French Laundry desserts

If you’ve ever had a close friend eat at the French Laundry, you’ve probably ended up on the receiving end of the Conciliatory Cookies and Too Bad Truffles, AKA Pastry Chef Claire Clark’s shortbread and chocolates.

It works something like this. Your pal gets the meal of a lifetime. Busting to tell you about it in exhaustive detail (and feeling both ridiculously full and a little guilty for not taking you), they magnanimously hand you the cellophane wrapped cookies and truffles all guests receive at the end of a French Laundry meal.

It’s a win-win, really. Because how bitter can you be with all that sugar?

Thing is, I’ve always wanted that shortbread recipe. They’re the absolute best cookies–buttery and crisp with a little crunch of sugar on top. Nothing elaborate or fussy. No exotic chocolate or precious decoration. Just a cookie.

And on Friday, I got it. Claire, along with her bud Thomas Keller celebrated the release of Clark’s new dessert book, Indulge, 100 Perfect Desserts with a dessert sampling at Ad Hoc in Yountville. So, okay, I snuck in with a very large purse. But I also picked up a book because, well lemon posset doesn’t travel well at the bottom of a satchel. And it also happens to have one hundred of Claire’s favorite dessert recipes including crème brulee, wigglyjellies, raspberry tarts, champagne truffles and uh huh, the shortbread recipe.

What makes them even more endearing is an anecdote Claire tells about how they made it on the menu. Having recently hired Clark (a Brit), Keller asked her to make some shortbread for the restaurant. You know, something from her homeland (she didn’t have the heart to tell him it was actually Scottish). Clark made several complicated shortbread recipes to wow him, throwing in her mom’s dead-simple recipe just as a lark. Guess which won? Mom’s. Yep, the recipe calling for nothing flour, sugar, vanilla and butter.

Call it French Laundry for the proletariat. Let them eat shortbread.

Indulge, 100 Perfect Desserts by Claire Clark, Head Pastry Chef at the French Laundry, $40, Absolute Press.