A baker celebrates the four elements that make dessert possibleFran Gage calls sugar, almonds, eggs, and butter "the DNA of desserts." Simple as they seem, they make possible a profusion of pastries and other sweets, from the elemental lollipop to the ethereal realms where marzipan, meringue, and puff pastry hold sway. No one appreciates this fabulous foursome better than Fran Gage, who relied on them for her daily output during the ten years she owned and ran her acclaimed San Francisco bakery, Patisserie Francaise. Nor could anyone do a better job of ferreting out how each found its way into the kitchen and yielded up its alchemy, influenced by technological innovation, genetic manipulation, and government intervention--not to mention human error and, of course, the weather. In A Sweet Quartet, she tells the story of each ingredient, from its origins to its transformation into culinary gold, drawing upon her travels, tastings, experiments, and remembrances. Each section ends on a sweet note, with a baker's half-dozen of recipes that show off the multiple talents of the ingredient. The book concludes with a look at the meaning of desserts, from ancient times to the present day, and--the piece de resistance--ideas for a dessert buffet.