Disclosure: Artscroll provided me with a review copy of Something Sweet. Opinions expressed are my own.
Four years ago, Miriam Pascal started her kosher blog Overtime Cook as a creative outlet. What started out as a lark ended up changing Pacal’s life, leading her to a burgeoning career as food writer and photographer. Something Sweet is her first cookbook.
Flipping through this beautiful cookbook, it is easy to see how Pascal has won the loyalty of her many readers, both at Overtime Cook and through her column for Whisk (Ami Magazine). She understands that home bakers want recipes that are simple to prepare, but with a bit of “wow” factor.
Almost all the recipes in the book look easy to make. Some are classic recipes–like chocolate chip cookies–that Pascal has adapted to work with oil instead of margarine or butter. Many others put a modern spin on old favorites, such as the Blueberry Muffin Cookies or the Pumpkin Crumb Cake. Quite a few have a playfulness that should particularly appeal to kids, like the Fruity Pebbles Cookies, the Confetti Cheesecake Cupcakes, the Chocolate Peanut Butter Milkshake or the Cookies ‘n Cream Stuffed Waffles.
This mix of basic and more creative recipes makes the cookbook useful for novices and seasoned bakers alike. Even if you have many dessert cookbooks, Something Sweet will give you something new to make. On the other hand, if you are just starting out in the kitchen, you will appreciate that Pascal has included all the dessert staples: chocolate chip cookies, brownies, three recipes for chocolate cake (one for cupcakes, one for layer cake and one for bundt cake), an all-purpose vanilla cake, a few different flavors of mousse, two sorbets, chocolate truffles and barks, pie dough, tart dough, roll-out vanilla sugar cookies, cookie icing, several recipes for cake frosting and glazes and even three sauces for plating desserts.
With this cookbook in hand, you should be prepared to face almost any dessert challenge, whether it is a simple cake for Shabbos, a plated dessert for sheva brachos or even a dessert table for a simcha. The book helpfully lists which recipes are appropriate for various occasions and gives detailed advice about freezing desserts, plating individual servings and setting up a dessert table.
Pascal includes a few whole-grain/low-sugar desserts, and she replaces margarine wherever possible with oil, but this not the sort of whole-foods cookbook that replaces dairy ingredients with cashew cream, silken tofu or coconut milk. There are quite a few recipes that require (to be pareve) margarine, pareve whip, soy sour cream or soy cream cheese.
In general, Pascal is not afraid to use convenience foods to make recipes easier. For example, the lemon and strawberry mousses get their fruity flavor from store-bought pie filling that is folded into a mix of whipped cream and cream cheese. There is also a Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie that is basically pareve ice cream mixed with pumpkin puree and some flavorings, spread in a store-bought graham cracker crust.
The Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie is only one of several recipes in the book that are perfect for this time of year. Here are others: Healthy Apple Spice Muffins, Chocolate Chunk Honey Cookies, Honey Sour Cream Bundt Cake, Pomegranate Cupcakes, Pumpkin Crumb Cake, Apple Pie Thumbprint Cookies, Gingerbread Biscotti, Caramel Apple Bundt Cake and Braided Apple Pie.
I made the Pumpkin Crumb Cake and can highly recommend it. The subtle flavor of pumpkin melds perfectly with the cinnamon-ey, crumb-topped, velvet-textured goodness of classic crumb cake. And both the cake and crumb topping are made with oil instead of margarine. I wanted to make individual portions, so I divided the batter between 13 tulip muffin cups. These muffin cups are extra deep, so there is more room for batter and crumb topping. Even so, I was afraid that the very generous amount of crumb topping would spill over as the batter rose in the oven, so I only used half of the crumb mixture. It turns out, I could have used more, but the mini crumb cakes were still delicious with the lesser amount of crumbs. (more…)