THE BOOK AND AUTHOR: "Simply Sensational Desserts: 140 Classics for the Home Baker" by Francois Payard. Payard has been devoted to the art of pastry making since he was a child helping in his family's pastry shop in Nice. As his career developed, he worked as pastry chef in top restaurants in France and then New York. In 1997 he opened Payard Patisserie and Bistro, bringing a little bit of France to New York's Upper East Side. Like everything Payard does, the book is designed with the customer in mind. In this case, the customers are home bakers and the book is aimed directly at them. (Broadway Books, $35)

FORMAT: Beautifully designed, the book is filled with lush color photographs and the recipes are easy to read and follow. Chapters include: Weekend Cakes; Holiday Cakes, Cookies and Bites; Souffles; and Cookies and Petit Fours. The desserts are unmistakably French in origin, but the sensibility is completely American. Payard, with help from Pastry Arts and Design editors Tim Moriarty and Tish Boyle, has worked hard to make the recipes accessible. Complicated pastries have been simplified somewhat to make them manageable. Payard also has included some simple recipes, so less experienced bakers will find something to try.

WHO WOULD USE THIS BOOK: People who love to bake. The collection includes many recipes you won't find elsewhere: Apricot Tea Cakes, Coconut-Pineapple Tart and a moist homey Apple Cake. Payard also has shared tips and tricks, such as including apple in a filling as a thickener, adding raspberry jam for a bit of acidity, or explaining why it is essential to use ripe peaches in an open-face tart. With a tone that is very personal--Payard often mentions his family, friends and colleagues or talks about his own experiences--the book is also a pleasant read.

Apple Cake

(10 to 12 servings)

My father created this recipe 20 years ago, and he still sells 100 of these apple cakes a day from his shop in Nice. As always, I follow my father's lead; when selecting an apple for his cake, find one that is nice and plump. A Rome apple or a Fuji will retain moisture no matter how long it is baked.

This will keep in the refrigerator for a week and is best served plain.

From the Weekend Cakes chapter.

1/3 cup raisins

3 tablespoons dark rum

1 scant cup all-purpose flour, plus additional for the pan

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus additional for the pan

1 cup confectioners' sugar

3 large eggs

2 apples, preferably Fuji or Rome, peeled and cored

1/4 cup Apricot Glaze (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter an 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-by-2 1/2- inch loaf pan. Dust the pan with flour, tapping out the excess flour.

Bring a small pan of water to a boil, add the raisins and boil for 1 minute. Drain and repeat the boiling process. Drain the raisins a second time and transfer them to a small bowl. Stir in the rum; set aside.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder. Set aside.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs 1 at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and beating well after each addition. Stir in the raisin-rum mixture. Reduce the speed to low and mix in the flour mixture. Spoon half of the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top.

Cut 1 of the apples into 12 slices and arrange the slices down the center on top of the batter so they overlap slightly and all face in the same direction. Spoon the remaining batter over and around the apples and carefully smooth the top.

Cut the remaining apple into 8 wedges and then cut each wedge in half crosswise. Arrange the wedges in a single row along each long side of the pan, pressing the center-cut side of the apples against the side of the pan and the points facing the center of the pan. Gently press the apples into the batter, leaving the tops of the apples exposed.

Bake the cake in the preheated oven for 60 to 65 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes. Unmold the cake, turn it right-side up and, if desired, brush with the Apricot Glaze. Set aside to cool completely. To serve, cut into slices.

Per serving (based on 12): 211 calories, 3 gm protein, 27 gm carbohydrates, 10 gm fat, 75 mg cholesterol, 5 gm saturated fat, 53 mg sodium, 1 gm dietary fiber

Apricot Glaze

(Makes about 1/4 cup)

Apricot glaze adds sheen and a subtle flavor to many French tarts and cakes. It also helps keep them moist.

From the Pastry Basics chapter.

1/3 cup apricot preserves

Place the preserves in a small heatproof glass measuring cup and microwave on high until bubbling, 30 to 45 seconds. Set a fine-mesh sieve over a small bowl and strain the hot preserves; discard the solids. Use the glaze warm.

Per 1-tablespoon serving: 66 calories, trace protein, 18 gm carbohydrates, trace fat, 0 mg cholesterol, trace saturated fat, 11 mg sodium, trace dietary fiber

Coconut-Pineapple Tart

(6 servings)

This is like a pina colada in tart form. I have always loved coconut and pineapple.

From the Tarts and Tartlets chapter.

1/2 cup diced fresh or canned pineapple, drained

9 1/2-inch Sweet Tart Shell, unbaked (recipe follows)

7 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

2 1/2 cups unsweetened dried sweet coconut

2 large eggs

Confectioners' sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Scatter the pineapple over the bottom of the tart shell, gently pressing it into the dough. Transfer the tart shell to the freezer for 5 minutes.

In a bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed, cream together the butter and sugar until well blended, about 1 minute. Beat in the coconut. Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Spread the filling evenly in the unbaked tart shell.

Bake the tart in the preheated oven for 50 to 55 minutes, until the top is a deep golden brown and the center is set. (You may need to cover with aluminum foil to prevent overbrowning.) Transfer the tart to a wire rack to cool completely.

Dust the tart with confectioners' sugar prior to serving. (May cover and refrigerate the tart; bring to room temperature prior to serving.)

