucepan are clean of sugar and cook over high heat, covered, until the mixture starts to boil. Remove the lid and continue to cook until it reaches 250°F (120°C). Turn the heat to medium and whisk in the butter until evenly emulsified. Turn the heat to medium-high and keep stirring and cooking until the mixture is a nutty golden brown. Once it has reached the golden-brown pinnacle of brittle perfection, remove from the heat, add the cinnamon mixture, and continue to stir. Take care, as it will bubble up because of the baking soda. Fear not; this is what gives the candy its snappy texture.

Use a rubber spatula to fold in the pistachios until evenly mixed. Immediately pour the mixture directly on top of the lined baking sheet and use an offset spatula to spread it onto the sheet. Put another Silpat or sheet of sprayed parchment paper, sprayed-side down, on top of the brittle and, while still warm, use a rolling pin to roll it out to a nice, even layer. Stop rolling when the brittle is the thickness of the pistachios to create an even mosaic of pistachios.

Remove the top lining and let cool at room temperature, for at least one hour. Break into small pieces to enjoy immediately. Use as a garnish or to fill gift bags. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to two weeks.

Yigit Pura is a pastry chef and winner of Bravo’s Top Chef: Just Desserts. His pastry shop Tout Sweet Pâtisserie is based in his hometown, San Francisco. Follow Yigit: @YigitPura and @ToutSweetSF.

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