We might be the only cookbook reviewers who don't read press releases from the publisher before reading the book. And so when we do actually read a press release (rare), like the one for the compact little new frozen pop book Paletas (yes, of course it's stellar summer timing), we laughed out loud.
The very first paragraph pitches the idea that frozen pops are the next cupcake craze so diligently and directly (if, according to the press release, The New York Times tells us it is so, it must be, right?), that we can't believe we were about to make fun of that very idea. We've seen paletas in so many newspaper and magazine articles lately (including this month's Bon Appetit that landed on our doorstep the same day as Paletas), celebrated on blogs, and referenced in cookbooks, we stopped counting.
Unless you are Sam Nazarian or likewise someone who thrives on business plans and all-cash deals -- hey, more power to them -- what pastry chef truly wants to be a part of the next cupcake (or molten chocolate cake, or whatever) craze? It means you have to make the same thing over and over. Of course, for a publisher and restaurant/bakeshop owners, crazes sell books and cupcakes. And yet, we were about to (and of course will anyway) praise Fany Gerson's book, despite the press release. Entirely on the book's own accord. Because it's fun. And pretty great to boot. And from someone with genuine big city paleta roots.
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Gerson, a young, New York City-based pastry chef, is the author of My Sweet Mexico, one of our favorite cookbooks last year. Paletas isn't exactly as riveting as her first book. It's a Popsicle book, how can it be? But it is endearing.
Or at least in that laid-back, summer $16.99 way ($6 less on Amazon if you're willing to give up local flavor). And the recipes are interesting, which is as rare for a summer cookbook release as a movie (argue for fall, always wise to argue for fall).
The book is, to be seasonally expected, compact. Thirty recipes, another twenty or so shaved ices and such. That's it. The first chapter is full of paletas in all form -- but not your average Kool-Aid versions. Avocado, mezcal-orange, tomato-tequila, an unusual pecan (a creamy version). Chapter two is dedicated to raspados (shaved ice). Dried apricot, Mexican eggnog, strawberry-horchata, and sure, piña colada.
The final chapter focuses on aguas frescas like cucumber-lime, hibiscus flower, and cacao-corn (with cocoa powder and cinnamon). Yes, please. And so, here's an agua fresca toast to hoping paletas don't ever wind up as popular as cupcakes.