Archive for October 29th, 2008

Sweet! A cookbook review

October 29th, 2008 by Rosa

When I got the chance to review a free copy of Sweet!: From Agave to Turbino, Home Baking with Every Kind of Natural Sugar and Sweetener by Mani Niall, I took it because the interest email I got from their PR said that the book contains candy recipes. And it did, including recipe for meringues, caramels, brittles, lollipops, truffles, fudge, and dulce du leche. What caught my eye, however, was the recipe for Apple-Oatmeal Triangles (Flapjacks). I fell in love with British flapjacks, a sweet, delicious, and buttery oat desert, while in Britain, and I jumped at the chance to make them again.

They came out deliciously, if a bit loosely. I think I underbaked mine, as they didn’t quite set up as sturdily as they should have. But they were still addictive. With butter and sugar and oats as your core ingredients, how could you go wrong? I got permission to reprint the recipe, which is below the cut.

I know flapjacks aren’t candy, though Snickers and Cadbury sells chocolate-covered versions of them in the U.K., but logistics prevented me from trying any of the candy recipes from the Sweet! book before deadline. I’m limited to what can be bought at the only grocery store within walking distance of my apartment, and it doesn’t carry some of the fancier sweeteners (like Sucanat) or ingredients (like cardamom pods) mentioned in the book. Nor do they carry candy thermometers.

When I go home for the holidays, however, I’ll take this book with me and use our better stocked and outfitted home kitchen to try my hand at some of the candies and other recipes from the book. Because at home, Mom and Dad will drive me to fancy food stores and pay for fancy food ingredients. Hooray!

As for the book itself, what did I think? I wish it had more pictures. In my opinion, pictures are the best part of any cookbook, and this one only has 8-pages of color photos in the middle (which are gorgeous, by the way). The recipes themselves are well described, each with its own little personal introduction from the author, list of ingredients, and bulleted steps, but seeing the finished product would make me more want to try to bake it myself.

I like the list of recipes in the front and the organization of the book into chapters based on desert types (breakfast treats, cakes, candy, savory and sweet main courses, etc.). The index in the back was great. I found the apple flapjack recipe when I looked up “apple” after I’d gone apple picking and was on a hunt for ways to bake my apples into delicious treats. And I like how the first chapter details and describes the many different sugars and sweeteners there are in the world while the second chapter gives a helpful guide to common baking ingredients. Did you know that you can make your own cake flour by sifting a tablespoon of cornstarch into 1 cup minus 1 tablespoon of unbleached all-purpose flour?

At $18.95, Sweet! is a good deal as far as cookbooks go. Then again, that lowered price is probably a direct result of it not having many photos. It’s a good buy or gift for the experimental cook who wants to try out and learn about a variety of sweetener or anyone who loves baking.

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