Per serving: 584 calories, 6 gm protein, 61 gm carbohydrates, 37 gm fat, 151 mg cholesterol, 25 gm saturated fat, 41 mg sodium, 4 gm dietary fiber

Sweet Tart Dough

(Makes two 9 1/2-inch tart shells)

In addition to its use as the pastry shell for tarts and tartlets, pate sucree is frequently used in petits fours, for filled cookies and as a thin sweet crust under mousse desserts.

You may freeze half of the dough for another time, or you can roll out and shape both shells and freeze one of them, well wrapped, ready to use.

From the Pastry Basics chapter.

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for working the dough

Pinch of salt

9 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 large egg

In a medium bowl, sift together the sugar, flour and salt. Set aside.

In a food processor or blender, process the butter until smooth, about 15 seconds. Scatter the flour mixture over the butter, add the egg and process just until the dough clings together; do not overmix. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface; divide the dough in half. Shape each half into a disk, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours (May refrigerate for up to 24 hours, or freeze for up to 1 month.)

Let the dough stand at room temperature for 30 minutes to soften. Lightly butter 2 (9 1/2-inch) fluted tart pans with removable bottoms.

On a lightly floured surface, dust 1 of the disks lightly with flour. Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough into a 12-inch circle. Carefully drape the dough over the rolling pin and gently unroll it onto 1 of the prepared tart pans. Press the dough into the pan and roll the pin over the top of the pan to trim the excess dough. Repeat with the remaining dough and tart pan. Using a fork, prick the bottoms of the tart shells. Transfer the shells to the refrigerator and chill for 20 minutes. (May cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.)

If using tart in the preceding Coconut-Pineapple Tart recipe, proceed as directed in that recipe.

For any other of your favorite tart recipes: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Lightly butter 2 pieces of aluminum foil large enough to generously line each tart pan. Place foil on the tart shell, buttered-side down, and fill with dried beans, rice or pie weights.

To partially prebake: Bake the tart shells for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and weight and continue baking for 5 minutes, or just until set. The tart shells should have little or no color. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To prebake: Bake the tart shells for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and weight and continue baking for 8 to 10 minutes longer, or until evenly golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Per serving (based on 12): 188 calories, 2 gm protein, 23 gm carbohydrates, 10 gm fat, 42 mg cholesterol, 6 gm saturated fat, 19 mg sodium, 1 gm dietary fiber

Apricot Tea Cakes

(Makes about 30 petits fours)

People love these mini cakes; trays of these are sold in my shop every day. During the winter, when the air is very dry, I brush these with Apricot Glaze to keep them moist. In summer, with the humidity, it is not as important. This recipe can also be made with pears or pineapple.

From the Cookies and Petits Fours chapter.

2/3 cup almond paste

2 large eggs

13 canned apricot halves in syrup, drained (about 1 1/4 15 1/2-ounce cans)

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Pinch of salt

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Apricot Glaze (optional; see preceding recipe)

In a food processor or blender, combine the almond paste, eggs and 8 of the apricot halves and process until smooth, about 20 seconds. Add the flour and salt and process until blended. Add the melted butter and process for 1 minute. Pour the batter into a large glass liquid measuring cup and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 30 mini-muffin cups with paper petits four cups (or bake half at a time if you don't have enough muffin tins).

Slice the remaining 5 apricot halves lengthwise into 1/4-inch strips.

Pour the batter into the muffin cups, filling them to within 1/8 inch from the tops; you will have some leftover batter. Arrange an apricot slice on each cake.

Bake the cakes in the preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, until they are golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the pan(s) to a wire rack to cool. Brush with glaze, if using

(May store the cakes in airtight containers at room temperature for up to 1 week.)

Per cake: 58 calories, 1 gm protein, 6 gm carbohydrates, 3 gm fat, 19 mg cholesterol, 1 gm saturated fat, 6 mg sodium, 1 gm dietary fiber

Pecan Reine de Saba

(6 to 8 servings)

My grandfather used to make this and cut it into squares like a brownie for sale in his shop. The classic recipe calls for walnuts, but I thought pecans might be an intriguing variation. It is a good recipe to play with that way. Serve it with caramel ice cream.

From the Chocolate Cakes chapter.

Butter and flour for the pan

1 cup pecan halves

7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

5 large eggs, separated

1 1/4 cups sugar

Pinch of salt

3 tablespoons cake flour, sifted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour an 8-inch square baking pan, tapping out the excess flour.

Transfer 1/2 cup of the pecans to a baking sheet and toast, shaking the pan once or twice, until the pecans are fragrant, 5 to 10 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a food processor or blender, process the toasted pecans until finely ground, about 45 seconds. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, stir together the butter, cocoa powder and cinnamon. Set aside.

In a medium bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the egg yolks with 1/2 cup of the sugar until thickened and pale, about 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and mix in the cocoa mixture and ground pecans. Set aside.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the egg whites and the salt until foamy. Gradually add the remaining 3/4 cup of the sugar and beat until stiff but not dry. Gently fold the egg whites into the egg-yolk mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the cake flour, beginning and ending with the egg white mixture. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup pecans.

Bake the cake in the preheated oven for 45 to 50 minutes, until the cake springs back when lightly touched and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it. Transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes. Unmold the cake and cool completely on the rack.

To serve, cut the cake into squares. (May cover tightly and refrigerate for up to 1 week.)

Per serving (based on 8): 371 calories, 6 gm protein, 37 gm carbohydrates, 23 gm fat, 162 mg cholesterol, 9 gm saturated fat, 46 mg sodium, 2 gm dietary fiber