Dispensing Happiness

A good cook is like a sorceress who dispenses happiness.-Elsa Schiapirelli

That's me, the magical good cook.

Borrowing from my friend Dexygus, I've created my own food blog.

Read of my exploits in the kitchen! Salivate over the descriptions of fabulous desserts and savory meals I've concocted!

No, seriously...go ahead. It'll make my day.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Cookbook Review: The Sweet Melissa Baking Book: Recipes from the Beloved Bakery for Everyone's Favorite Treats


Butterscotch Cashew Bars

I'm not sure of the 'what' or 'why' behind it, but I love to bake. No, I need to bake.

I find I'm often happiest perched on my chair in front of the oven, mixing up batters and doughs, shaping and forming, baking and decorating. Flour, sugar, butter, eggs: constants on our grocery lists.

I don't bake because I crave sweet things, I don't do because I like to eat them. I bake because, for me, the very act of baking is an expression of love and friendship. If I give you cookies, it's because I care. That bread? I was thinking of you. Congratulations! Here's a cake. You matter.

I've often said I get so much more out of making and sharing food than I do from eating it, and while I enjoy cooking almost as much, it's baking that long ago captured my heart.

So when given the chance to take a look at the new Sweet Melissa Baking Book, how could I refuse?

A good-sized book (not one of those lofty tomes so large you can't hold it and bake at the same time!), with recipes for just about everything: Honey Cream Caramels, Chocolate Malted Layer Cake, Sticky Buns with Toasted Almonds, & Pistachio Linzer Thumbprints are a just a few on my still-to-make list.

As you already know, I'm somewhat biased towards cookbooks with lots of pictures, especially baking books. The visual of golden brown bread and chocolaty cake is more likely to get me to make them.
Sweet Mellisa's, alas, does not subscribe to such a philosophy. There's a limited section of photos, mid-book, which are indeed appealing, but quite naturally leave me wishing for more.

I fnd that's really the only 'draw-back' to this book, though. And again, it's my own personal bias.

The recipes themselves are quite lovely and interesting, and cover the usual suspects found in baking books: muffins, cookies, cakes, pies, 'special' desserts, and candies.

Yet, many recipes manage to set themselves apart from the usual. I'm not a pie-lover, myself, but I'm instantly drawn to the Sour Cherry Pie with Pistachio Crumble, and I dearly want to find time to make the Double-Crusted Caramel Apple Pie for Matt.

If I ever manage to locate my madeline pans, I'm definitely going to try the Chestnut Honey Madelines...

Normally, I don't care for fruit in anything (texture issues), but I make exceptions for raspberries; so the Hazelnut Raspberry Layer Cake also has a date with my K5!

Guinness Gingerbread

What's also nice is how clearly written and explained the recipes are. I'm a good baker. It comes naturally. I 'get' how things work. But if someone's new to baking, or coming at it with limited experience, they'd still meet with success. The book's just designed that way.

I have many, many recipes marked with sticky tabs, as is my habit, which I will get to. Eventually. Promise.

I did manage to turn out those gorgeous Butterscotch Cashew Bars above, though...a wonderfully short crust topped with a not-too-sweet, soft topping of butterscotch chips and corn syrup and roasted, salted, cashews....as well as the rather striking Guinness Gingerbread. This was made for St. Patrick's day, which proves just how behind schedule I am!
That was a dense, rich, cake, and the smell...? Complex & dark.
Both Matt & Alex ate large quantities. Simple to make, and worth it in every bite.

I thought the Sweet Melissa Baking Book a really good offering, and I now have considerably more items on my to-bake list!

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4 Thoughts for food:

At 10:03 PM, Blogger Fran Z said...

Oh- I made the butterscotch cashew bars a few weeks back. I used Nestles bs chips which were too cloying, but we liked the bars and I will try again with Merckens.

At 1:21 PM, Blogger Stephanie said...

Hi Fran Z!

I can't remember the brand I used, but Matt couldn't stop eating them. Seriously.

At 10:21 AM, Blogger Natashya said...

Ooh, I just bought this book. I did notice the lack of pics but maybe that's why it wasn't very expensive. Nice to have an endorsement though. I had picked it up as Andrea's Recipes had endorsed it. (I'm a sucker for a referral)
I look forward to checking it out, thanks!

At 3:45 PM, Blogger Stephanie said...

Natashya, you'll have to let me know what you think!


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