Cookbook Review: This Sugar Baby Is Sweet
Want to hear some really depressing news? According to Samira Kawash, a womens' studies professor turned candy historian (yeah, that's pretty cool) over at The Atlantic, "The End of Candy" may be imminent. But we have a feeling that Gesine Bullock-Prado, author of the recently released Sugar Baby, would politely disagree. And we would actually be inclined to argue that snacks/candies/treats or whatever you want to call them have long been subjected to the current health trend du jour (even those "guilt-free" Snackwells cookies thankfully had a limited fat-free run).
At any rate, we sure hope it's not the end of homemade marshmallows, candy corn, and caramels. And if it is, all the more reason you will want -- need, actually -- this cookbook if you are a candy lover, a sometimes candy-lover, or have even the slightest curiosity about what exactly is in "Gesine's damn good peanut butter fudge" (p. 71, like so many great recipes, the result of a kitchen fluke). Turn the page.
For those who swear they only eat chocolate, never candy, Bullock-Prado offers up sweets like chocolate-covered homemade "honeycomb" (p. 146). And if that doesn't do it, there are non-candy recipes here, too. Mango mousse cakes and a green tea crepe cake, frozen bittersweet chocolate pudding pops, gargantuan peanut butter whoopie pies, delicate buttercream-filled macaroons, and a solo "best ever ginger cookie" (p. 31) appearance. And yes, the requisite cupcake recipe is here, too (dulce de leche topped with dark chocolate icing). So, why all the desserts?
As Bullock-Prado says in the Introduction, this is a book about cooking with sugar. "Cooking with sugar goes far beyond candy," she tells us. Indeed. And so she considers chocolate mousse and caramel buttercream fair game. Lucky us.
The book is organized pretty brilliantly, too. Not by the expected candy and dessert types (hard candies, chocolate candies, cakes, etc.) but by sugar stages. So when you feel like going all out hard-crack stage one weekend, you can just flip to that chapter. Soft-ball and soft-crack days are here, too. That the writing jumps off the page is -- if you will -- an after dinner mint bonus. Consider the "Soft-Ball Stage" chapter sidebar: "Warning!!! You'll notice it's starting to get hot in here. The sugar, that is. I'm not going to lie. The stuff burns like a Mother Hubbard. Take the time when I was poking hot caramel, for instance. You know how they tell you not to pester tigers in a cage? Well, don't pester hot caramel on a stove."
And so if your vision of a fantastically hot summer only includes things like lemon gelato (p. 30) and strawberry-basil napoleons with olive oil ice cream (p. 187), well, that's just fine. But if you're a more adventurous Sugar Baby, you can spend the next few months making maple taffy and maple pillows (a fluffy, pecan-speckled nougat that can be eaten on its own or swirled into a dark chocolate brownie batter), homemade rock candy and candy corn (!),"teetotaling" butterscotch (as Bullock-Prado points out, "there is no Scotch in butterscotch") and hazelnut torrone ("the grandmother of candies"). Sounds like a pretty sweet summer to us.
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